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Keshia Sakarah’s black cake
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Black cake is a festive tradition in parts of the Caribbean. My grandmothers would make their own versions of this each year, each very different, but a reflection of their respective Montserratian and Barbudan cultures. It’s rich and sticky, and usually heavy with rum. Even more flavour is brought by the ‘browning’ – a boozy sugar syrup that’s stirred into the mixture before baking.
225g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
225g dark brown muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 unwaxed lemon, zest
1 orange (scrubbed), zest, plus extra to serve (optional)
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4-5 tbsp dark rum (optional)
Icing sugar, to dust (optional)
35g mixed peel
4 tbsp dark rum
2 tbsp molasses or treacle
2 tbsp dark rum
1 For the fruit, put the sultanas, raisins and mixed peel into a bowl. Pour over the rum, then mix to coat the fruit. Transfer to an airtight container and set aside to soak for at least 6 hours or ideally overnight.
2 Preheat the oven to 160ºC, gas mark 3. Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin with baking parchment; set aside. In a large bowl, use electric beaters to cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time (it may curdle but that’s fine). Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the citrus zests; fold in lightly. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture; gradually fold in using a metal spoon. Whizz the soaked fruit in a blender until 75% smooth. Fold into the cake mixture.
3 For the browning, put the ingredients in a small pan; bring to a low boil. Turn down the heat and reduce by ⅓; stir into the cake batter. Pour into the prepared tin; smooth the top with a palette knife. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Put the tin on a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.
4 Once cool, remove the cake from the tin (keep the baking parchment intact) and, if liked, ‘feed’ the cake; using a skewer, poke holes across the surface, then pour over the additional rum, bit by bit. You can add as much rum as you like when feeding the cake (I use 4-5 tbsp). Serve on its own or dust with a little icing sugar and decorate with citrus zest. The baked cake will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.
Typical values per serving:
This recipe was first published in November 2021.