Jamaican Black Cake

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(6)

The cultural idiosyncrasies of each Caribbean island are rich and telling. And Black Cake—even with its own slight variances—offers a delicious commonality between each isle in a way that allows the diversity to shine but leaves the baking tradition of this cake intact. Here, the delicate nuance of raw almonds (and almond extract), the warm spiky notes of allspice, and plenty of rum inform my family's version of Black Cake with a uniquely Jamaican sensibility. I've substituted dark molasses for the more traditional browning or burnt sugar essence. However, despite adaptations, the cake's blackness, rich density, and ever-present tingle of rum—which also preserves the cake—will always be its most distinguishable features.

Jamaican Black Cake
Photo: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Daley
Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
5 hrs
Yield:
2 9-inch cakes

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup pitted prunes (about 14-16 prunes depending on size)

  • ¾ cup raisins (8 ounces)

  • ¾ cup dried currants (3 1/2 ounces)

  • ¾ cup dried unsweetened cherries (3 1/2 ounces)

  • 2 ½ cups white rum, divided

  • 1 ½ cups Manischewitz wine

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans

  • 2 ½ cups dark brown sugar (1 pound)

  • 4 large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest (from 1 lime)

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 1 tablespoon pure almond extract

  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for cake pans (7 ounces)

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

  • ¼ plus 1 tablespoon dark unsulfured molasses

  • ¼ cup raw sliced almonds (1 ounce)

Directions

  1. In a large container with a tight-fitting lid, combine the prunes, raisins, currants, dried cherries, 1 1/2 cups rum, and Manischewitz wine. Stir to combine, cover, and set aside for at least two days (and up to 6 months).

  2. When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 250°F. Lightly butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment. Lightly butter the parchment, then dust the interior of the cake pans with flour and tap out excess.

  3. Transfer soaked dried fruit and soaking liquid to a food processor. Pulse until a rough paste forms, with some fruit remaining slightly intact. Set aside.

  4. Beat the butter and brown sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until fluffy and aerated, about 8 minutes. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the lime zest, vanilla extract, and almond extract.

  5. Whisk together the dry ingredients flour, baking powder, allspice, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Working in two batches, gently beat the dry ingredients into the butter mixture on the lowest speed, just until incorporated. Add the pulverized dried-fruit mixture and the molasses and beat just to combine. Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in the almonds with a rubber spatula.

  6. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 1 hour, then reduce the oven temperature to 225°F and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 2 1/2 to 3 hours more. Set cakes on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes then brush tops with reserved 1 cup rum. Let cakes rest for another 10 minutes; repeat brushing and cooling until all of the rum is absorbed.

  7. Invert the cakes onto large plates, and then wrap cakes in wax paper and then foil. Store black cake at room temperature for at least 1 day, and up to a month. Cut into wedges to serve.

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