West Indian Black cake.

Posted on 07/25/2009 by beadedbudgie
My mom and I made black cake today. Black cake is a Carribean dessert--kind of like a cross between a rum cake and a fruit cake, but ten times better.

It wasn't always like that though. The first time I ever had a slice of black cake, I was a young girl and I hated it. It was much too dense--not light and fluffy like all the other cakes I've eaten previously, it had that alcoholic burn from all the wine in it, and it had this deep caramel flavor; so deep, it almost borderlines burnt. I did not find this appealing at all.

As I got older, I came to love the flavors associated with black cake for exactly the same reasons I hated it when I was a kid.

The only times we would ever get to eat black cake was when a special occasion came up--like a wedding for example. My mom always wanted a recipe for it for years, but nobody would ever give her one. I have a cousin who can make a really nice black cake, but she refused to share the recipe. She however had no problem with us placing an order with her and paying her for a cake.

My mom told me she once long ago tried to make a black cake herself with no recipe; trying to guess what went into one based on what it tasted like and the vague details she was given by various people. She said it came out alright, but my older sister said it just didn't taste like the black cake she knew and loved at all.

One day, I decided to do a regular old Google search online on Black Cake. There had to be a recipe online somewhere--someone willing to share the secret to the cake my mom always wanted to know how to make.

I found several recipes. All of them varying such as what kind of alcohol to use or mixtures of fruits to be added, but the key points were always the same. Soak dried fruits in alcohol for several days at least and the use of something called browning--a very dark caramelized sugar thinned out with some water. One can make their own browning, but you can also buy it in a west indian grocery store. My mom luckily keeps a bottle of the stuff around.

I quickly wrote down some versions of the recipe and presented them to my mom, telling her we should make one this coming weekend. So on Thursday, my mom brought a bottle of red wine, a box a prunes, a box of raisins, and a jar of maraschino cherries. We threw all the fruits into a half gallon Mason Jar and poured in the whole bottle of wine for it to soak until Saturday. Some recipes I saw called for rum or a mixture of rum and wine, but mom claims St. Vincent (where my family is from) uses just red wine, so that's what we went with.

After soaking in its wine bath for about 2 days, we put the fruits and wine together into the blender to pureed everything into a smooth mixture. We followed everything according to the recipe and then we came to the last step: adding the browning. All of the recipes I've read said to just add browning until desired color is reached, so that's what we did.

We added a tablespoon of browning, but the batter didn't seem to change any color. Mom and I looked at one another and shrugged. We added a couple more teaspoons, but it just got a smidge darker. We were getting concerned. Wasn't this supposed to be black cake? Why wasn't the batter getting black? The recipes I obtained offered no tips on whether the batter should be getting black or would it remain a brown color. After adding what I believe to be about half a cup of browning, we decided to stop in fear of ruining the recipe. We also decided to take a leap of faith and put the now medium brown batter into cake pans and bake them anyways. We figured maybe all the sugar in the batter would make the cakes darken when we put it into the oven.

After half an hour in the oven, mom decided to take a peek to see if our theory was right. It was.

The cakes darkend up beautifully and looked just like the black cake we've eaten so many times before. We finnished baking the bakes and took them out to cool. When they were properly cooled, we had our first slice.

It was exactly how black cake is supposed to be: dense, smooth, boozy and delicious.

We won't be placing any orders with my cousin anymore.

Black Cake



2 sticks of butter
1 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

Fruit Base:

12 oz pitted prunes
12 oz raisins
8 oz maraschino cherries
1 liter bottle Red wine


1 lb brown sugar
1/2 cup boiling hot water

(or just buy a bottle of browning from a west indian grocery store)

Have on Hand:

1 more bottle of red wine

At least Two Days Before:

Place prunes, raisins and cherries in a Mason Jar. Pour in Red wine. Leave in a cool corner, covered, to soak up the liquor.

On the Day Of:

Blend Fruit Base:

Pour the soaked fruit and juices into a blender and blend until thick and still a bit chunky (like tomato sauce)

Prepare Browning:

If you want to make your own browning, burn sugar until caramelized, add hot water gradually. Mix well and leave to cool.

Please be extra careful at this stage as a ‘browning’ burn is NOT a fun thing!

Once that is done…

1. Preheat oven to 300F (no that’s not a typo)
2. Cream the butter and sugar.
3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate
4. Add vanilla essence
5. Mix and sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
6. Gradually add sifted ingredients to creamed mixture
7. Mix in fruit base puree and ‘browning’ The batter will only become a medium brown color. This is ok.
8. Pour batter into greased tins that have been doubly lined with brown paper or parchment paper
9. Bake for 1 1/2 hours
10. Once removed from the oven soak the tops with additional wine. Don’t be surprised if the top of the cake starts to look pale and ‘weird’. (We skipped this step because we were impatient. It still came out good)

layers_of_eli 26th-Jul-2009 12:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for sharing this! Added it to bookmarks!
provoca7eur 26th-Jul-2009 12:36 pm (UTC)
Going to have to make this. My aunt has a delicious Rum cake recipe but I'll have to try this out as well!
nightchild01 26th-Jul-2009 12:44 pm (UTC)
That sounds interesting! I'm not sure if I'd like it but I might try it =) It sucks that your cousin refused to share the recipe! I'm very glad that you were able to find one so you can make your own now.
elfe666 26th-Jul-2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
that looks so wonderfully moist! and sounds really good. definintely bookmarked this one ^^
definatalie 26th-Jul-2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
What a great story! I would definitely love to try making this, thanks so much for recreating the recipe and sharing it.
pojz 26th-Jul-2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
Great story! Looks good!!
dividingcanaan 26th-Jul-2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
Wow. Thanks for sharing the story and the recipe! Definitely going to try this someday.
angelchrome 26th-Jul-2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
Is your cousin a professional? I can see holding back a recipe if it's your livelihood, but otherwise I'd never refuse to share something with family and friends.

I'm only so-so on fruit cakes but this sounds really lovely and I might have to try it out :)
babyjami 26th-Jul-2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
yeah i agree here, i don't understand why family would do that - and then make you pay for it... unless it is their profession.
caricature 27th-Jul-2009 04:05 pm (UTC)
it's more common that I think people know! My mom's family is full of SECRET~*~* recipes. I think it's supposed to make you feel good when you're the only one who can make the cake or whatever and bring it.
beadedbudgie 26th-Jul-2009 05:32 pm (UTC)
I would understand that too, but she works at a bank and only makes the cakes when a special occasion comes up and we (or whomever) pays for her to have a cake be made. She'll sometimes make it for free for family weddings as her wedding present.
maritropa 26th-Jul-2009 05:19 pm (UTC)
that's really kind of sad that even your own family wouldn't share the recipe with you, and now you're sharing it with us so generously! :\

Thank you for sharing this! It's a really unique cake, I've never seen anything like it before!
ashamilee 26th-Jul-2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
My husbands Grandma is like that. She won't share recipes, and if she does, she sabotages it so who ever makes it won't make it as well as she does. Too many eggs, not enough flour, etc etc.
just_tonight 26th-Jul-2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
thats so sad! she should be flattered someone liked her recipe enough to ask for it.
si_anenome 26th-Jul-2009 05:32 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Thank you for sharing the story and the recipe. :) I look forward to trying this... soon.

And maybe now you can send a cake to your cousin... lol.
shewasfire 26th-Jul-2009 06:27 pm (UTC)
Wow, great story! And now you're sharing it with us! Are you sure...? :)
jeezy 26th-Jul-2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you found the recipe!
saline_queen 26th-Jul-2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
Awww!! This was a really sweet story! I felt sad when you said everyone refused a recipe to your mom, even your cousin. How sad is that?! It's not like you'd be trying to sell cake to her. =0/ people are odd sometimes.

I must admit, I was very curious about st. Vincent. I have heard of it, but never saw pictures. I googled it and WOW oh my! LOL. I wanna go there!

I can't say for sure that I would like this cake because of the 'burnt' flavor, but I should try it!!!! you never know what you do and do not like until you try it!

thank you for sharing this with all of us!
envy_dream 26th-Jul-2009 07:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for sharing. :) It sounds delicious.
acidicstar 26th-Jul-2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
I loved your story! I don't like red wine though. I wonder if rum would taste better?
beadedbudgie 26th-Jul-2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
Rum makes everything taste better! :-P
two_three_fall 26th-Jul-2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
yay! i really enjoyed the cake story
sazzra 26th-Jul-2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
That is seriously becoming my Christmas cake this year - it looks incredible!
speedychi 27th-Jul-2009 12:27 am (UTC)
are you guyanese?? if so, we're probably cousins :P
beadedbudgie 27th-Jul-2009 12:28 am (UTC)
Lol. Nah, I'm from St. Vincent.
speedychi 27th-Jul-2009 12:34 am (UTC)
haha oh ok :)
IndyaahXO SVG5th-Nov-2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
Whats your surname? We probably are cousins lol. My family's from Sandy Bay/ Georgetown area. My family are the Nantons, the Baptistes, the Adams and the Hoytes x
flightbyzephyr Re: SVG20th-Dec-2012 12:59 pm (UTC)
Well we definitely are cousins since my Granny was a Nanton from Sandy Bay and her dad was a Baptiste. Did you know Mercy or Valentine Nanton?

I sent you a tweet. :)
starceres 27th-Jul-2009 01:23 am (UTC)
I'm so curious about this now! However... does the cherry flavor come across very strongly? I really hate maraschino cherries (and cherry flavored candies and drinks and grenadine anything that's not fresh cherries and cherry flavored), so I want to know if they're taste-able, or if I can sub them with something else.

Please let me know! I'd love to try it, other than that one stipulation!
beadedbudgie 27th-Jul-2009 01:29 am (UTC)
I personally can't taste any maraschino cherry flavoring in it myself. I personally am not crazy about them myself and will probably use dried cherries next time, just to see what it turns out like, but maraschino cherries are what my mom bought, lol. Personally, I think any dried fruit would be ok as long as it's a dark color.
sitcomgirl 27th-Jul-2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
Ohhhh I had this once at a wedding, soooooooooo good! Thanks for sharing the story and the recipe, I might have to try it myself :)
roglows_here island girl28th-Jul-2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
i'm from st croix (in the us virgin islands) and i grew up hating black cake too - for the very reasons you've described! haha...i thought i was the only one...
i agree though; it's more of an adult taste. like with onions or beer (both of which i loathed as a child), as i grew i appreciated the flavor more.this recipe (and the pictures) looks excellent.
rachelpage 28th-Nov-2014 11:14 am (UTC)
Indians make the best desserts.
Olga Small west indian fruit cake6th-Oct-2015 06:37 pm (UTC)
thanks for sharing this fruit cake recipe I am looking forward to making it
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