Trinidad Black Cake Recipe: It’s Not Christmas Without It

It’s that time of the year again, when your fruits have been soaking for a few months and you’re ready to bake Trinidad black cake.

Trinidad black cake is made with rum soaked dried fruits, browning and spices along with typical cake ingredients.

It is a necessary part of any Trini Christmas lime. But everyone has their own version, their own special secret ingredient, and their own choice of alcohol and rum.

So, I thought I’d share the recipe hubby and I made this year. Everyone raved about it.

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fruit cake slice

Which Fruits to Soak for Black Cake

The fruits usually soaked for black cake include:

  • raisins
  • sultanas
  • currants
  • prunes
  • mixed peel
  • cherries

You don’t want any seeds in the dried fruits so either buy them seedless or remove the seeds before soaking.

Mixed peel are tiny pieces of candied citrus peel. You can get them on Amazon here if you can’t find them at your local store.

The cherries typically used are maraschino cherries, which are preserved and sweetened.

You should know, after soaking, any colors in the mixed peel will disappear. So, it’s perfectly fine to get the plain ones.

Here’s what I used this year:

fruits for trinidad black cake

Which Alcohol to Use for Soaking Fruits

Popular alcohol used for soaking fruits include:

  • cherry brandy
  • dark rum
  • white rum
  • puncheon (a very strong local brand that’s 75% alcohol)
  • grape wine

A combination of cherry brandy (1½ cups) and dark rum (2 cups) is the most popular mix for soaking fruits.

I prefer using dark rum and blackberry wine. The wine adds a sweet and interesting depth of flavor.

Last year, I used an entire 750 mL bottle of Manischewitz blackberry wine (3 cups) and added enough El Dorado 15 year old rum and Hennessy v.s. cognac to cover the fruits.

This year, I didn’t have much blackberry wine and the local store didn’t restock it until recently.

So, the alcohol I used this year included leftover blackberry wine, El Dorado 15 year old rum, Dow’s fine tawny port wine and R.L. Seale’s finest Barbados rum.

As you can tell, there isn’t a fixed recipe – it’s based on what your taste preferences are and what you can get your hands on.

Another point I should mention is the alcohol you use for soaking the fruits is not as important as what you use on the cake after it is made. So, don’t overthink the soaking mix – use whatever you like.

How to Soak Fruits for Black Cake

How you soak the fruits will depend on when you plan on making the cake.

Months Ahead

If you are soaking the fruits months before making the cake:

  • place the seedless fruits and mixed peel in a sealable container
  • add enough alcohol to completely cover the fruits
  • seal the container properly
  • store in a dark cupboard away from light and heat
  • after a few weeks, add more alcohol if the fruits are no longer completely immersed.
  • repeat the last step until you use the fruits.

Soaking fruits this way can last for years in the cupboard – the alcohol acts as a great preservative.

These are my fruits after 3 months:

soaked fruits

Days Ahead

If you are soaking the fruits a week before making the cake:

  • cut the dried fruits into very small pieces (doing this allows the pieces to absorb the alcohol more quickly)
  • place the fruits in a sealable container
  • add enough alcohol to completely cover the fruits
  • seal the container properly
  • store in a dark cupboard away from light and heat

The Same Day

If you haven’t soaked the fruits beforehand, you will need to quickly infuse them with your preferred alcohol combination. To do this:

  • add the fruits to a blender or food processor
  • blend
  • add the blended fruits and alcohol to a pot on low heat
  • allow to simmer for five minutes
  • stir often to prevent sticking

Leave to cool completely before adding to your cake batter.

How to Make Trinidad Black Cake

Here’s a look at what I used:

Trinidad black cake ingredients

Here’s what I do to make trini black cake:

  • place butter on the counter to soften
  • make browning
  • preheat the oven (250°F)
  • blend fruits to the desired chunkiness (if not done already)
  • combine softened butter and sugar
  • mix in eggs (one at a time)
  • add essence and zest
  • add flour and spices (in 2 parts)
  • incorporate the blended fruits
  • add browning to achieve your desired color (I use molasses too for better flavor)
  • butter and flour cake pans or line with parchment paper
  • pour batter into cake pans
  • bake
  • check for doneness
  • make little holes in the cake
  • brush the cooled cake with your preferred alcohol mix
  • repeat brushing the cake with alcohol the next day (and maybe the day after)
  • share and be merry

Make browning

Before making the cake, you should make your own browning. I have an entire post explaining how to make browning sauce. Pop by for more details. This video short gives you a quick idea of what to do.

Browning gives black cake its color. If you want your cake to be darker, increase the quantity.

You can skip this step by purchasing browning at your local store or on Amazon.

Blend the Fruits

Scoop out the amount of soaked fruits you need. Be sure to get some alcohol in there too. Place in a blender or food processor and pulse. I use the food processor from the Ninja kitchen system (get it on Amazon).

If you like larger fruit pieces in your cake, then a couple pulses are enough to create a chunky blend.

But if you like a smooth cake, blend until smooth. You can add a bit more alcohol if necessary.

Here’s my chunky blend:

blended fruits

Make the cake

Combine the softened butter and sugar together until they are smooth and fluffy.

creaming butter and sugar

Add eggs one at a time. Incorporate completely before adding the next egg. Your resultant batter should be white, light and very fluffy. My KitchenAid stand mixer makes this process really quick and easy. Get it on Amazon here.

mixing eggs into batter

Mix in essence and lemon zest – though you can use lime or orange zest too. The zest is important to mask the eggy, fresh taste.

Mix the dry ingredients together – flour, baking powder and spices. I usually use cinnamon powder and freshly grated nutmeg.

This year, I found tonka beans in the market so I grated one and added it in there. Tonka beans have a vanilla-like smell but it doesn’t really come through in the cake so you can skip this ingredient.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the cake batter and mix until well combined. Then, add in the second half and repeat.

It may be time for a bigger bowl.

Now for the fruit blend and browning.

batter with browning and blended fruits

I use molasses too. It’s not necessary but it adds a sweet, smoky taste to the cake – not to mention it also helps to color the cake. Since molasses is thick, I whisk it into the browning sauce to thin it out and make it easy to work with.

Mix half of the fruits, browning and molasses into the cake batter. Combine properly and repeat with the remaining ingredients.

If you want your batter to be darker, add more browning and molasses. For a lighter brown cake, use smaller amounts.

I prefer mine a little lighter so the cakes don’t exactly look black.

baking fruit cake

Baking

Pour into greased or parchment lined cake pans.

The more batter you pour into the pan, the longer it will take to cook. It is best to keep the height of the batter under two inches. Thicker cakes will cook too quickly on the top and sides but won’t be done in the center.

Pop your cake pans in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour at 250°F.

After an hour, reduce the heat to 225°F and continue baking for another 2 hours. Reducing the heat is important – the tops and sides will begin to dry out at the higher temperature. You want the cake to bake evenly so drop that temp.

After 2 hours, remove from the oven and insert a toothpick or bamboo skewer in the center. If the skewer comes out clean, then it is cooked. If batter sticks to the skewer, pop the cake back in to the oven for another 15 minutes before checking its doneness again.

When you’re done baking, allow the cakes to cool.

This recipe makes two 10-inch cakes.

Or three cakes: a 9-inch, a 6-inch and an 11-inch by 7-inch cake. Specific? It’s what I had on hand… Also, all of the rectangular cake didn’t make it to the photo session – hubby said it was “taste-tested.” Haha!

3 Trinidad Black Cakes

Basting the cake

Poke the cake with a skewer to create tiny holes. Then, brush with your preferred alcohol blend. The holes allow the alcohol to soak into the entire cake.

The alcohol you choose here will influence how your cake tastes and how ‘strong’ your black cake will be.

I like using the blackberry wine here because it’s sweet and fruity. You can use the popular cherry brandy-dark rum combo or any alcohol you like.

Leave the cakes to ‘soak’ overnight and brush again with alcohol the next day and maybe the day after too.

Share and serve anytime – it’s better a couple days after baking when the cake has properly absorbed all that alcohol.

Serve alongside other popular Trini Christmas favorites like sponge cake and sorrel drinks.

Trinidad Black Cake: Trinidad Christmas Cake

Here’s a quick video on all the steps:

Related:

Spiced Sponge Cake

This Trinidad sponge cake recipe is a little heavy-handed on the spices and is still delicious.

Spiced sponge cake featured

Trinidad Black Cake Recipe

This recipe will give you enough soaked fruits for four 10-inch cakes. The cake recipe itself will make two 10-inch cakes.

I don’t have two 10-inch cake pans so I made three cakes of different sizes here.

Trinidad Black Cake

Trinidad black cake is a popular Christmas cake made with rum soaked dried fruits, browning and spices along with typical cake ingredients. The cake is soaked with more rum after baking.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time3 hrs
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Caribbean
Keyword: black cake, fruit cake
Servings: 20
Author: Ros

Equipment

  • Blender
  • Cake mixer

Ingredients

Soaking Fruits

  • 400 g raisins
  • 400 g cherries
  • 400 g pitted prunes
  • 400 g mixed peel
  • 750 mL blackberry wine*
  • 100 mL dark rum*

Browning

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup boiling water

Black Cake

  • 2 cups butter (softened)
  • 2 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp zest (lemon, lime or orange)
  • 4 tsp essence (vanilla, mixed, or almond)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated)
  • 6 cups blended fruit
  • ½ cup molasses

Instructions

Soaking fruits

    Months in advance:

    • Place fruits in a sealable container.
    • Add preferred alcohol blend to completely immerse the fruits.
    • Cover and store in a dark area until needed.
    • Scoop soaked fruits and alcohol from the sealable container.
    • Blend to the desired degree of chunkiness or smoothness.
    • Set aside.

    Same day baking:

    • Blend fruits and alcohol in blender or food processor.
    • Add to pot on low heat and simmer for five minutes.
    • Stir often.
    • Set aside and allow to cool.

    Browning

    • Add brown sugar to pot on low heat.
    • Stir often as the sugar melts and caramelizes.
    • When the sugar becomes almost black, remove from the heat.
    • Add boiling water slowly and carefully.
    • Allow to cool.
    • Mix the molasses into the browning sauce.

    Black Cake

    • Preheat oven to 250°F.
    • Combine softened butter and sugar until smooth.
    • Add eggs one at a time.
    • Mix in essence and zest.
    • Stir the dry ingredients together – flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder, grated nutmeg.
    • Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter.
    • Combine well before adding the next half.
    • Add half of the blended fruits and half of the browning-molasses sauce.
    • Mix thoroughly.
    • Add the remaining fruits and sauce. Combine.
    • Pour batter into prepared cake pans (buttered or lined with parchment paper).
    • Bake for one hour at 250°F.
    • Lower the heat to 225°F and bake for another two hours.
    • Check the center of the cakes for doneness (if they are not done, bake for another 15 minutes before rechecking).
    • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
    • Make little holes in the cake.
    • Mix your preferred alcohol blend for soaking the cake.
    • Baste the cake with the alcohol blend.
    • Repeat the last step twice (or more).
    • Serve.

    Notes

    *Cherry brandy, dark rum, white rum, and wine can be used.

    Can black cake get you drunk?

    It is not likely that black cake will get you drunk, however, if your alcohol tolerance is low, you can experience very mild intoxication symptoms like light-headedness and mild euphoria.

    The extent of symptoms may be affected by the percentage of alcohol used to soak the cake. For instance, wine is approximately 10% alcohol; whereas dark rum can be 40% alcohol or more.

    How to store black cake?

    Since alcohol is a preservative, black cake can be left on the counter for three to five days. After that, it can be refrigerated for weeks or frozen for years without spoiling.

    To freeze, slice the cake into the desired pieces and store each slice separately. You can use baking paper to prevent the slices from sticking and freezing together.

    When you’re ready to eat, defrost for three minutes in the microwave and enjoy. Or place the frozen slice in the refrigerator overnight to defrost and savor it the next day.

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