Caribbean Black Cake: A Christmas Cake Like No Other

It’s July, which has me thinking of Christmas, which has me thinking it’s time to start my fruitcake. And not just any fruitcake. Laurie Colwin’s Black Cake. Now technically, this isn’t her cake. It’s a traditional Black Cake is a Caribbean/African-style fruitcake served at Christmas time, but I first learned about this cake in Laurie Colwin’s book Home Cooking.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

 

 

Last year, I made two of these cakes, and brought them along to the various holiday gatherings. My mother even took one of the cakes to a New Year’s Eve party, and one of her friends from Africa got a little misty-eyed. She told my mom it was just like her mother used to make back in Africa. I was glad to know this cake is the real deal!

black cake fruit cake

I admit, I derived a certain wicked glee out of bestowing fruitcake upon my friends. We all know the jokes about fruitcake, and Black Cake is a serious fruitcake, one that sticks with you. It must be served in small pieces because of its density, and its one that you must start in the spring or summer if it’s to be ready by Christmas. But it is worth it. It is so delicious.

black cake crumb

July is here, so it is time to begin this year’s Black Cakes. We begin by marinating the fruit. The fruit should marinate in alcohol for 3-6 months. Yes, months.

The classic fruitcake ingredients (mixed peel and glazed red cherries) are hard to find in the store this time of year, so it’s easiest to just order online. Last year, I ordered from Nuts.com, and was impressed by the quality and prompt service. I highly recommend this family owned company. They also sell all kinds of dried fruit, granola, and other snacks. (Note: This post is not sponsored or endorsed by them in any way. I just really like their products.)

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

You will need a bottle of dark rum, a bottle of Passover wine, and multiple pounds of fruit. I’ve listed my choices below: 1 lb each of prunes, raisins, black currants, mixed peel, and glazed red cherries. But you can really take this recipe and put your own spin on things. All raisins? Why not? Want to try it with dried apricots? Go for it! I’m a kitchen renegade, a believer in marching to the beat of your own whisk.

Start by mincing all of the fruit. This is the most labor intensive part of making the cake. If you have a food processor, use it! I discovered that the food processor works great for the cherries, mixed peel, and currants. It struggled with the raisins, but when I threw some rum in, it blended up well.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

My particular food processor just couldn’t handle the prunes, so I had to chop those by hand. Lucky thing prunes are big, so there weren’t that many to chop.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

Throw everything into the biggest bowl you have, and pour in the rum. I don’t know much about rum, but this one said it’s from Jamaica, so this is what I used. It was indeed dark!

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

Pour in the wine.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

Then mix it all up. Seriously, Is there any way to make chopped dried fruit soaking in alcohol pretty? I don’t know. But take my word for it, despite the looks it smelled divine. Divinely boozey.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

Dump all of this into a huge jar (gallon size is what I use), and put it in the back of your pantry. By the time the holiday season arrives, the fruit will be ready to bake into the cake.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

Black Cake Part 1: Marinating the Fruit

  • Servings: Two 10 inch cakes
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

A Carribbean/African-style fruitcake perfect for Christmas parties and gift-giving

Ingredients

  • 1 pound raisins
  • 1 pound pitted prunes
  • 1 pound dried currants
  • 1 pound mixed peel
  • 1 pound glazed red cherries
  • 1 bottle passover wine (or similar)
  • 1 bottle rum (the darkest you can find)

Directions

  1. Chop all fruit extra fine and mix together in a large bowl.
  2. Add the wine and rum and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Transfer fruit and alcohol mixture into a large, lidded container. A 1 gallon jar works well for this.
  4. Close the lid securely and allow to marinate for 3-6 months.

 

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Apple Cider Winter Fondue

What is better than having fondue on a cold winter evening.  It’s sort thematic or something isn’t it?  Snow, skiing, the Alps, and so forth.  Yodeling.

Okay, there are no Alps here in the Midwest, and I didn’t plan far enough ahead to rent a pair of cross country skis for neighborhood transportation during the Great Snow of 2014, but it was plenty cold, and when I saw the cheeses already shredded for me in Trader Joe’s, I grabbed them!  I may have even yodeled quietly with excitement when I saw that bag of cheese there at the store.

So we made it home, and then the snow came and we were stuck.  That’s when I realized that I didn’t have any of the other ingredients for fondue.

Bread is an easy fix.  I can bake that myself.  But I usually make a traditional emmenthaler or gruyere fondue which calls for white wine (sometimes I make it with beer for a creamier end result), garlic, the cheeses, and an optional splash of kirsch.

I was out of wine.  Out of beer.  Out of garlic.

Oh boy.  We were in trouble.  I’d already set the expectation with the kids and the husband that it was going to be a fondue night.  I’d already baked the bread.  Their mouths were practically watering.

So I did what any good chef does when faced with an impossible recipe and a bunch of savage, hungry faces.

I improvised.

An you know what?  It was pretty tasty!

So my Post Polar Vortex gift to you is my Seat of the Pants, Desperation Fondue.  It is a sweeter fondue that a traditional emmenthaler fondue, and would be wonderful as an appetizer with some of those long crackers that have the herbs and cheese right on top. Something salty and herb-y to counter and compliment the sweet creaminess of the cheeses.

If you don’t have black garlic, don’t let it stop you!  Just substitute regular garlic.

Apple Cider and Black Garlic Fondue

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Time: 15 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A sweet winter fondue.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz shredded emmenthaler
  • 8 oz shredded gruyere
  • 1 cup unfiltered apple cider
  • 2 cloves black garlic, chopped (substitute regular garlic if no black garlic is available)
  • 1 T finely minced or grated red onion
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar if you don’t have ACV on hand
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a sauce pan, combine the apple cider, garlic, and onion and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer.
  2. Begin adding cheeses one handful at a time, stirring after each addition until the cheeses are melted.  At this stage, you will need to watch the heat carefully and adjust it if the cheeses begin to boil or if they are not melting quickly enough.
  3. Add the vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper and sea salt.
  4. Transfer to your fondue pot and enjoy with bread, apples, rolled prosciutto, and garlic and herb crackers.

Brown Bag Lunch: Layered Thai Rice Salad Bowl

I’ve been analyzing our family’s finances lately.  Gosh, doesn’t that sound fancy!  At any rate, I got curious about how our food budget plays out over the course of a month, and as it turns out, we spend way too much money eating out.

Mostly, this is because my husband and I grew accustomed to eating lunch in the very reasonably priced corporate cafeteria before we moved out here to California.  Out here, there is no corporate cafeteria with healthy, fresh food, so we got into the habit that so many very busy people do of eating out in the nearby restaurants.

When I had hyperemesis gravidarum, restaurant fare became even more of a deeply ingrained habit because for some reason that other HGers will probably understand, homemade food just did not sit well on my poor stomach.

Frankly, I was pretty appalled when I looked at what we were spending on food.  I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know how bad.  I am a little terrified to confess to my readers that 30% of our food budget had been going to groceries and the remaining 70% went to eating out. At lunch, on weekends, and on and on and on.

That is not okay.

It’s an easy decision to make: Take my lunch to work.  But I will admit, eating out is a tough habit to break.  What do I take?  What do I pack?  How do I keep things interesting and avoid a ham sandwich every day?

I started easy.  I visited Trader Joe’s and purchased a few of their prepared lunches.  Is this cheating?  A little bit, but if you can get a salad for $3, that’s a darn sight better than $9 for a meal out.

That first week, I ate TJ’s salads.  I immediately learned that a single salad does not contain enough calories to make a meal for me.  I learned to pack sides.  A string cheese here, an apple there.  By Thursday of that week, I felt brave enough to slice some leftover meat and augment my store-bought salad.

Giving myself a week of TJ’s salads helped me to learn how and what to pack to make up a lunch for myself.  That following weekend, I didn’t have time to go to TJ’s and the regular grocery, so I decided to make my own “TJ’s” salads.  I took their ideas of multiple, fresh ingredients and made it work for me.  I haven’t looked back since.

Here’s an example of a lunch.  This is what I had today in fact:

Layered Thai Rice Salad Bowl (layers listed from bottom to top)

  • Leftover Trader Joe’s microwaveable brown rice
  • Dollop of leftover homemade Thai Peanut Sauce
  • Lettuce
  • sliced mushrooms and sliced yellow squash from my garden
  • Sliced leftover Coconut Crusted Chicken (basically just breaded, baked chicken, but instead of bread crumbs I used unsweetened coconut)
  • limes and Asian salad dressing

It was easy and filling.  Plenty of protein and calories in the chicken and peanut sauce, and packed with interesting and delicious flavor.  I ate it with an apple and a piece of string cheese.

It’s so easy to do variations on this theme.  Salads don’t have to be boring.  Mixing in things like rice, quinoa, and other non-standard ingredients keeps things interesting and appeals to my creative spirit.

I’ve also been saving money!  We’re on track right now to cut our food budget by $400!

It may seem like a simple step, but it’s a change that’s made a big and positive impact on our family.

Do you pack your lunch for work?  What goes into your lunch box?