I hope everyone has a very lovely Christmas Day, and that no one mentions That Thing That Aunty Marge Said.
Last year, some friends in the Caribbean sent me a Black Cake. This is a very moist, dark, extremely boozy cake served for weddings and Christmas and it is absolutely gorgeous. The things that make it different are the very finely chopped fruits and the use of caramelised sugar "browning" to give depth and colour. I was determined to make it for Christmas this year. I read a bunch of different recipes and came up with my own.
Caribbean-ish Black Cake
500g dried figs (this should have been 250g prunes and 250g figs but my grocery delivery subbed the prunes for another pack of figs and I couldn't be bothered going out for prunes)
1 tin pitted black cherries, drained
100g mixed peel
100g blanched almonds
350ml dark rum
2tbs angostura bitters
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
180g caster sugar
100ml boiling water
Grated rind of 2 limes
2 cups plain flour
2tsp baking powder
300g dark muscovado sugar
Some time beforehand - a day, a week, a month - put the fruit, almonds and spices in a large bowl. Pour over the rum, vanilla and angostura bitters. Cover tightly and leave until cake baking day.
On cake baking day, combine the caster sugar with a little bit of cold water in a heavy based saucepan. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then watch like a hawk while it boils and begins to caramelise. When it is dark brown and just before it burns, take off the heat and - with care, because it splutters and spits - stir in the boiling water. Allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 120C (ish - I will explain further).
Line cake tin/s with buttered paper. I used a large loaf tin and 5 chickpea tins (emptied and washed of course, and with the cut rim squashed back with pliers so I didn't cut myself and could get the cakes out), because I wanted to give some mini cakes as gifts.
Put the boozy fruit in a food processor (I had to do it in 3 batches because my processor is very small) and pulse briefly until chopped quite small, but not a homogenous paste.
In a very large bowl, or in fact my large pasta-cooking saucepan, cream together the butter and muscovado sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and baking powder, mix well, then stir in the fruit, lime zest and caramelised sugar.
Pour batter into prepared tins and place in water baths.
Bake until the cakes shrink from the sides of the tins and test done. For the small ones it was about 1 1/2 hours and I confess I got bored and increased the temperature to 140C. For the large one it was 3 hours.
Cool cakes in the tin for at least 24 hours before turning out. You could do the marzipan and royal icing thing, but these cakes are so moist I don't think it is necessary. I bought some silver ribbon and silver icing stars, and some cute cardboard presentation boxes for the little ones, and glued the stars on with a blob of apricot jam.