28. Jamaican Black (Rum) Cake – The most alcoholic cake I’ve ever baked

Jamaican Black Cake

Officially the most alcoholic cake that I have EVER baked. Jamaican Black cake is most definitely not for the faint of heart or soberest of people. Containing 2 bottles of dark rum and a half bottle of Brandy, the fumes emanating from the cake are enough to make you slightly squiffy, never mind devouring a full slice!

Dark Rum (not just any dark rum but Marks and Spencers Dark Rum)

I happened upon the idea of a Jamaican Black cake when looking for Christmas cake recipes and I spotted it for sale at the continental Christmas markets. I required a wonderful cake recipe to bake for my first ever venture into the world of Clandestine Cake Club where the theme was cakes with beverages and also something luxurious for my mam’s mothers day present too. This is how I ended up scouring shops for a ridiculous amount of prunes, raisins, booze and Angostura Bitters. Did you know that they are difficult to find despite their 47% volume and are rumoured to be poisonous in large quantities… Good job this only needed 2 tablespoons of the pink stuff!

rum soaked fruit

I soaked the mammoth amount of dried fruit in an entire bottle (1 litre) of rum for about 2 weeks. I had to split the fruit into 2 jars as I simply did not have a vessel large enough to contain the copious amounts of booze and fruit.

I probably should have read the recipe more carefully as I would then have discovered that this recipe is enough to yield 3 or 4 cakes. I had produced a Jamaican Black Cake factory!! [I've revisited this recipe and reduced it down to Just the one Jamaican Black Cake here if you want to bake fewer cakes.]

The recipe also did not specify the volume of the bottles of booze so I shall let you know what worked for me (and as per usual I did end up substituting something for things that I like better. I hope that doesn’t detract from its Jamicanness? (or Trinidad – ianness origin also).

Rum soaked fruit… how much can I cram in to the food processor?

I figured that soaking fruit in this sheer amount of rum as well as being highly decadent is enough to ensure a good result (or get you very drunk so you no longer care what the cake actually tastes like). The idea behind such a long soak is to help macerate the fruit and also creates a much denser and moist texture than traditional fruit cake/Christmas Cake. I also think that it might make a wonderful Christmas pudding.

Maybe a bit more…

Following the long rum soak the fruit required mushing up. My weapon of choice was my food processor. Rather dangerously I crammed the entire fruit and rum mix into the bowl and forced the lid on. It took rather a lot of whizzing to get the mix to condense down into a fruit paste but it’s a determined little processor and did a wonderful job. Adding the Angostura bitters left a pink hue to the mixer bowl for future Jamaican Black Cake memories.

Eeek! Full to capacity but valiantly managed to macerate the fruit fully

With the food processor chugging away I had a chance to get on with ‘browning the sugar’. This is a new technique for me and undoubtedly adds to the depth of the final cake colour. Light brown sugar is heated in the pan until it melts to create a caramel. Adding a little water (in total half a cup) at a time. I struggled to get the sugar to melt and in frustration tipped all the water in, which wasn’t a good idea as it crystalised into chunks and required a much more vigorous heat and stir to get a smoother caramel. And even then it was still on the crunchy textured side for my liking. But I figured the heat of the oven would help to incorporate the crystals into the cake, I’m pretty sure I was right too! No sign of crunchy sugar lumps in the final cake.

Bubbling and browning the sugar to a caramel

Perhaps I was multi tasking to the extreme as I then attempted to beat the butter, sugar and eggs together whilst macerating the fruit and drowning/browning the sugar. But hey I have 2 hands, why not use them?!

Creaming the butter and sugar

After a short while I realised I don’t own a bowl big enough to house all of the cake ingredients in. I now had 3 separate and extremely full bowls which were already overflowing!! Once I stirred the browned liquid sugar into the beaten eggs and sugar I then only had 2 massive bowls of stuff to combine…

Mixing the browned sugar into the mix

Tonnes of butter, sugar, eggs and browned butter!

A spot of logical thinking brought me to the conclusion that this was possible, I just needed to divide the mix in order to conquer it.

Emmmmm how do I combine all of this???

I poured roughly half the beaten eggs, butter and sugar into one large mixing bowl. I then decanted half of the mushed up fruit and rum on top of the batter. This meant I had some space to fold the mixture together with my metal spoon. Although some ingredients fell over board I feel I salvaged the majority of it.

Hope it doesn’t overflow…

I repeated the process in a separate bowl with the other half of the mixture. Although I’m sure my guess work is highly accurate I couldn’t help but notice one bowl of batter looked a bit blacker than the other which worried me that I had put more fruit in inequality bowl than the other but there was nothing to gain by fretting about it and these monster cakes needed a.good 3 hours in the oven so I had to plough on.

It was a bit of a tight squeeze!!

Fully combined all of the ingredients!!

I had already greased and double lined 2 round springform cake tins with an extra high collar fixed on the outside with string to prevent the cake top from burning. I used a.22cm tin and a 20cm tin and found I still had cake to spare so quickly greased my favourite bundt tin (with a very generous layer of butter as I couldn’t line the moulded tin with paper and wanted to make sure I could get the cake back out again!!) Due to its shape I also couldn’t tie a protective collar of greaseproof paper round the bundt tin so opted for a lid of tin foil over the top. This scrunched up edges to create a seal over the top of the tin and stayed put throughout the baking process.

Doubled lined and dressed in collars – cakes ready for the oven

I smoothed the tops of the cakes as flat as I could as I wasn’t expecting them to rise very much.

I did check on the cakes regularly and turned them slightly so as to avoid burning the edges. But I resisted opening the oven for at least 2 hours to keep the heat in and the cakes rising. No one wants a sunken and heavy cake…

Trio of Jamaican Black Cakes hot out the oven

After 3 hours they were definitely done and the skewer came out clean.

The final touch was to pour half a bottle of rum over the 3 cakes whilst they were still in their tins and warm.

More rum glistening on top

What a wonderful cake! It was definitely worth the extra preparation time and although it’s not traditional to ice a Jamaican Black Cake, my Mam loves marzipan and royal icing so I created a Cath Kidston -esque star design especially for her using the largest of my trio of cakes. This wasn’t the easiest cake to ice as the cake was still rather moist (and full of rum) so I struggled to get the icing to stick. Some say that it is too sweet with the layers of icing, but I actually really quite liked it. It is very similar to a Christmas Cake however it smells so much more of booze and brings a lovely rose to the cheeks.

Cath Kidston Jamaican Black Cake

The second cake which I baked in the bundt tin required some coaxing to remove it from the tin. (I implemented a cocktail stick to loosen the cake around the sides, then I let gravity do the rest of the work, turning the tin upside down on a plate.) I took this to my first ever Clandestine Cake Club and shared the cake with lots of other cake lovers. I will tell you more about this another time :)

Jamaican Black Bundt Cake – note the slight cocktail stick indentations… oops but rum hides all sorts of sins

The more traditional shaped Jamaican Black Cake

The Towering Trio of Jamaican Black Cakes

Things that I used to make Jamaican Black Cake…

An insane amount of dried fruit and alcohol! Although I didn’t stick completely to the combinations below I think you can play around with which dried fruits you use depending on what is available provided it all adds up to the same total amount of dried fruit. I also worked from 2 different recipes to make sure I had a good all rounder recipe and that I made it as authentically as possible.

[Since creating this recipe I have revisited it and reduced it so you can also now follow a recipe for Just the One Jamaican Black Cake if you prefer!]

Fruit Puree Base:

Soak the fruit in rum for up to 2 weeks (or at least 3 days) prior to macerating

  • 500g prunes
  • 500g dark raisins
  • 750g currants
  • 500g dried cherries
  • 250g mixed candied citrus peel
  • (Total of 5 and 1/4 pounds of dried fruit or 2.4 kilograms)
  • 1 bottle cherry brandy (I had to make do with plain old Brandy and used a 500ml bottle)
  • 1 bottle rum and/or Bailey’s (I used a 1 litre bottle of dark rum. I didn’t include Baileys)  -Other recipes also suggest using Manischewitz Concord grape wine which doesn’t seem to exist in England so I just opted for adding a bit more rum
  • 2 tbsp Angostura bitters

Browning:

Heat the sugar in a heavy based pan until it melts and then add a little bit of the water at a time until it becomes a dark caramel. Careful not to burn it, but it will come very close to being burnt to achieve ‘browned’ perfection.

  • 500g brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling hot water

Cake:

Beat the sugar and eggs together and then beat the eggs in one by one. (You will need a big bowl as it gets a bit messy with 8 eggs!) Add all the flavours to the egg mix.

Sift the dry ingredients together and then fold it into the beaten eggs, sugar and butter.

Then mix in the fruit puree and browned sugar liquid.

Pour into 3 greased and double lined cake tins.

Bake at 120 degrees celsius (250F) for 3 hours

  • 500g unsalted butter
  • 500g sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 tsp lemon essence (I didn’t have this so used lime juice instead…)
  • I used the zest of 2 whole limes (but then realised the recipe said 2 tsp lime rind)
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 500g plain flour (I used plain white flour but you could make this cake gluten free by using your favourite gluten free plain flour or a combination of gluten free flours such as 250g cassava flour + 250g rice flour)
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

The Final Touch:

Pour a generous amount of rum/brandy onto the top of your cake. It should absorb rather a lot of rum at this point. The cake will get darker with the more rum that you force feed it. It may take a day for the cake to absorb the rum but it will get there.

Wait until the cake has cooled completely before removing it from the tin and pop the cakes in an airtight container. I even left one cake in the tin for a week with tin foil over the top while it absorbed the rum (and I had ran out of containers big enough to keep it in!

MORE RUM 1 500ml bottle of dark rum for pouring on the hot cakes

Keeping Your Jamaican Black Cake:

The cake should keep for (at least) a month in an air tight container. Or perhaps even longer if you can resist eating it as it’s almost pickled with that amount of alcohol in it! Tin foil is also a good idea help seal in the rum and prevent the cake from drying out.

I froze my final cake and I think it will keep for at least a month in the freezer before I decide what to do with it.

This recipe was created using inspiration from Auntie Olga’s Trinidad Black Cake  and the Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook.

Thank you for reading!

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56 responses

  1. You did a fantastic job. We definitely make this in the Caribbean every Christmas and I love a slice with some black wine (although I only know black wine from St Vincent and the Grenadines) as if the cake doesn’t have enough alcohol. This cake is stronnnggggg but I love it. I wish you could send me a piece right now! It looks soooooo good!

    • Thank you so much! I’m so pleased that it looks right. I’ve never heard of black wine before but I will have to keep my eyes out for it as it sounds interesting! I wish I could share a piece of cake with you too. Thanks so much for reading!! x

  2. I always smile when I read about your kitchen misadventures, Lauren. I had a few of my own yesterday, which you can read about in my next post. It sounds like you and your Mum were pleased with your cake, which is what matters in the end. I look forward to hearing more about the Clandestine Cake Club (great name).

    • Thanks so much Sharyn! Looking forward to reading your next post too!! I think I almost prefer it when something goes.a little off in my baking then I know I’ve definitely made it my own way :) clandestine cake club is so much fun will tell all soon x

    • Most important thing is that you enjoyed your cakes. but, i personally think it has too much fruits. 5 pounds of fruit to 1 lb of butter and sugar is way too much. The difference between Caribbean fruit cake and the English fruit cake is that it has far less fruit and it usually contain a higher proportion of eggs.

      • Hi Brenda thanks so much for your comment. I really do love this cake. It is very different from the traditional English Christmas fruit cake. It needs the added moisture from the rum soaked fruit and butter to give it it’s gloriously soft texture. The sugar is also browned which is a good way of caramelising the sugar before adding it to the cake. It’s also much darker than a traditional cake. Well worth giving it a go if you ever feel like trying it. I’m feeling very festive now, so I’m about to start soaking my fruit ready for Christmas cakes soon.

    • Thanks very much for your comment. I love the combination of rum and chocolate. I made a German chocolate marble cake once with almond too. It was heaven! I bet a good dark chocolate would make the Jamaican Black Cake even more decadent! :)

  3. Wowsers that is a lot of booze and a very interesting shopping list! :-) Sounds like a lot effort too…but the end product was obviously worth it…looks delicious…although there is a good possibility I’d have a hangover if I ate a slice!

  4. Wowsers that is a lot of booze and a very interesting shopping list! :-) Sounds like a lot effort too…but the end product was obviously worth it…looks delicious…although there is a good possibility I’d have a hangover if I ate a slice!

  5. Ooh hubbies fave tipple is dark rum so this is one for me to have a go at. I have not got a bundt tin but did pick up something similar (ish) at a car boot sale for a £1 today so I am now willing and able!

  6. Pingback: The Clandestine Cake Club Adventure | Around the World in Eighty Bakes

  7. The fame of this cake reached our documentary filming earlier this month! Thought I’d say hi as I’m the web designer for CCC :)

  8. The fame of this cake reached our CCC documetary filming earlier this month! I did not believe it until I saw it with my own eyes!

    Just thought I’d say hi as I’m the web developer for CCC :)

  9. This sounds incredible . I have made it before
    Many times but nothing like this. Thanks I will
    Try yours next time. Not for me though I will be drunk and ill . Borderline Diabetic . Under
    control still makes me dizzy.

  10. Awesome… I’m not the only one that used a few bottles of booze.
    On Sunday, I started off using about 3 cups of dark rum and 3 cups of cream sherry. My initial dried fruit amounted to 1lb(454g) prunes, 1lb mixed peel, 1lb dried cherries, and 1lb raisins. I could not find currants or sultanas in Chicago. I dumped all this in a food processor and stored in a 2L jar and thought see you in a month.

    After scouring the net for other recipes and noticing that most recipes only used 1/4lb mixed peel and being the paranoid/determined baker, I decided THIS RECIPE NEEDS MORE! Original recipe called for cherry brandy which is not available here so I planned on adding regular brandy. I decided to go on another hunt for sultanas or currants, but even the caribbean places were out so I thought think long term. Add more prunes, cherries, raisins and prepare to have something on hand all year. :)

    And that I did and added another I 750ml bottle of brandy to it.

    Hope this turns out well.

  11. Wow! That sounds amazing! Have you made it before? Brandy is a wonderful addition to it. I love the waft of booze that comes out of each slice. I think as long as you stick to the total amount of dried fruit (of whatever combination you can get your hands on) and macerate it it’ll be gorgeous :) Prunes are your best bet to get the darkest cake. I like your thinking of having something on hand all year round for those baking emergencies. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Please let me know how you get on with your cake!

  12. gee whiz! what a nice (looking) and seemingly delish cake. i was born in jam. and i once tried baking this cake and it CAME OUT NO WAY looking or tasting wonderful like the way yours look.
    i am happy for you that it came out well, because a few years ago i tried to do it to please my parents. 6 months before xmas, i left the fruit to soak in wine in the fridge. 7 weeks before xmas, i started my baking process. i poured rum on the top of the cake at the end but while it was still warm. After 6 weeks of dousing it with red wine (once per week) then i started eating it in the 2nd week of december. It was very moist to the point of seemingly rotten and i got diarrhea every time i ate a small piece….even though it tasted very good! i was never much of a cooker nor baker soooo.
    now that i am searching for what i did wrong, i see your great site and feel so proud of you. i will try this again on another year when i build up some more baking confidence. merry christmas!

    • Hello Lori, thank you so much for your comment. I’m so pleased that you like the recipe and my attempt at Jamaican Black Cake. I have read that you can use wine in the Jamaican Black cake, but it’s a type of wine that I’ve never come across before in England. I think the recipe that I looked at suggested you add the wine just before you bake it as I think wine might not work as well for soaking fruit, it may ‘turn’ or ‘go off a bit’. (which might explain the tummy upset).

      Rum and Brandy work well to preserve the fruit (and the cake when it’s baked). The spirits help to prevent bacteria developing due to their high alcohol content. (which definitely adds to the festivities too!) Please do let me know how you get on if you try the recipe! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

  13. Wow, you did a really good job on your cake. For future reference if you ever make this again, you don’t have to freeze the extra cakes. These cakes keep forever (like over a year) if you just wrap them really well in saran wrap and foil and keep them somewhere dry and cool. I made one for my uncle Christmas 2005 and he was was still eating it in 2007.

    One questions though: why call it a JAMAICAN black cake when you followed two Trinidadian recipes and used Trinidadian ingredients (Angostura bitters)? This is a TRINIDADIAN black cake. Give credit where credit is due.

    • Thank so much for your comment. I did think with that amount of booze in it , the cake would surely be good to keep for much longer than a month. It’s good to know that yours kept for so long. I have just been reading about how the freezing process also helps fruit cakes to mature, so perhaps freezing this cake would help it to mature quicker?

      I had tried to acknowledge the Trinidadian origin of the cake throughout the blog post, sorry if that didn’t come through strong enough. I have only seen this cake called Jamaican Black cake at an international food market before but through my research I realised that the Trinidadian Rum cake and Jamaican Black Cake are very similar, hence making my own recipe from those that I stumbled across. I found it really difficult to choose which country to relate it to. Hope that helps to answer your question. It’s a problem that has arisen quite a few times in my around the world in 80 bakes adventure, for example both New Zealand and Australia have a claim to the origin of the pavlova, so for the purposes of my blog I have to make a decision and attribute the cake to one country. But it is a wonderful cake which I really love. I really enjoyed exploring the recipe and trying new ingredients out. Thanks so much for reading.

  14. I am in a Jamaican family and have developed a similar recipe over the years – a cheat if you are running out of time is to heat the fruit in the soaking alcohol. It cuts out the soaking time. It plumps up the fruits nicely, although soaking is best!

    • Hello JanieMay, Thanks very much for the tip. That is a great one to remember for the future. I’ve tried this before when soaking fruit in tea and it worked really well but I’ve tried it with alcohol. Thanks!

  15. I tried making it today using a new bucket and the mix just about fit OK! I added some cherries to the mix at the end as I love cherries in cakes. It is now in the oven……………

    • Hello thanks so much for reading and taking the time to leave me a comment. How did your cake turn out? I’d love to hear more! A bucket is such a good idea to mix all of the ingredients in. The recipe is so versatile I think its always best to add the flavours and fruits that you like the most, so good choice on the cherries. Hope you enjoyed making the Jamaican black cake as much as I did. Happy New Year!

  16. Pingback: 5 Tiers of Fruit Wedding Cake – My biggest booziest cake ever | Around the World in Eighty Bakes

  17. I have been searching and searching for a good recipe for the Jamaican Rum cake. I was giving one recipe but I was not quite happy with the amount of butter used, so today after searching I came across your recipe. I most definitely make it, now do you also lined the outside of the tin????
    I also check the sources of your recipes, good job combining them

  18. I can kick myself, I made again the rum cake but silly me I filled up to much my bake tins
    I will make a note that with the amount given in your recipe I can make 4 Jamaican rum cakes

  19. I just love this recipe but my cakes don’t come as dark as yours, I used molasses and dark sugar, so I don’t know what I am doing wrong, can you advise me please???

    • Hello Aura I wonder why they’re not as dark? did you use prunes and soak them in dark rum first? This helps give the cake its distinctive black colour. Also did you brown the sugar? I bet they still taste divine!

  20. I soaked all the fruits in rum and brandy but still my cakes don’t come dark
    I am going to read your recipe again
    wish me luck

    • Hello Hellen I think if you don’t have brown sugar you could use normal caster sugar as you will be browning it in the pan. The only difference will be the taste as brown sugar has a richer more caramel taste. Do you have any treacle or molasses? You could substitute some of the sugar in the cake (not in the browning stage) for treacle as this has the brown sugar taste? Hope that helps and thanks for reading.

  21. Pingback: Just the one Jamaican Black Cake – with extra booze! | Around the World in Eighty Bakes

  22. This cake sounds and looks divine… Eager to make it, but For the gluten free it says half cassava flour and half lb rice flour.. Is this half lb cassava and half lb rice flour… Or half the 500g substitute so 250g cassava and half lb rice flour.. Also what is lb in grams (my maths is obviously not great)!!!

    • Hello Niki

      Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. Yes when making gluten free cakes it’s always good to mix up the gluten free flour types to give a more natural texture as some gluten free flours can be a bit dry and crumbly. But you could just swap the entire flour amount for your preferred gluten free flour. This recipe suggests replacing the flour with the same equivalent amount of gluten free flour (or you can add half of this amount of cassava flour 250g and half rice flour 250g so 500g flour in total)

      Hope that helps! as for lb I think that might be typo sorry! Just 250g and 250g Will correct that now to make it clearer! Hope you enjoy the recipe. I would love to hear how it goes.

      xx

  23. I love your cake-tin wrapping method. Nice to know especially when there’s an abundance of batter that is not enough to make another cake and too yummy to waste. Two things: As far as getting it a rich, dark brown color, try a tablespoon of Grace Browning Sauce; And, as far as melting brown sugar, try adding butter and sherry or rum instead of water.

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