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The Caribbean Kitchen - Recipe 021

   added 21Dec2001

  Caribbean Rum Cake


Rum Cake is a Christmas favourite in the Caribbean, and there are as many versions as there are families and grandmothers...
Here is a light, moist, tasty one you can slice smoothly and enjoy all year, a
t the minimum the ingredients only need a day or two to soak (some soak for years!), and the total final preparation takes less than an hour (without much elbow grease!).
Can be used right away, and/or be sealed and frozen for years with no loss in texture or flavour!!
Update: My 2004 version is a dark sticky cake... VERY rich, but VERY tasty! Some West Indians would call it "VERY more-ish"!!

 Ingredients 1  Method  Splatterflinger's
 2002  2003  2004  Ingredients 2

3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup currants
3/4 cup chopped prunes
3/4 cup mixed peel
3/4 cup glace cherries
1 cup port or brandy
1 cup butter, softened
   (= 1/2 pound) (or vegetable/olive oil)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (or honey)
6 eggs
1 tbsp browning (optional) (= cassareep)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
Zest and juice of 1 lime
   (or lemon zest &/or bottled lime/lemon juice)
1 1/2 cups dried breadcrumbs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp ground allspice
1 tsp baking powder CLICK
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup rum
1 cup chopped walnuts (or halves/pieces)

In bowl, combine raisins, currants, prunes, peel and cherries. Stir in port or brandy. Soak, covered, overnight - or for months - at room temperature. Combine and press down occasionally. CLICK
Preheat oven to 300F. CLICK
Arrange _TWO_ shelves, one in the middle and one at the lowest slot. Place a pan of water on the lower rack (larger and deeper is better) to keep the cake moist. CLICK
Grease a 9-inch round baking pan 2 inches deep or six to eight  mini-loaf pans. Line with parchment paper, if desired. Grease the paper, then lightly flour the pan. CLICK
In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the browning (if used), vanilla, almond extract, lime zest and juice.
In another bowl stir together breadcrumbs, flour, allspice, baking powder CLICK and salt. Stir breadcrumb mixture into butter mixture, alternating with rum. Stir in soaked fruit mixture and walnuts.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan/s, smoothing the top and pushing the cherries down into the batter CLICK. Place the cake in the middle of the oven and bake 1+3/4 to 2 hours, or until a tester inserted in the cake comes out clean and the top is a deep golden brown. If the cake browns too quickly, cover it loosely with foil, cool in the pan on a rack for 1 hour. Turn it out and cool it completely on the rack. Store in a cool place, wrapped tightly in foil.
Makes 2 9-inch cakes or 12-14 small (6x3x2.5) loaf pans. CLICK
- See my Christmas 2002 update! CLICK

- See my Christmas 2003 update! CLICK
- See my dark cake Christmas 2004 update, with photos! CLICK

Splatterflinger's Observations, Short Cuts & Hints:
Cut the cherries and prunes in half before soaking... but don't soak the walnuts  in the brandy - they are soft enough already.
I soaked my fruit for only 2 days in enough brandy to cover the fruit when squeezed down (flattened) with a large spoon at the beginning. I also turned the fruit every six hours or so (except during the night) and flattened it down again each time - to keep the maximum amount of fruit "under the influence". If necessary you can top up the brandy, but you only need just enough to reach the surface when you press the fruit down.

Dedicated Caribbean cooks store equal amounts of pitted halved prunes, raisins, citron and halved glace cherries to fill a gallon container about 3/4 full, with enough liquid to cover it completely. The gallon container is kept all year round in the refrigerator, topped up again each year with fruit and liquid after the puddings or cakes are made.

Most recipes call for rum, brandy or cognac to cover the steeping fruit - some prefer to use a good sweet vermouth instead. Whatever liquor is used, fruit soaking for the genuine article usually goes on for at least 3 months!

Finally, if you are in a huge rush, fruit need only be soaked for three hours! But good luck with that one!!!

IMPORTANT: Make sure there are TWO shelves in the oven when you start to pre-heat. With filled cake pans ready to go, finding out that you have to move two very hot wire shelves is not the time to be playing with hot metal.
Also place a cookie sheet or baking pan on the lower shelf, add water at fire-up and ensure there is always water present to help keep the little darlings moist in the steam. A larger and deeper pan is better than a small and/or shallow one so there is plenty of moisture and you do not keep opening the oven to refill the pan with water as it evaporates.
There are many kinds of baking powder, but any pastry chef worth their phyllo will tell you to look for SAS (or Sodium Aluminium Sulphate/Sulfate), as the main ingredient. Added with equal amounts of salt this type promotes the best cake rising of any on the market.
For my first effort I also doubled the quantities... if you do too, you will need a LARGE bowl (I use a very large saucepan/pot) to do the final folding and mixing by hand with a wooden spoon. Cooking time was just over two hours to get the tops golden brown.
Instead of doing a 9-inch cake/s and fussing about with the parchment paper, I simply hand-buttered ten small foil loaf pans well (about 6L x 3W x 2.5D, from the supermarket or Dollar Store, 3, 4 or 5 to a pack). I then filled them to about 1/2 inch from the top - and smoothed the batter down - to make Christmas Rum Cake gifts. They rose almost to the top without overflowing.
If cherries rise (pop up) while you are filling the pans, press them well down into the batter and smooth the batter over them - they hold quite a bit of "moisture", and you don't want them drying out and becoming hard on the surface while in the oven.
These came out light, very moist and very flavourful in 2 1/4 hours. The fruit was tangy, and overall I thought it was very successful.
I keep mine individually in ZipLok bags to stop them drying out, but under the expected heavy demand they won't be around very long anyway!


December, 2002
This year I doubled the quantities again for one batch and - in my continued search for healthier alternatives - I used honey instead of sugar, vegetable oil (could be olive oil) instead of butter.
Last year the mini loaf tops came out browned and crusty, so this year I started with 20 minutes at 300 degrees and continued at 250 degrees until I was sure they were cooked all the way through. The tops were still brown, but only the very extreme edges of the top were crisp... after cutting them off I had VERY moist slices of a fabulous fruity rum cake!!
In one instance I cut thin slices - about 1/4 inch - with a sharp knife and served them with coffee in an elegant setting with great success.
Bear in mind that I make all of my batches in MINI LOAF PANS - larger pans will probably need different treatments. And I have frozen the loaves in ZipLok bags for more than a year with no appreciable loss in texture or flavour - and they do slice well as soon as you take them out of the freezer.
September, 2003
I started this year early by soaking my fruit... the sultanas/raisins in rum, the rest of the fruit in brandy. I already make my own wine, so I am also checking whether I can make my own brandy - at a wine-making service, of course - and save some money in the next few years with flavours that I can control more closely - and cut my baking cost in half.
So if you are going to make this recipe this year, watch this space and I will provide any other tips I can as I make them myself.
October 27, 2003:
Here we go: Despite a planned early-October start, procrastination reigned supreme until today, by which time I had invested in a large Waring electric oven that was on sale at a local big box warehouse (it looks like an enormously pregnant crock pot).
The features include acurate temperature control, being easily large enough to bake a large turkey - which I did for Thanksgiving, and the enclosed steaming action meant it came out delicious and moist - and three metal pans in a cut-out top that allow the unit to be used (with hot water underneath the pans) as a food warmer in a buffet line. Versatile!!
Anyhoo, this oversized kettle is perfect to try steaming these rum cakes (with a 1/2 inch of water in the bottom) - I'm looking for a nice brown crust, but not black and burnt. I'll report back when the first batch is done.
October 28, 2003:
OK, two double-batches complete, in 2 complete hours each. Using that VERY enclosed steaming process I have something soft between bread and cake, quite pleasant, melts in the mouth with a positive alcoholic kick in the fruit. I'm not much into liquor, but this was quite pleasant. With a cup of coffee to wash it down, a loaf of this stuff doesn't last very long!!
I wrapped the metal turkey rack in foil and put that at the bottom, then poured water until the rack was just swimming (about 1/2 inch). This took one layer of 7 mini-loaves, and I covered them with a pair of wire racks upside down (so the wire legs would not penetrate the loaves below). The next layer went on the wire racks and came almost to the height of the rim. The cover is quite rounded, so there was plenty of space for the steam to circulate inside.
The tops are browned, but not crisp (because there was no dry heat, obviously). And I felt there were not enough cherries in the first, so I doubled that ingredient in the second batch. The cakes dropped out of the (ungreased) pans quite well in the first batch, but the second batch left a smattering in the bottoms of the foil pans when I dumped them out onto wire racks at the point where they had cooled for a couple of hours.
I put them all (24 mini-loaves - 2 others were "lost" in testing!!) in individual ZipLok sandwich-sized bags, sucked out most of the air, sealed and stored them in the refrigerator. As usual I will be giving them away as Christmas gifts. Last year I had to make extra batches because of the demand!!!


Click on small photo to view larger image

October, 2004
This year I started soaking my fruit even earlier - some time back in June or July. The sultanas/raisins in rum again, the rest of the fruit in Port. Per my wonderment last year, I discovered that brandy is not allowed to be made (by private individuals) in the wine-making establishents, so I gave that venture up.

Here are some more tips... do not soak the cherries in rum (they all turn black, defeating the colourful additions), and maybe add some more food colouring to maintain the bright red and green flashes they provide.

Everything was "mise en place" (all the ingredients and utensils at hand). I decided to seek a darker and fruitier cake (my earlier versions have been beige or light brown), so here's an alternative recipe for you...  

3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup currants
3/4 cup chopped prunes
3/4 cup mixed peel
2 cups glace cherries
1 cup port or brandy
1 cup butter, softened
   (= 1/2 pound) (or vegetable/olive oil)
1+1/4 cups granulated sugar (or honey)
6 eggs
1/2 cup "Fancy" Barbados Molasses
2 tbsp browning (optional) (= cassareep)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
Zest and juice of 1 lime
   (or lemon zest &/or bottled lime/lemon juice)
1+1/2 cups dried breadcrumbs
1+1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1+1/2 tbsp ground allspice
1 tsp SAS baking powder CLICK
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup rum
1 cup chopped walnuts (or halves/pieces)

December, 2009

October 19, 2009:
As before, everything was "mise en place". Here's a slightly fifferent approach that came out well - in three double-batches.  

(for a double-batch):

"Wet" ingredients
12 eggs
2.5 cups granulated sugar (or honey)
2 cups butter, softened
   (= 1 pound) (or vegetable/olive oil)
1 cup "Fancy" Barbados Molasses
2 cups port or brandy
1 cup good quality rum
4 tbsp browning (optional)
        (I prefer cassareep)
4 tsp vanilla
2 tsp almond extract
Zest and juice of 1 lime
   (or lemon zest &/or bottled lime/lemon juice)
"Dry" ingredients
3 cups dried breadcrumbs
5 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp ground allspice
4 tsp SAS baking powder CLICK
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp baking soda
2 cups chopped walnuts
        (or halves/pieces)
1.5 cup raisins
1.5 cup currants
        (or 3 cups raisins)
1.5 cup chopped prunes
1.5 cup cut dates
1/2 cup mixed peel
4 cups glace cherries (mixed colours)

I'm assuming that the year's preparations were performed - the various fruits soaked in good quality brandy, port or rum, and that the prunes and dates were cut in half so they could absorb maximum "flavours".

In advance prepare the baking pans and oven... the cakes will be partly steamed at 350 degrees F for  an hour, so have the oven ready with a pan of boiling water at the bottom to keep the interior moist.

I am now using silicone pans and Rival steamers - big enough for a large turkey, with wire racks separating the layers. With smaller portions a final layer can be added under the domed lid - as long as the lid does not rest on the pan.

Whip the eggs thoughly in a mixer. Add the sugar (or honey) and ensure both are well combined. Add the butter/oil and do the same again. Now add the rest of the "wet" ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Separately, in a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, flour, allspice, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Mix them well. Now sprinkle on the rest of the "dry" ingredients and fold into the floury mixture, coating well.

Now fold the "wet" ingredients into the "dry", but do not mix too much. As soon as possible start portioning the mixture into the pans... I use a canning funnel and a large ladle to control the portions - and the mess. You are aiming to fill the pans to about 1/10 inch below the top of the pan.

Bake/steam at 350 degrees F for one hour. Turn out onto the wire racks and allow to cool. While they are still a bit warm, place in pairs into sandwich-size "freezer" (heavy-duty, thicker plastic) ZipLok bags, add a dollop of good quality rum, and close the zipper almost all the way.

Squeeze out most of the air (don't squash the cakes!!!), then leave a small break in the zipper at one end and suck the remainder of air - and rum fumes! - out. Stop sucking as soon as the bag starts to tighten on the cakes.

Fold the bag over on itself, place the bags in a box and store in a cool place for several months - or in a freezer indefinitely.


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