How Caribbean black cake brings families together during the holidays

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Suresh Doss (Toronto Star) writes that “Orders have been pouring into D Hot Shoppe in Burlington for black cake as people are hopeful about being able to celebrate with loved ones again.”

Pre-pandemic, Chris De La Rosa would host upwards of 60 people during the holidays. “There are certain food rituals that I consider are essential during the holidays,” said De La Rosa, founder of recipe website and popular YouTube cooking show Caribbean Pot.

Days would be spent in the kitchen, prepping his favourite dishes from Trinidad and Tobago. There was always a soundtrack. “We played parang music non-stop.”

Countless renditions of curries, fried dishes, vegetable stews and pastelles — trays of rectangular shaped cornmeal pies stuffed with meat and steamed in banana leaf that look like tamales. “My dad would make his pungent ginger beer, while I made lots of sorrel,” said De La Rosa.

There was also black cake, at least a few tins of it, on the table.

For many Caribbean diaspora communities, one of the pillars of holiday celebration is enjoying black cake together with loved ones. The boozy, fruit-filled cake enriched with molasses evolved from British plum pudding brought to the Caribbean during colonial occupation. “We took it, and made it better to suit our tastes,” said De La Rosa.

Throughout the Caribbean there are many variations of black cake. In Barbados, it is sometimes made with Guinness. In Saint Lucia, wine may be poured over the cake after it is baked. “Every household has their own recipe, like all traditional, cultural foods,” said Simone Lou-Hing, who runs D Hot Shoppe, a restaurant in Burlington known for Trinbagonian classics, with her husband Gabriel.

At D Hot Shoppe, the black cake is dotted with walnuts and cherries. The centre has a brownielike quality, effusing notes of baking spices and dried fruits.

While the process may vary from person to person, there are some basic principles. An assortment of dried fruits are soaked in rum, sherry, brandy, or a combination, for at least a few months, sometimes even a year. Cakes are usually made leading up to the holidays, and often presented in Royal Dansk butter cookie tins. A nod to this, D Hot Shoppe uses tins to package its black cake. [. . .]

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Recipe from the Toronto Star:

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