If you live in the U.S., Christmas dessert probably means pecan pie, fruitcake, or maybe a Yule log, while those in the U.K. feast on Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, or mince pies. If you live in the Caribbean, though, you're probably very familiar with the sweet, fruity, alcohol-laced Caribbean black cake, also called rum cake. The cake varies from region to region, each iteration adding its own unique ingredients. Jamaican black cake, for example, often contains rosewater and almonds, whereas Trinidad's black cake does not.
Christmas cake was introduced when the British colonized the West Indies in the 1800s, and it was eventually altered to fit its new surroundings. Jamaican black cake is similar to Christmas cake, as both cakes are made anywhere from two weeks to six months ahead of time. In both cases, alcohol is added every couple of weeks until the cake is completely infused and has a pudding-like texture. Recipe changes have also occurred, like regular sugar becoming burnt sugar, browning sauce, or molasses, and the whisky or brandy becoming rum.
These days, it's becoming more common to see recipes use dessert wine for this infusion rather than spirits. Manischewitz grape wine or a red dessert wine may change the flavor slightly, but they impart a delicious sweetness to the cake while leaving its essence intact.
Dessert Wine Softens And Enhances The Cake's Fruit
It's hard to say when dessert or sweet red wines began appearing in black cake, but many who have switched appreciate how well wine works for soaking the fruit and intensifying the cake's flavor. Susan Barnes, who emigrated from Antigua to Brooklyn in 1983, also prefers red wine. "The Passover wine is the best. I like it so much I send it to my mother in Jamaica for her cake," she told The New York Times.
While swapping out rum for a red dessert wine has become routine for making Jamaican black cake, using a mixture of rum and wine is another option for those who still want a more traditional taste. That said, none of the cake's ingredients are set in stone, and people have even been known to use grape juice to make a non-alcoholic version.
Unlike the fruit cake most Americans hate, black cake's alcohol-soaked dried prunes, cherries, and raisins are ground down, so the fruit is soft once it's time to eat. And this cake isn't just for Christmas — Jamaican black cake is also prepared for weddings and other special occasions. Because it takes so long to make, it's considered one of the most loving and thoughtful gifts to receive. "You can only make a few, so when you give a cake, it's a special thing," declared Elizabeth Marshall, a Trinidadian who emigrated to Brooklyn in 1989.
Read the original article on Mashed.