This is a Barbadian Christmas must!! It also has been called Christmas Cake as it is normally only prepared as a Christmas sweet. However, some have used it for weddings and birthdays.
Sometimes referred to as Black Cake or Rum Cake by other Caribbean islanders, but Barbadians might tell you that it is not the same! 🙂
Great Cake is usually made with wine or rum, but more than one alcoholic beverage can be used to your preference or need for complexity.
The fruit must be soaked in the alcohol in preparation for making the cake. It is customary to steep the fruit for up to four (4) months, but I guess you could shorten the time without any real harm. I guess.
Obviously, the longer you steep the fruit in the alcohol, the richer the cake in flavour and moistness, so time to start preparing.
So how to make a real Barbadian Great Cake? Here is one recipe which I hope will inspire you.
Great Cake Recipe:
• 1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit – raisins, currants, dates, prunes, cherries
• 2 oz. mixed peel
• 4 oz. peanuts or almonds, roasted and crushed (optional)
• 1/2 bottle wine or rum, brandy, whisky (or a mixture) plus a little extra
• 8 oz. white or soft brown sugar
• 8 oz. margarine
• 6 eggs
• 8 oz. plain flour
• 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 1/4 tsp all spice
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
• 1 lb. sugar
• 2 tbsp. wine/rum/alcohol mixture
A pinch of salt.
Essence: Almond, vanilla or other essence.
How To Make
1. Wash and dry the fruits. Grind/mince or finely chop fruits (and nuts). Pour half the alcohol over the fruits, making sure they are covered. Leave to soak for up to 3-4 months in a cool dry place.
- Make the caramel by heating sugar until it melts and add the wine or other alcohol. Simmer until dark color is obtained.
- Grease and double line an 8 inch bake pan with buttered/ greased parchment
- Cream sugar and margarine… I still prefer using a wooden spoon.
Add the essence to the eggs and beat gently. Stir or gently beat this in a little at a time to the creamed sugar and margarine.
- Add fruit (and crushed nuts) and stir well. Add enough caramel to make it as dark as desired.
- Sift flour, baking powder, salt and spices together. Sift again and add a little at a time folding into the eggy creamed mixture. Mix into a soft dropping dense consistency using alcohol; and extra flour if required.
- Spoon or pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake at 300 degrees F in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 2 1/2 hours, or until done (skewer test). Place a pan of water (bain-marie) below the cake during baking to control the dryness of the heat.
- Remove cake from oven, let cool, then invert onto rack and remove the greased paper. Pour the remaining alcohol, by degrees, over the cake. Continue to do this at intervals until all the alcohol is used up.
Serve when cooled and ‘dry’.
Store this cake in an airtight container. You can make it last longer, up to two months, by drizzling it with alcohol (including Falernum) from time to time to keep it moist.
Obviously I borrowed this recipe (from Deborah P Poole), ’cause you know me, I don’t go in for much measuring, so take care as I toggled it a bit. 😘
This cake however is so great, you just have to give it a try.
What is Great Cake like?
Great Cake is a moist fruity caramel alcohol based cake which is rich in flavour. It is a Barbadian institution.
The taste is somewhat like that of softly ripened fruit with a hint of the alcohol used, while the texture is soft, not mushy or creamy, but firm. I think the use of nuts is a modern take as I do not remember or know of anyone who use nuts as part of the “original” recipe. In any case nuts would, in my opinion, alter the texture of the traditional cake. I would proffer that our Great Cake is better without them. Correct???!
The alcohol, first absorbed then evaporated during cooking, lingers mainly as a hint in the smell and very faintly on the palate. This cake can be iced to make it even more special, and is not known to be harmful to kids. 🙂 In fact as a kid I really looked forward to this cake at Christmas. It was a treat! A taste of something wholesome and different. A fact and a promise of richness, and of love, and of better times.
Great Cake is a delicacy; it gets better with time. X
Don’t forget the wooden spoon!