Close Bag (0)

No products in the cart.

Black Joy Through Food: Sian’s Caribbean Kitchen

We go inside Sian’s kitchen to follow the process of making Jamaican Black Cake—and to learn about the memories that surround it.

Black Joy Through Food is a Sweet July series in collaboration with Black Women Photographers. This photo essay is by Adrie Rose, and features her mother, Sian Rose, and her grandmother, Paulette McClaire.

When I first asked my grandmother if I could photograph her for this, she made me wait a full day before giving me an answer. As my mother put it, “She loves you too much to say no, but she hates being photographed too much to say yes.” Luckily, she gave in. This is a love letter to a little kitchen, a not-so-little recipe and the women that ground me.

A lot of very important recipes have come from this kitchen—usually by my grandmother’s hand. It feels right to return here and share one of the most iconic, enduring, representative, and intoxicating recipes: Jamaican Black Cake.

It’s a small kitchen, so it’s a little cramped with me, my mother, Sian, and her mother, Paulette, vying for space. But that feels right too. It feels like home. Every eye roll, every long side-eye, every stifled laugh feels like home.

This little kitchen is where I had my first sip of rum punch and my first taste of black cake and where I brought my partner home to watch for covert signs of disapproval.

And it’s where silly arguments over measurements and recipes happen on the road to eventual perfection, sometimes coated in royal icing.

I’m not a baker so I tend to stay out of the way, but even tucked in the corner (the one by the microwave) I get to feel like I’m part of the process.

Listening to rapid-fire Patois conversations on everything from healthcare to family gossip to the state of the world, it’s impossible to avoid getting involved.

Case in point, my partner tried his hardest to stay out of the way but quickly found himself mediating a debate between me and my mother on the intricacies of giving directions.

The closer I get to 30, the more I feel the urge to pack as many memories as possible into this kitchen before it’s gone.

I’m savouring every fit of pique and every roll, just the same as the recipes and warmth that come out of it.

This crowded little kitchen has given me countless meals, smiles, moments of joy, little irritations, and memories to last a lifetime.

Today, it’s given me a small headache, silent approval, an indescribable completeness, and rum cake.

Get the Jamaican Black Cake recipe from Sian’s Caribbean Kitchen Blog below! 

Recipe:

Sian's Jamaican Black Cake

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves 3 cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb wine-soaked fruits, (fruits can be any combination of prunes, raisins, currants, cherries, and candied citrus peel. Use at least 3 for best flavor.)
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 1 lb brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 lb butter
  • 12 large eggs
  • 1 jar 14 – 16 oz mincemeat
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon or sweet spice
  • 2 tbsp  browning or ¼ cup molasses

Instructions

  • For best results, soak fruits in port wine (in a tightly sealed container) for at least 30 days. If using unsoaked fruits, boil fruits in a 750 ml bottle port wine for 30 minutes. Cool for 45 minutes before blending. Use this method as a last resort. Cake will be more dense and less sweet.
  • Combine fruits with rum and wine in a blender or food processor and grind into a paste. If using a blender, you may need to divide it into 2 or 3 batches.
  • Preheat oven to 300°.
  • Using a mixer, cream butter, sugar, molasses, and egg yolks together. In a separate glass bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Fold (slowly beat in) egg whites into butter mixture. After egg whites are fully combined, add fruits 1 cup at a time until completely mixed in. Add mincemeat to the mixture.
  • Slowly add dry ingredients to the mixture. Mix should be dark brown. If not, add ¼ cup molasses or ½ tsp of browning, if available.
  • Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans. You may line the buttered pans with parchment paper instead of flour. Pour batter into cake pans. Fill almost to the top. Cakes will not rise very much.
  • Bake for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, increase the temperature to 350° and bake for another 30 minutes. After 30 minutes insert a toothpick or clean knife into the center of the cake and remove from oven if the knife comes out clean. Otherwise, return the cake to the oven. Use a clean toothpick to test again after 5 minutes
  • Remove cakes from the oven and place on cooling racks. Sprinkle cakes with wine or rum. Cool for about 2 hours and sprinkle with rum again. Cover cakes and allow to cool overnight (at least 8 hours) before icing or serving.
  • STORAGE: Cakes can be kept frozen for up to 1 year or securely covered at room temperature for up to 1 month. To keep cakes without freezing, cover cakes securely (a cake server will NOT do), sprinkle each cake with ¼ cup rum or port wine every 5 days to retain moisture. To freeze the cake, sprinkle it with rum or port wine a 3rd time then wrap a layer of parchment paper and 2 layers of plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn and odors. Leave at room temperature for 24 hours before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb wine-soaked fruits, (fruits can be any combination of prunes, raisins, currants, cherries, and candied citrus peel. Use at least 3 for best flavor.)
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 1 lb brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 lb butter
  • 12 large eggs
  • 1 jar 14 – 16 oz mincemeat
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon or sweet spice
  • 2 tbsp  browning or ¼ cup molasses

Instructions

  • For best results, soak fruits in port wine (in a tightly sealed container) for at least 30 days. If using unsoaked fruits, boil fruits in a 750 ml bottle port wine for 30 minutes. Cool for 45 minutes before blending. Use this method as a last resort. Cake will be more dense and less sweet.
  • Combine fruits with rum and wine in a blender or food processor and grind into a paste. If using a blender, you may need to divide it into 2 or 3 batches.
  • Preheat oven to 300°.
  • Using a mixer, cream butter, sugar, molasses, and egg yolks together. In a separate glass bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Fold (slowly beat in) egg whites into butter mixture. After egg whites are fully combined, add fruits 1 cup at a time until completely mixed in. Add mincemeat to the mixture.
  • Slowly add dry ingredients to the mixture. Mix should be dark brown. If not, add ¼ cup molasses or ½ tsp of browning, if available.
  • Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans. You may line the buttered pans with parchment paper instead of flour. Pour batter into cake pans. Fill almost to the top. Cakes will not rise very much.
  • Bake for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, increase the temperature to 350° and bake for another 30 minutes. After 30 minutes insert a toothpick or clean knife into the center of the cake and remove from oven if the knife comes out clean. Otherwise, return the cake to the oven. Use a clean toothpick to test again after 5 minutes
  • Remove cakes from the oven and place on cooling racks. Sprinkle cakes with wine or rum. Cool for about 2 hours and sprinkle with rum again. Cover cakes and allow to cool overnight (at least 8 hours) before icing or serving.
  • STORAGE: Cakes can be kept frozen for up to 1 year or securely covered at room temperature for up to 1 month. To keep cakes without freezing, cover cakes securely (a cake server will NOT do), sprinkle each cake with ¼ cup rum or port wine every 5 days to retain moisture. To freeze the cake, sprinkle it with rum or port wine a 3rd time then wrap a layer of parchment paper and 2 layers of plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn and odors. Leave at room temperature for 24 hours before serving.
Back to All Stories