Trini Christmas, 101: How to Make Pastelles, Black Cake + Chow Chow

December 24, 2013

Black Cake


Dense Fruit Cake soaked in various spirits, enjoyed throughout the season andโ€”if it lastsโ€” the year. Depending on the baker, you won’t even need that holiday drink once you eat this. This recipe is usually generational, learned and taught with eyeball measurements. So when preparing, use the measurements indicated and a bit of your own discretion when checking batter consistency.

Fruit Puree
2lbs currants
2lbs sultanas
2lbs raisins
2lb prunes
1 bottle maraschino cherries
1/2lb mixed peel
1/2lb glazed fruits
1 1/2 bottle cherry brandy

Browning sauce
3lbs brown sugar water

Cake base
2lbs butter
3lbs of flour
1 1/lbs white sugar
3tsp baking powder
18 eggs
1 whole lemon rind
Tbsp vanilla essence (to taste)
Tbsp almond essence (to taste)
2 dashes bitters spices (nutmeg, cinnamon – to taste)

1 bottle White Oak rum


Fruit Puree
Grind all fruits together with 1 1/2 bottles of cherry brandy and leave overnight (some people leave their fruits for a year and incorporate different alcohols, based on taste, to increase potency).


Put brown sugar in hot iron pot and stir continuously until it melts and turns into a thick, bubbling, brown liquid. Once sugar has been totally caramelized, pour in water until the it achieves a light, smooth syrup consistency. (BE CAREFUL). Leave to cool.

Cake Batter

Cream white sugar and butter. Beat eggs with lemon rind and essence, then add it to the butter/sugar mixture. Blend everything together until smooth. Add spice and baking powder. Fold in the flour (you will not need all 3lbs at this point) until all ingredients form a slightly heavy batter (a fork should fall slowly when placed in bowl). Mix in the soaked fruits, followed by the browning sauce prepared earlier. At this point, your cake batter would have thinned out so add more flour, just enough to thicken the fruit batter. Pour into your greased cake pans and bake at 350โฐ for approx 1hr 15mins or until toothpick can be removed clean from the center. Remove cakes and allow to cool before soaking them with the remaining cherry brandy and rum. Wrap in cling wrap and leave until ready to serve.

Note: These cakes freeze well but can last about three months without refrigeration. Many people unwrap stored cakes to re-apply alcohol throughout the months.