Another year, another black cake attempt

victoria —  December 7, 2006 — 2 Comments

And I think we may have cracked the code this year, though the cakes still aren’t exactly black. Keifel and I documented the saga for your amusement, I mean, enjoyment.

The first thing you have to do is go to the grocery and buy lots of limes, three pounds of butter, 2 dozen eggs, 3 pounds of natural sugar and 3 pounds of flour. And when you are measuring it all out, your husband will have to run to Walgreen’s in the middle of the night to get replacement batteries for the scale that turns out to not be working.

The butter has to soften at room temperature for awhile (when room temperature in your abode is hovering at 63F, it won’t soften much). I asked the Jules to open all the butter and set it out on the counter, he took that as a brief to build Butter Henge.

Cue the airy-fairy spooky British plains music here

While the butter is trying to soften, you need to line four springform pans with brown paper (it helps to ask for paper sacks at the grocery when you forget to bring your cloth bags, so you can stock up) and then with parchment paper. This part is always a bit of a chore but it does protect the bottom of the cakes from getting too dark. This year I also added a layer of foil between the bottom and the pan and the ring. Despite my valiant efforts the cakes still burnt on the bottoms (mumble, mumble, crappy oven, mumble, mumble).

I got a gold star for my scissor work

After you have cleared away the ruins of Butter Henge and prepared your pans, it is time to separate the eggs, all twenty four of them. I don’t go in for any gadgetry here, fingers were made before egg separators. I also don’t do the shell half to shell half thing because I always wind up breaking the yolk and even one tiny drop of yellow in the sea of 24 egg whites will make them not whip.

Lots and lots of egg carcasses

To paraphase Gracie Burns, “The recipe says to separate the eggs, but it doesn’t say how far.”

I almost forgot one thing you have to do before you even get to the store. You need to go to restaurant supply and buy a 33 quart mixing bowl. Last year we had to sterilize one of the laundry baskets (with no holes in it) and mix the cake in that.

That is a shiny, big bowl

With the eggs separated, the bowl purchased, the butter softened and the sugar weighed out, you begin creaming together the sugar and butter. You then realize you should have bought a wooden spoon at the restaurant supply that was up to the task of mixing in a 33 quart bowl.

The tiny spoon stuck into the first half pound of butter and sugar

While you are creaming butter and sugar, your husband runs to Walgreens, returns with the new batteries and measures out the flour. He wipes flour on your face and you retaliate.

It helps for artistic contrast that your husband lives in black t-shirts

After all the sugar and butter are creamed together, you whip the egg whites with the zest of the limes and make a very full, frothy bowl of green eggs. For scale, I have a 14-cup Kitchen-Aid Pro.

Even Sam I Am would be intimidated

The next step is to alternate adding flour and baking powder with the marinated fruits to the butter/sugar mixture. This means it is time to crack open the jar of boozy goodness. The fruits were ground (in my mother’s old-school meat grinder) last Christmas and doused with a bottle of Beaujolais and a bottle of cheap rum. They have been lurking in the bottom of my fridge since.

If only we had Smell-o-Vision you too could experience the heady waft of booze-pickled ground raisins, et al

Then there is mixing, lots of mixing.

As you can see we did employ the hand mixer to get things rolling along. We then cheated by adding bottled browning (ingredients: caramelized sugar). We apparently needed two bottles but one went in. Keifel commented that the picture looked like a superimposed before and after browning with my pale arm and his dark one.

Who needs sunless tanner

After the browning goes in, you fold in all those egg whites, again realizing that a bigger spatula may be in order.

Cut and turn, cut and turn

After all the ingredients have been incorporated, you divide the batter between the four prepared pans. It would be simpler if our pans were all the same size, but they are not so we make do.

Keifel’s grandmother’s recipe as dictated to his mother

The recipe says the cakes should bake for an hour or so. In our craptastically decrepit oven that translates to nearly two hours of swapping them back and forth to keep the ones on the bottom from carbonizing. But we triumphed. Only the bottoms got dark.

The top looks a little weird because I just poured more rum over and the cake hadn’t absorbed it yet

After the cakes are cooled, remove them from the pans and their swaddling and douse liberally with not as cheap rum. Wrap them tightly and feed them alcohol until Christmas. We usually send one to Trinidad to Keifel’s mother and grandmother for Easter (it’s a long story), one or a part of one to S.C. to enjoy with her family and friends and comment on how it isn’t really black cake (this is not a dig, as everyone in the Caribbean has their own cherished family recipe and if it isn’t like Auntie So&So’s, it ain’t black cake. It’s like the chili and BBQ thing here), one is usually divided up and sent to and fro to various and sundry and we have one to serve at the Boxing Day party. This year one went to CMT for their international/diversity party and was thoroughly enjoyed. It made me happy that the other Trini in the office was so excited about it and was thrilled when Keifel told her to take the rest of the cake home with her. Now that is a complement.

***In other holiday baking news, I purchased my pig cookie cutter and Jules and I made the pepperkakor dough last night. It has to chill overnight because you melt the butter to mix it all in. I will bake those off today in between loads of laundry and hopefully knock out a few other things. I can’t make the brownies until next week for the family shindig because they really only keep a few days. I need more half-sheet pans before I make them, too. I never have enough baking sheets this time of year. Hope everyone is well and that your houses smell of holiday cheer of the baking or the greenery variety.



2 responses to Another year, another black cake attempt

  1. Congrats!! I looked like the black cakes I’ve eaten. You have to applauded for soaking your fruits since last Christmas, some folks throw it all in the blender a week before…

    And I did recently purchase one of those old school tighten on the side of the counter meat grinders. I’m all set for next year!!

  2. I’m from barbados…if u want ur cakes black use “cross & blackwell’s” browning….at least half a blackens without any strange after-tastes. It’s one of the older brownings on the market and may be a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it…Also to deal with the burning problem use a slower oven say 225-250 and bake a lil longer say 2-3 hours..(NO JOKE!).

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