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Caribbean Christmas: How Rum Cakes Came To Be

Caribbean Christmas: How Rum Cakes Came To Be

Posted by Shanelle Weir on December 02, 2014

All over Central and South America, and especially in the West Indies, some sort of rum cake is almost certain to make an appearance on the dessert table at Christmas.

Often, it is a light sponge cake baked in a Bundt pan and soaked in rum syrup, sometimes sprinkled with nuts. In Guatemala and Puerto Rico, they call it boracho, or “drunk” cake.

In Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana and Tortuga, and most English-speaking Caribbean islands, another kind of rum cake, called black cake, is popular.

A descendent of British Christmas pudding, it’s a deep-coloured, ultra-moist cake that is studded with dried fruits that have soaked in liquor for weeks or months and perfumed with allspice, cinnamon and cloves, and studded with dried fruits.

Elizabeth Vargas, the baker behind the Montreal rum cake company Azucar & Ron, says all these rum cakes owe their origins to the British colonization of the West Indies.

When the English colonizers went to the Caribbean, they took their recipes for Christmas pudding, the dense cake with dried fruits that had been marinated in whiskey or sherry to moisten and preserve them. Quickly, though, the sherry was replaced with rum from the sugar plantations. Vargas says rum cakes later spread to the Caribbean coast of several Central American countries, including Guatemala and Honduras, with Afro-Caribbean garifuna communities that had been exiled by British troops.

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