Thursday, December 24, 2009

Black Cake: The Recipe

As Christmas loomed, I could not delay any longer. It was time to bake the Black Cake.

I was concerned that Laurie Colwin's recipe had not been tested. She confesses right there in the book that she has never made a Black Cake. Since my previous attempt had been a dismal failure (10 years ago, or more) I decided to do a little more research before baking.

I found two recipes that helped.

One was a (presumably tested) version of Laurie Colwin's version in the Boston Globe. The other was called "Aunt Flossie's Fruitcake" that I found on the internet.

It seems that most recipes call for more alcohol than is needed to soak the fruit, and there is also some disagreement about how finely to chop the dried fruit. I ran all the fruit through the Cuisinart, and added rum and sweet wine to cover. It marinated for about 2 months.

Here's my final recipe:

9 cups of the fruit (see previous post) with alcohol. (All that I soaked)

Black Cake

1 lb. butter, at room temperature
1 lb. all-purpose bleached white flour
1 lb. light brown sugar
1 dozen eggs
1/2 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons of ginger juice from japanese sliced sweet ginger
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
one glob of burnt sugar essence
zest of three small limes

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. This took about 4 minutes in the Cuisinart.
Mix the spices and the lime zest in with the flour in a bowl or measuring cup. (I don't like a really spicy cake; you could add any other sweet spices you like.)
Mix the vanilla and ginger juice into the cream in a separate cup or bowl. (You could use any other form of ginger, but this was all I had. You could also use half almond extract, but I was aiming for a nut-free cake.)
Separate the eggs, and beat the yolks into the butter/sugar mixture one at a time.
Beat 1/3 of the flour into the butter/egg mixture, followed by 1/3 of the cream, and alternate until all the flour and cream is in the batter. Then put in a glob of burnt sugar essence. As far as I can tell, this is just to make it dark.

Stir in the fruit by hand.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold them into the batter. Folding should always be as gentle as possible, which is difficult with a heavy batter like this. Do your best.

Grease all the pans. I used some tart pans with scalloped edges, tiny and normal sized, and a glass baking pan that I would make brownies or lemon bars in. Pour the batter into the pans, and smooth it out. The cakes won't rise much. If you are using tart pans or springform pans that are in two parts, put foil on the bottom so the batter doesn't leak through.

Bake for about 45 minutes at 300. Then lower the oven temp to 200 and bake for another two or more hours. The length of time to bake depends on the pan, so different sized pans take different lengths of time to bake. Test with a toothpick as you would any other cake.

Black cake is supposed to have white frosting that is simply powdered sugar, egg whites, vanilla, and water. Since that seemed way too sweet to me, I just decorated the cakes with the icing so you get a bite of icing now and then, but are not overwhelmed with it.

The teens say it tastes like the inside of a Fig Newton. I think next year I will try to use more cherries and less other fruit, but it turned out pretty and yummy.

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