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Museumand recipe contribution: Rum Cake

Rum became a popular ingredient in Caribbean cooking as it helped to preserve food in a hot climate. Rum cake is a very special dessert. The recipe has evolved from fruit puddings such as figgy pudding brought to the Caribbean by English colonists in the 18th century. Rum was infused into these traditional puddings and the recipes were modified by enslaved cooks, who changed the cooking method from steaming to baking and turned puddings into cakes. Rum cake is essentially a dark fruit cake also known by other names, depending on the ingredient that gives the cake its traditional dark colour. When it is made with brown sugar, it is often referred to as Brown Cake, and when it is made with burnt sugar, Black Cake. Modern cooks even use gravy browning to darken their rum cakes! Today, Caribbeans continue to use a lot of sugar and rum in celebration cakes, including Christmas cakes. They serve as a reminder of the sugar and rum trades and the role they played in Caribbean colonial history.

Christmas Cake


Soaked Fruit Mix

  • 1 lb raisins
  • 1 lb prunes
  • 1 lb currants
  • 1 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
  • Red Label or other red cooking wine
  • Wray and Nephew White Rum


  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups of plain flour
  • 8 oz butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of gravy browning
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence


Fruit Mix

  • For a really authentic rum cake the fruits should be soaked as far ahead as possible - up to one year prior to baking.
  • To soak fruits add the raisins, prunes, currants and 1 tsp of grated nutmeg to a large glass jar with a fitted lid.
  • Cover with wine and rum to taste. Let the mixture sit until you are ready to bake.


  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  • Sift together the cinnamon, spice, salt, baking powder and flour in a bowl
  • Mix well and put to one side.
  • Cream together butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and airy. Add the gravy
    browning and 4 cups of the soaked fruit mix Fold in with a wooden spoon.
  • Beat eggs, until light, fluffy and pale yellow in colour, about 10 to 15 minutes and put to one side. Add sherry and vanilla and mix well.
  • Add the egg mix to the butter, sugar & fruit and fold in well to make sure all the ingredients are combined.
  • Fold in the flour mix ½ cup at a time. After 1-2 cups, test to see if your wooden spoon stands upright in the mixture. If not, add more flour until the wooden spoon is able to stand freely.
  • Grease a medium-sized cake tin and line it with baking parchment.
  • Grease and lightly flour the lined cake tin.
  • Pour the cake mixture into tin and bake for 2 hours. Place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to ensure cakes do not dry out.
  • Begin testing to see if the cake is done after about 1 1/2 hours. Do this by inserting a knife into the centre of the cake. The knife should come out clean.

Recipe provided by museumand as part of their ongoing research into Caribbean cooking and traditions.

Olive Coward

Olive was once a resident of St Ann Parish, Jamaica and then Kingston before coming to the UK and making her home in Nottingham. Olive is very respected within in the Caribbean community and the local community as a whole.  She gives invaluable guidance and support to people of all ages but is most renowned for her annual open house birthday party.  Her party spread is legendary and every guest leaves with a bottle of homemade sorrel and a huge slice of birthday cake! She learned her baking skills by watching her mother and still creates her favourite Tie-a-leaf but uses kitchen foil nowadays instead of banana leaves.