A brief history of the Caribbean rum cake, the favorite holiday dessert of the islanders

Ama Nunoo Ama Nunoo | Editor October 31, 2019

Photo: The Spruce eats

Rum cake, a beloved Caribbean dessert during the festive season, is a delicacy many families love to add to their Christmas or New Year’s menu.

This cake is an infusion of rum and a variety of other ingredients that makes the cake rich and serves as a preservative for the dessert.

Some attribute the origin of the cake to Jamaicans where it is also known as the Jamaican black cake and others to the Bahamas. The history behind both origins is very much alike.

Historians say the rum cake originated from the British colonists who settled on the islands in the 18th century. With them came their recipe for steamed fruit puddings thought to be the precursor of the famed rum cake.

The chefs that came with the colonialists had to contend with the warm and humid Caribbean temperatures when it came to storing food.

To preserve their foods, they turned to sugar and alcohol which became an essential preservative at the time. Rum was used to store their traditional English figgy puddings (Christmas puddings) by infusing them in the mixture.

Sugar was added to the rum cakes. At the time, it was a common commodity as sugar plantations spread throughout the Caribbean, thus, making sugar an inexpensive product.

Rum cake is now a much-cherished holiday treat throughout the Caribbean, and culturally, anybody who gets gifted with a rum cake holds the gift in high esteem.

It also signifies a deep friendship with the recipient since legend has it that the cake is always made with love.

Flour, rum, sugar, fruits, mixed spices, molasses and other alcoholic beverages of choice which serve as ingredients have deep meaning to the people.

Essentially, rum cake serves as an edible relic of the sugar trade and the years of Caribbean’s colonial history.

Here’s how to make the beloved Caribbean dessert: