Several years ago I was introduced to the excellent book Home Cooking by the late Laurie Colwin, in which she spoke about several experiences in her life involving food and cooking, and included the recipes for each dish. While many of the recipes are interesting and easy (the creamed spinach with jalapeño peppers recipe is worth the price of the book, easily), the most fascinating recipe is that for West Indian black cake, involving chopped fruits marinated for two weeks in wine and dark rum, and an elusive ingredient known as burnt sugar essence, which I have never been able to either buy or successfully replicate.
Nigella Lawson gives an adaptation of this recipe in How To Be A Domestic Goddess: Baking And The Art Of Comfort Cooking, and while this made a perfectly delicious cake, it came out a light golden brown, and nowhere near black. Therefor, having finally obtained a small cast iron frying pan, I’m going to attempt the original recipe again. Tonight I’ll be chopping fruits — raisins, prunes, currants, cherries and mixed citrus peels, then mixing them together in Madeira and our locally produced Stroh Rum. By Christmas it’ll be ready to use.
UPDATE: For ql and anyone else mad enough to want to try, here’s the Nigella version.