Fi2W on NPR’s The Salt: For Many Caribbean Immigrants, It Wouldn’t Be Christmas Without Black Cake

Susan Adolphus James holds dried fruits which have been soaked in rum and wine for 6 months; photo: Katherine Hernandez

Susan Adolphus James has one vivid memory of childhood Christmases on the island of Beaulieu, Grenada: black cake.

“Christmas don’t feel like Christmas if you don’t have a piece of black cake,” says James, who moved to the U.S. as a teen.

The rich, molasses-spiced cake filled with drunken dried fruits is a part of Christmas festivities throughout the Caribbean. The cake likely evolved from holiday plum pudding recipes British colonizers brought to the West Indies in the 18th century. Islanders modified these recipes, incorporating local ingredients and liquors. With time, black cake became a staple on Caribbean Christmas dinner tables, alongside a roasted ham, a jug of sorrel (hibiscus tea seasoned with spices), pasteles and rice.

Fi2W’s food reporting fellow, Katherine Hernandez spoke with Caribbean immigrants in Brooklyn for NPR’s The Salt to find out what black cake means to them.

Read the full story with a recipe on NPR’s The Salt

Susan Adolphus James’ black cake recipe was adapted from The Grenada Independence 1974 Homemakers Cookbook; photo: Katherine Hernandez

Katherine developed this story as part of her food reporting fellowship at Feet in 2 Worlds. The fellowship is sponsored by the International Association of Culinary Professionals and The Culinary Trust, whose mission is to give culinary professionals the tools and opportunities to understand and act on critical issues in the world of food.  Together, Feet in 2 Worlds and The Culinary Trust help emerging voices tell important food stories from the perspective of new Americans.

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, an anonymous donor and readers like you.

AboutKatherine Hernandez
Katherine Hernandez is an Afro-Latina writer and educator based in Brooklyn, New York. In culinary school, she won a scholarship from the Hispanic Association for Colleges and Universities to develop a culinary portfolio alongside an award-winning pastry chef. She also studied food history, culture, and media in Italy. Katherine recently earned a B.A. in Food Journalism through the CUNY Baccalaureate for Interdisciplinary Studies program. Her work has been featured on Harlem Focus, Edible Manhattan and Feet in 2 Worlds. She is currently a Food in 2 Worlds food journalism fellow and a community chef instructor that advocates for healthy food habits in low-income communities.