Caribbean Christmas Cake and…An Autopsy

My mother’s birthday was a few weeks ago and a celebration was certainly due so I invited mum and dad over for dinner.  At the time the invitation went out I had no idea what I would cook and as much as I tried I couldn’t focus on the event because the annual council clean up was on.  I was desperately trying to cull everything that was clogging my house and invading all available space.  In an effort to be ruthless I was going through my vast collection of magazine cookbooks because we all know my shelves are buckling under the weight.

Caribbean Christmas Cake

Caribbean Christmas Cake

But it’s just so hard to be ruthless.  Every issue of Delicious or Donna Hay or Gourmet Traveller seems to contain that one inspirational recipe I just might need.  And the ditching, culling and throwing out process turned out to be fruitless because my mind became inspired not from the turf-out but to what I could cook for my mother.

I found a Gourmet Traveller from December 2007.  On the cover was an impressive looking cake called a ‘Caribbean Christmas Cake’.   It was full of dried fruits and spices and essences and nuts and I just knew I had all those ingredients leftover from my Christmas baking.  I was inspired.

_B1I7029Complimenting it completely was a recipe for a traditional roast turkey.  I remembered how on Christmas Eve when I was one of the last shoppers through the supermarket doors, how they had organic free-range turkeys reduced by 50%.  There were only two remaining and if I’d had a larger freezer I would have bought both.  Regrettably, I only bought one.  It was a 4.2kg turkey that was still in my freezer.

But no longer!  I cooked my mother a brined roast turkey with a cranberry and sage stuffing followed by the Caribbean Christmas cake.

_B1I7041All was going well and mum and dad arrived and commented on how the aroma from the kitchen was fantastic but then asked where Alfie was.  ‘Outside riding his bike’, I said, as I reached for my kitchen scissors to cut the twine from the trussed legs of the turkey.

But they weren’t there.  And a frantic search ensued, but alas, my kitchen scissors, the item I can’t live without and use every day, was missing.  Meanwhile Carl was tugging at the twine, jiggling the turkey legs forcefully from the impact of a blunt knife.  ‘Leave it alone’, I cried, we need the scissors.

_B1I7038Then Alfie walked in from his ‘bike ride’, only he hadn’t been on a ‘bike ride’; that was a front.  Somewhere out on the road along with all his street-mates, he’d found a rainbow lorikeet.  A dead one.  One that he was holding in his bare hands and had brought into the house.  He was also holding my kitchen scissors.

‘What are you doing?’ I cried.

‘Nothing’, answered Alfie, all confused.

‘What did you do with my scissors?’

‘I’ve got a lorikeet.  We found it.  It’s dead.  It had a tag.  I wanted to take the tag to the zoo in case the lorikeet had escaped.  We couldn’t get the tag off.  It was stuck…’

‘What did you do with my scissors?’

‘We had to cut the leg off to get the tag.  Then Lachlan put the tag in his pocket and went bike riding and lost it’.

‘You cut the leg off the lorikeet?  Where’s the leg?’

‘Don’t know; well where we left it; but…’

‘You don’t have the leg?’

‘Mum; did you hear me?  Lachlan lost the tag.  How could he lose the tag?  I was going to take it to the zoo.  I told him I was taking it to the zoo.  He says he can’t find it’.

But my scissors?  Did you use my kitchen scissors, the ones I use every day in my kitchen to amputate a dead bird’s leg?’

What a find!

What a find!

And I might have been yelling with an ashen look on my face and at the same time I was handing my mother a wrapped package containing a stick blender with an ironed smile.  ‘Here you go, mum; happy birthday.  Don’t worry so much about the scissors; we won’t use them to cut the turkey.  We’ll just put them in the steriliser we don’t have so don’t worry about germs, or contamination, or poisoning or sudden death syndrome or anything like that; all is good.’

Roast Turkey with Cranberry Stuffing

This is not the lorikeet.  This is the Roast Turkey with Cranberry Stuffing

And we put Alfie in the shower.  And we found a suitable receptacle for the dead lorikeet.  And Lachlan is in disgrace for losing the bird’s identification tag.  And we’ve enlightened Alfie as to the number of uses for kitchen scissors – they’re limited and autopsies of rotting birds is not one of them.

How cheery.

Despite the awkward beginnings, the dinner was lovely.  The turkey was tender and it was a treat to have turkey at a time other than Christmas Day.  The Caribbean Christmas Cake was special and unique and you don’t need to wait for Christmas to cook this.  It’s a cake that will serve many and it’s a great way to use up packets of nuts and dried fruit and all those essences and bottles of booze you have leftover from Christmas.

_B1I7030Caribbean Christmas Cake

Serves:  10-12, plus leftovers

Degree of Difficulty:  4/5

Cost:  Expensive.  This has so many ingredients and a lot of them are pricey.

  • 250g seeded prunes
  • 200g raisins
  • 200g currants
  • 200g mixed peel
  • 120g glace cherries
  • 80g mixed nuts
  • 125m (1/2 cup) dark rum
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 400g brown sugar
  • 225g (1 1/2 cup) plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) Tawny Port
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) golden rum (I have no idea what golden rum is.  I only know dark and light.  I used dark).
  • 30g glace cedro, sliced into wafer-thin ribbons to serve
  • 2 baby glace clementines


  • 440g (2 cups) white sugar
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) golden rum
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine dried fruit in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Transfer to a large bowl and add nuts, dark rum, essences and 60gm of brown sugar.  Cover and steep in liquid overnight, then transfer fruit to a heavy-based saucepan with 1 cup cold water.  Place over high heat until it begins to simmer then reduce to low heat and cook for another 15 minutes or until soft.  Cool.

Sift flour with spices, baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.  Set aside.  Using an electric mixer cream butter and remaining brown sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add fruit mixture and stir to combine, then add reserved flour mixture and stir through.

Preheat oven to 150C.  Grease and line a 28cm diameter spring-form pan with baking paper.  Spoon cake mixture into pan and bake for 2 hours or until a skewer withdraws clean.

Remove cake from oven, prick all over using a skewer.  Combine port and rum in a small jug and pour over cake.  Stand for a least 3 hours before turning out.

For icing, combine sugar, golden rum, cream of tartar, 1/4 tsp salt and 3/4 cup water in a saucepan, then cook over low-medium heat until mixture reaches 118C on a sugar thermometer (soft ball stage).  Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites to stiff peaks.  Gradually add hot syrup to egg whites, beating constantly, then add vanilla and beat for 10 minutes or until icing is cooled and of a spreadable consistency.  Ice cake immediately using a small palette knife and serve garnished with cedro ribbons and glace clementines.

Decorated with cedro and candied clementines

Decorated with cedro and candied clementines

This recipe is from Gourmet Traveller, December 2007.

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  1. Can I ask what cedro is? Great story. I love that he was kind enough to think that the tag should go back to the zoo. What a sweetie 🙂

  2. HIlarious! Poor Archie, his heart is in the right place. 🙂

  3. Gorgeous candied fruit on the cake! I think this is what I’ve seen referred to as Caribbean Black Cake. So delicious.

  4. Oh, my, what happens at your house never ceases to entertain. Happy birthday to your Mum.

  5. is there anything little boys (or grown ones for that matter!) won’t pick up! I love how you decorated the cake!

  6. Oh my, that’s quite the story, poor bird. I’m glad you caught Alfie before he put the scissors back unnoticed!
    What an impressive cake and I’m sure it was as delicious as it looks. We must have had turkey around the same time Charlie, I, for our re-do Christmas and you, for your Mum’s birthday.

  7. Beautiful pictures!I just love your blog! The cake looks fabulous and poor Archie;)

  8. Happy birthday to your mum! Poor Alfie, he’s so sweet, at least they were trying to get the tag off and not just chop up the bird like many other boys are prone to do. Cake looks fab, but it seems to be a bit boozy…was it?
    When I was cleaning out my mags, I went through all of them and tore out the recipes I wanted and put them in a file folder and threw the rest away…half of it is advertisements anyway.

    Nazneen xx

  9. Hahahah, ewwwwwwww! I think I would have freaked out if my son brought a dead bird into the house.Too funny though. Hopefully your mom enjoyed her meal. That cake looks outstanding- it seems really moist!

  10. Oh man, the poor lorikeet! And your poor scissors! I don’t know which to feel worse for. Though I DO know I’d love a piece of that cake!

  11. Like Eva, I too am glad you got hold of the scissors before it went back into the drawer. Alfie is such a kind and thoughtful young man.
    Happy belated birthday to your Mom, that was a lovely birthday dinner.

  12. I’m glad I’m not the only one who relies so heavily on the kitchen scissors! Mine have never seen such exciting use though. Great story. And, the birthday meal sounds fabulous. What a great-looking cake!

  13. Oh, don’t you worry about the scissors (use it in the garden or for other dirty job). To avoid such emotions I have three pair of scissors in the kitchen, then two in my office: with kids it’s never too much. 🙂 Great cake, your mom deserved every crumb of it!

  14. Now this is one fabulous looking cake!

  15. A really gorgeous cake. Well worth having saved the magazines. I have the same trouble with the collection of recipe magazines I have (put out by Kraft). There’s always SOMETHING in each issue that I want to try.

    What a beautiful bird. A shame that it had its leg amputated to get a tag which was then lost. I wouldn’t have wanted MY old kitchen scissors, battered as they are, used for the purpose either. Maybe the new ones I bought which have a really BAD design that locks when you use them to cut something but then DOESN’T lock when you want them to.

  16. Oh my goodness Charlie! Having lost my kitchen sheers to my husband for many a nefarious reason I feel your pain. One must NEVER use kitchen sheers for anything but the kitchen!!!! I may have yelled that a time or two. Now I have three pairs (at last count). What a lovely cake, and the turkey looks delicious. I won’t ask how you got the twine off. Your Mom got a great dinner and an entertaining show as well. Your house is always fun.

  17. When I go the Caribbean, I will eat this cake on the plane to celebrate – looks awesome 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  18. Alfie is holding the dead lorikeet in one photo and the next photo is a cooked bird. How funny! The things little boys get up to. They live in quite a different world of wonderous possibilities.

  19. I’m very impressed with Alfie’s practical mind and zest for adventure…. or was he just hoping for a reward from the zoo? Either way he seems to be an enterprising young man 🙂 I have an old Australian cookbook that has a recipe for boiled parrot if you would like to try it, but I’d rather try your Turkey- it looks much nicer. The cake is amazing too, what a great excuse to get drunk without having a single drink. Did Alfie happen to lick the beaters before he went out for his ride perhaps? Xox

  20. I had to laugh at your turkey caption. Oh the delights of having boys. We got similar lectures from mum about using her kitchen scissors when we were younger although I don’t think we were ever amputating birds’ legs.

    Love the look of the cake and turkey and having it not at Christmas… was a treat!

  21. WOW hahaha Alfie is one special kid 🙂 And the mischeif he gets into never would I have thought and expected him to be able to use the kitchen scissors to amputate a birds leg! HAHAHA I’m not sure how I would have reacted if my nephew came in and told me that!

    But good to know that the turkey was tender and delicious and that cake sure looks amazing, I might save this recipe for Christmas this year!!!

  22. Oh. Dear. Heavens. Though at Alfie’s age, I was feeding wild lorikeets from my hand, so perhaps it’s all much of a muchness?!

  23. LOL I was wondering what the autopsy would involve! Hmmm I wonder if you’ll ever not think of the rainbow lorikeet when you use those scissors again! 😛

  24. Beautiful looking cake – I just love the look of the snowy white frosting!

    Oh my goodness, I am a bit of a germ a phobe, I think I would have fainted if Alfie brought that home to me lol.. Especially with the kitchen scissors!!

  25. You know I would faint if my son will bring dead bird…lol haha. I’m a silly mama lol
    That cake looks fantastic, wishing your mom happy birthday. And I’m sure she must have enjoyed her dinner.

  26. Charlie, it isn’t possible for me to get through a single one of your posts without letting out a cry that causes the boys to come in to see what the matter is. He cut off the LEG of the dead bird with your kitchen scissors? Go Alfie. 🙂 xxx

  27. That is one jam packed cake! Wow. I still don’t it would win over my Christmas cake disliking self, but it does sound more appealing than regular Christmas cake 🙂

    As for that bird, and those scissors…well. Perhaps best left there!

  28. Besides the fact that I am impressed you just find dead rainbow lorikeets lying around in Australia (I had to look it up) – the most we find here are dead pigeons – I am still laughing about the story. Your days are always so full of excitement!

  29. Never a dull moment in your home Charlie. Happy birthday to your mom. You cooked her a wonderful meal and I love the sound of the cake.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  30. Oh my, Charlie! What a birthday 😉 I’m loving this cake, and I have a lot of left overs, so is perfect.

  31. This is one of the funniest things you’ve shared! I just loved this story, but I can completely understand it was probably a bit upsetting as it was unfolding! I was reading along thinking I don’t know if I could have eaten the turkey–or any bird–after hearing of the boys’ cutting off the Lorikeet leg. And then your caption, “This is not a Lorikeet” just knocked me over in laughter. Oh little boys! Curiosity!

    I want to make this cake! I love Christmas cake anyway, but this just has my name all over it! You’ve made my day with this story, Charlie! LOL!

  32. I so want to make this cake. You writing is so good. One of the funniest post I have read in a long time. Happy birthday to you mum. That’s one delicious recipe for a cake. Loving it!

  33. Your kids are such sweethearts!!!! What a fab fab cake!! Happy birthday to your Mum 🙂

  34. As always, you’ve made me smile and laugh and feel good! I would have had a coniption fit if my kids used my kitchen sissors for such a purpose!!

  35. I am so glad you did not cook the lorikeet. Everything else looks wonderful!

  36. What an adventure! Mums always know the right thing to say 🙂

  37. There sure are a lot of spices in that cake, but I’m sure it was worth it right? Happy birthday to Mum!! xx

  38. Oh my. I don’t know how I feel about that dead bird.

  39. I think I’d ditch the scissors! But the cake sounds great and so does the turkey and dressing.

  40. Funny thing, Charlie. As I switched from mail inbox to your blog, I wondered what Alfie has been up to. It’s been a little while since we’ve heard anything. Sure enough, here he comes bird in hand. He’s got a good heart, Charlie. The scissors can be cleaned & sterilized.
    This cake is a real beauty, just like all of your cakes. That, with a roast turkey, made for one great celebratory dinner for your Mum. Please tell her the guy from Chicago sends her belated birthday wishes and hopes the year ahead is a happy one for her.

  41. Happy belated birthday to your mother Charlie
    Such a wonderful meal you prepared for her and I know what you mean about trying to get rid of some of the cooking magazines, it is a lost cause!
    As for Alfie, the things kids would do! I was just talking to my dad yesterday about the crazy ideas kids get!the problem is that those ideas make perfect sense to them and they are welling to defend them for hours

  42. oh hun…you share the most entertaining stories ever! heheh
    happy belated birthday to your dear mom! that looks like a very rich and tasty cake and i actually like what it’s called… it sounds very exotic 😉

  43. Well I have to give Alfie a high five for even thinking about taking the tag to the zoo! Using the kitchen shears – well…I have to admit, that my husband would probably have done the same thing. 🙂 So glad the meal turned out wonderful What a lucky mum you have to get roast chicken, stuffing and such a gorgeous cake! Good times, good food!

  44. This just might be one of my favorite stories yet! It totally sounds like a boy thing to do. Love it! And your mom’s birthday meal looks fantastic!

  45. Priceless. What a great post! And glad that was the turkey in the shot and not the Lorikeet.

  46. Great looking cake, and incredibly entertaining story. Thanks.

  47. What a pretty bird…what a tragic ending to it’s poor little life. Poor Alfie, he was just trying to help…. Hehe. Put ’em through the dishwasher on the hottest cycle you have, you’ll be good to go! 😉

  48. What a fabulous dinner you concocted for your mother – lucky her. The cake looks so light I thought it was a pavlova at first. And as for the dramas – well, they are part of your family life it seems!

  49. I took a note that I will not ask you to lend me scissors! Oh my, what a story!!! Your caption, “This is not the lorikeet.” made me laugh so hard… that picture was at the right place! You wrote such a great piece today, what a fun post. I think I enjoy it even more because it’s your story involving very familiar people. I think I became like a part of your family to hear your family story and it’s been so much fun. Only wish I have is if you could share your beautiful cake and food with us as well… 🙂

  50. Too funny!. I can honestly say I cannot top that story! Your celebratory dinner looks wonderful…especially your beautiful cake with the cloud of fluffy icing! Irresistible.

    PS…the hubby is very picky. He did not grow up eating any ethnic foods (including Italian!). I’m lucky I’ve gotten him to eat a few new foods over the years…still working on curries!

  51. Oh my goodness too funny – you can’t make this stuff up! I love the sound of this cake too 🙂

  52. The juxtaposition of Alfie with the dead bird and next the turkey is priceless. And that cake sounds lovely.

  53. What a story very funny. I love a good Caribbean fruit cake. This one looks very yummy. I bake a similar cake which is called Caribbean Black Cake. We usually soak the fruit in rum for at least 3 month to up to a year. Than around Christmas we start to bake and every one in the family gets a little cake. By the way golden rum is a mixture between light and dark rum. It has more flavor (body) than light rum, but less than dark rum. Cheers.

  54. I wanted to get through my backed-up emails and post but I had to see this recipe…you made me laugh until I cried! I truly enjoy you.

  55. Awww how adorable is alfie? I did srupid things like that too, using my mothers expensive lippy as a red Crayon….

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