This is Colombia’s version of a rich fruit cake. Dense with prunes, raisins and figs, generously spiked with both rum and port, and cleverly flavoured with aromatic spices, it is hard to stop at one piece. Traditionally dulce quemado (sweet burnt brown sugar), either homemade or bought, is used to sweeten this cake, but molasses makes a perfectly acceptable substitute as I've done in this recipe.
You will need to start this cake at least 6 days before baking.
200g (1 cup) pitted prunes 170g (1 cup) seedless raisins 80ml (⅓ cup) port, plus 80ml (⅓ cup) extra 60ml (¼ cup) dark rum, plus 60ml (¼ cup) extra 80g (½ cup) blanched almonds 50g (½ cup) pecans melted butter, to grease 200g (1 cup) tenderised figs or drained figs in syrup (see Baker's Tips), finely chopped 250g butter, at room temperature 275g (1¼ cups) caster sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla essence 5 eggs, at room temperature 250g (1⅔ cups) plain flour 1 teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg ¼ teaspoon ground cloves ¼ teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons molasses (see Baker's Tips)
Process the prunes and raisins in a food processor using the pulse button until chopped. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the port and rum. Cover and set aside for at least 3 days to soak (see Baker's Tips).
Preheat oven to 170°C (150°C fan-forced). Grease a deep round 20 cm cake tin with melted butter and line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper.
Process the almonds and pecans in a food processor until chopped. Add to the prune mixture with the figs and stir to combine evenly. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, spices and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat on lowest possible speed until just combined. Add the molasses and beat on low until just combined. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the fruit and nut mixture until evenly combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, pressing well into the corners, and then smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Cover the tin with a piece of foil and then bake in preheated oven for 2 hours and 25 minutes to 2 hours and 35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
Remove from the oven and stand in the tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack. Combine the extra port and rum and brush over the top of the cake. Wrap the warm cake in plastic wrap and then foil and set aside overnight to cool.
Store for at least 3 days at room temperature before serving.
The prunes and raisins require 3 days or more to soak, so you could start the soaking one weekend and cook the cake the next.
Dulce quemado (sweet burnt brown sugar) is traditionally used in this cake and is considered more important than the alcohol or spices to add flavour. It not only adds a rich colour but also a sweet/bitter flavour to the cake. It can be home made or bought, although outside of Latin America it can be hard to track down. Molasses makes a good substitute.
This cake will keep wrapped well in plastic wrap and sealed in an airtight container in a cool spot, but not in the fridge, for up to 3 months.
To make the lattice pattern on the top of the cake as we have, turn the cake upside down on a cake rack after cooling and press down firmly. Turn the cake 90 degrees and press again.