Every time I post a cake recipe on the blog, I get several requests for Colombia's most famous cake, which we call different names like "black cake", "wine cake", "wedding cake", among others. It is so popular that it's the one cake that is served for many special events like baptisms, first communions, weddings and on holidays like Christmas. And if you feel that you may have seen a similar version before, you're not mistaken; other countries, like Jamaica and Venezuela, also have their own versions.
Before I started making this cake, all I would hear from people was how difficult and time consuming it was, so I deliberately stayed away from making it for years. And then when I tried it, I saw that it was not as hard to make as people said it was. Yes, the texture is a bit different to work with and the mix of nuts and dry fruit can make it a bit dense, but it really is no different than making other cakes or breads, like carrot cake or pumpkin bread.
And if you have followed my blog for a while, you will know that I'm all about making things easier. So for this recipe I did not soak my dry fruit in wine for weeks in advance the way some other people do. I find that it's not necessary at all and that the liquid it retains makes it kind of sink to the bottom. Another tip is to use only burnt sugar or caramel color so you can get that very dark, almost black color. I have seen recipes that call for molasses or dark chocolate but they only give the cake a dark brown color, which is not typical for this recipe. And one last thing: try to get a good quality sweet red wine. And no; it doesn't have to be expensive because you're just using it for a recipe. But then again, you don't want to ruin your cake with some cheap wine you found on sale. My favorite wine to use is ruby Port, which has a sweet, red berry taste that goes really great with this dark, decadent cake.
In a food processor, chop the raisins, prunes, almonds and pecans into small pieces. Then, chop the figs with a small knife and mix them in with the rest of the dry fruit. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the unsalted butter with the sugar on medium to high speed, about 3-5 minutes. Add the vanilla, instant coffee and lemon zest and mix again. Beat in 2-3 eggs, one at a time. Then add ½ of the amount of flour and mix again, starting on low speed. Now, beat in the rest of the eggs, again, one at a time. Finish with the rest of the flour. Scrape the inside of the bowl to make sure everything is well incorporated. Finally, add the burnt sugar and mix well. Scrape the bowl one more time and mix again to blend everything well.
Mix the chopped dry fruit with the cake batter using your hands and make sure the dry fruit is well distributed. Pour batter into a prepared baking pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 1¼ - 1¾ hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove the aluminum foil after 1 hour of baking. Once the cake is ready, let it rest inside the pan for about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, mix the rum and the wine in a separate container. Then, remove the cake from the baking pan and place it on a sheet of aluminum foil. Pour the wine slowly all over the cake, cover with plastic wrap and then tuck in the aluminum foil so the cake doesn't dry out. Let the cake sit at room temperature for at least 3-5 days before serving.