Colombian cuisine is full of delicious recipes! Today, we will focus on a very popular traditional dessert: torta negra.
What is torta negra?
Torta negra colombiana is a cake made with candied fruits macerated in a mixture of rum and wine, nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, chocolate and spices. This cake is at the center of the Christmas festivities.
How to make torta negra?
The preparation of torta negra is a real ritual as you have to start macerating the fruits in the rum 2 to 3 weeks in advance. In Colombia, the tradition is that this cake is tasted with loved ones. It is often offered as a Christmas or a wedding present.
Torta negra is a wine cake, just like the biscocho negro. This is a black fruit cake because of the molasses and chocolate that go into its preparation. In Colombia, children have learned to appreciate this cake from a very young age. They love it!
When cooking, the alcohol contained in the candied fruits evaporates a little. But it is important to moisten the cake at it comes out of the oven with the fruit maceration liquid. This way, the cake can be kept for several days and remain soft.
The candied fruit mix may vary. Some recipes contain raisins and dried berries.
The alcohols used for the maceration of the candied fruits may also vary according to recipes. In some areas of Colombia, sweet port wine is used. Some recipes use black beer (Cerveza negra). Finally, other torta negra recipes contain brandy. The more the fruit has macerated in the alcohol, the better it will be. It takes several weeks for the maceration of the fruit to be perfect.
Torta negra can be eaten as is, or with a white buttercream frosting. It is cooked in a rectangular or round mold.
The history of fruit cakes
The oldest recipe of fruit cake dates back to Roman times. Ingredients included pomegranate seeds and raisins that were mixed and crushed in a barley mortar.
In the Middle Ages, honey, spices and candied fruits were added. Since the Middle Ages, fruit cakes have spread throughout Europe. There are many variants. The Christian religion and especially the Catholic Church, had a significant impact on the fruit cake recipe, prohibiting the butter in its preparation during periods of fasting.
From a historical point of view, butter begins to enter the kingdom of France and England in the sixth century. It was not until the arrival of the Pope Innocent VIII, born Giovanni Battista Cybo-Tomasello (1432-1492), that he authorized the consumption of eggs, butter and milk during Lent, provided you made donations to the church. One of the steeples of Rouen cathedral has retained the name of the Tower of Butter, because it was built following the pious contributions made to the church in exchange for permission to eat butter during the Lent of 1489. A letter from Pope Innocent VIII in 1490 authorized the Anglo-Saxons to use butter and milk in Stollen fruit cakes.
What is the origin of torta negra?
Torta negra made its appearance in Latin America with the immigration of the Welsh. The women aboard the boats made a cake made of honey, candied fruit and rum to prepare a fast and consistent dish that would be easily transportable. The torta negra was born. It first spread to Argentina and Venezuela in 1865 with the arrival of the Welsh in the Chubut Valley. In this region, it is still called torta negra galesa. Then it spread throughout Latin America to Colombia where it took the name of torta negra colombiana.
Fruit cakes around the world
In the United Kingdom, fruit cake comes in many forms, from the softest to the richest and most dense. The traditional Christmas fruit cake comes covered almond paste and icing, before being decorated with objects and Christmas scenes.
In Scotland, the version of the fruit cake is called Dundee cake and it is decorated with almonds.
In Wales, people enjoy bara brith. This is a tea-flavored fruit cake. Bara brith is called “speckled bread” because of the stains of fruits and raisins. Bara Brith was so unpopular in Wales that Morissons Supermarket removed it from its shelves in 2006. A survey conducted a year later revealed that 86% of teenagers in Wales had never tasted it.
In Chile, you can enjoy a fruit cake called pan de pascua.
In Germany, Stollen is the most popular fruit cake. It is a bun made from yeast, almonds and raisins sprinkled with icing sugar. It contains little sugar. Bremer Klaben is another fruit cake from Germany that is quite close to Stollen, but is cooked in a mold
In Portugal, the bolo rei (king cake) is also prepared during the Christmas season.
In Spain, a cake also called “kings cake” or roscon de reyes, is the ultimate fruit cake prepared during the Christian holiday. Bollo de higo, meanwhile, is a denser cake that is close to the Italian panforte.
In Switzerland, people enjoy a dense fruit cake with dried pears called Birnenbrot.
After our little tour of fruit cakes around the world, let’s go back to Colombia. If you decide to prepare this delicious torta negra, I just have a tip for you: be generous on the syrup.
- ¼ cup almonds , blanched and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup hazelnuts , peeled and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup walnuts , roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup candied orange peel , chopped
- ⅓ cup candied lemon peel , chopped
- ¼ cup prunes (pitted), minced
- 2 tablespoons instant coffee (dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground clove
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon orange zest
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 cup rum
- ½ cup sweet red wine
- ¼ cup black molasses
- Previously prepared macerated fruit , drained
- ¾ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 oz. chocolate
- ¾ cup sugar
- 6 eggs
- 4 cups flour , sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
Marinate the mixture at least 15 days before the day of preparation.
Add all the ingredients into a glass container that can be tightly covered. Place in the refrigerator.
Stir occasionally and add rum and wine if the mixture dries up.
About 3 hours before the beginning of the cake preparation, remove the fruits from the refrigerator and set aside at room temperature.
Drain the fruits and reserve the maceration liquid.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Grease and dust with flour a round mold about 10-inch in diameter 3 inches deep, or a rectangular mold about 9 x 5 x 3 inches.
Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie and let it cool for a few minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and salt and beat until reaching the consistency of a cream.
Add the sugar and continue beating for about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs one by one and finally the chocolate. Beat for 5 minutes.
Separately, mix the flour and baking powder.
Using a spatula, alternately add a little flour and a little macerated fruit, stirring gently until the flour is fully incorporated.
Mix well and pour the mixture into the mold.
Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out dry. It may be necessary to cover the mold at the end so that the cake does not brown too much.
Take the cake out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before unmolding it on a wire rack.
Sprinkle the cake with the reserved maceration liquid before serving it.