Just great for Christmas
ACROSS THE CARIBBEAN it is called by many names: rum cake, fruit cake or Christmas cake but in Barbados this must have Christmas dessert holds the title of greatest in the land.
Great cake it is called and how it got its title is still a mystery. Maybe it is because of the dried sweet fruit that marinates the moist chocolate coloured cake or the rich aged rum that entices one to take a slice. Whatever the reason behind the name Christmas is not complete without its presence on the dinning table.
Kris Brathwaite has been making this delicacy at Purity Bakeries for several years and she is so good at her trade that she often receives private orders just before the Christmas season approaches.
“I get so many orders that I am happy when I only get a few,” she said. laughing.
“By the time I am finished working at Purity and have to come home and start baking again, I can’t take many orders because I would conk out. Making a great cake is a lot of work.”
Kris told EASY magazine that her customers can be very particular about the ingredients they want in the great cake batter. She said there was one customer in particular that requested an entire bottle of rum.
“My great aunt’s husband asked me to make a cake for him when he visited from Miami. He brought a bottle of Jamaican rum and asked me if I could put all the rum in the cake. So some customers like to taste a lot of liquor and some like it mild.”
When Kris attended the Graydon Sealy Secondary School, she developed a passion for baking. From there she studied at the Samuel Jackman Polytechnic and now she is a certified baker. Although she has spent a lifetime baking sweet treats, Kris confessed that she does not eat cake often; she said the only cake she eats is cheesecake and she only tastes the batter of other cakes to make sure it is up to standard.
The Diamond Valley, St Philip resident said she picked up a few skills over the years that helped her improve her talent.
“I observed the recipes. At Purity there are four women and they all have their own individual techniques. I realised that everyone pretty much uses the same ingredients, but the way they put them together is different.
“So after observing their techniques, I took them and added my own twist. So everybody’s little tricks I picked up and I found a way to make them mine.”
Kris said that the art of baking runs in the family and her talent was passed down to her. She said some of best memories of Christmas were spent in the kitchen.
“My grand mother is a top baker to me and she always made a great cake for Christmas. She has a fruit grinder and she would put it at the edge of the table and grind the fruits but after seeing how much labour it was to get that done I decided I would just put my fruits in the food processor.
“I remember going up by her for Christmas and she and my aunt spent hours in the kitchen making dishes. I use to get the bowls and pans and lick them and my grandmother would say ‘Stop that your belly would hurt you’. So I guess all of that inspired me to be a pastry chef.”
Although Kris is known for her delicious great cakes she said she specialises in chocolate cakes. She explained that her side business thrives on birthday orders.
She told EASY that she conducts a short consultation with her clients to make sure the cake is exactly what the person wants.
“I like to get orders two days in advance so that if I don’t have the ingredients at home I have sufficient time to get them. I ask the client whom the cake is for, according to their gender and age group they would want different things. You can’t do a pink cake with butterflies for a boy and teenage girls like to have make-up products on their cakes.”
Kris shared with EASY one of her most challenging experiences trying to please a customer. She said she had to go her way out and do research to make sure she created the correct character the customer requested.
“There was a birthday cake I had to make for a one-year-old and the character for her cake was a little worm that I did not even know existed. Her mother told me that she liked watching this particular worm on Baby TV. The worm was purple and yellow and I had to go and look it up because I had no clue about it.
“I made the worm from rice krispies and I put in on a 9 by 15 cake with grass and gummy worms to make it look just like the cartoon. And I added flowers and butterflies as well.”
Kris is always looking for new ways to improve her skills and she said she likes to learn new things every day. Recently, she picked up a new trick on how to print images on cakes.
“I picked up a technique on icing cakes from my aunt who also works at Purity. Before image printing on cakes became popular, my aunt taught me how to do butter transferral.
“After going online and selecting a character, you have to print it and trace it on parchment paper. You flip it over on the opposite side, line it out with icing and fill it in. You can either leave it overnight or you can put in in the freezer, if you want it right away. After that, you flip it onto the cake and you have your character.”
Kris, who also makes cupcakes and cookies, hopes to open her own business one day.