Last year I discovered Treasure Beach in Jamaica. I had the pleasure to meet Dawn, a Jamaican lady who owns Smurf Café and loves to bake. Dawn is known for her unbelievably delicious ackee (the fruit of an evergreen tree and Jamaica’s national fruit) with saltfish and johnny cakes breakfasts, and her made-to-order dinners. I blogged about her delicious baked goods and fresh roasted coffee beans last year. You’d be amazed if you could see the disconnect between the size of her kitchen versus what comes out of it!
I had brought my cookbook with me on that first visit, because my daughter, Maya, had told me about Dawn and how she loved to bake. Dawn was interested in learning how to make some of the recipes in it. We had a ball baking together and of course did everything by hand—including grating the fresh coconut for the oatmeal cookies. No shredded sweetened bagged coconut when you are in Jamaica. Just pick a coconut off a tree and go to town!
When I returned home, I imagined how wonderful it would be if Dawn could have an electric mixer. So before my most recent visit, I bought a beautiful stainless steel Breville stand-up mixer for her. She was thrilled, and in response said she would show me how to bake her coconut cake and her dark brown fruit cake, knowing I loved both.
Jamaican fruit cake is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted! It is often used as wedding cake and frosted with a hard sugar icing. It is deep brown due to a browning sauce also used in gravies. It is chock full of dried fruits like prunes and raisins that have been blended into a choppy paste along with maraschino cherries. These, to my surprise, added a fabulous flavor to the end product. The noticeable quantity of Jamaican dark rum enhances the batter even further!
Dawn’s coconut cake is equally divine: the fresh grated coconut, butter, eggs, rosewater, and almond flavoring combine to make a gooey and moist cake. This cake demonstrates one of the many wonderful things about Jamaican cooking—the ingredients are fresh, and even spices such as nutmeg and ginger are shaved and grated from the real thing right before baking.
Using ingredients that are fresh or just removed from their natural state takes hard work and more time than most of us are used to. But regardless of how long Dawn spends on any one of her creations, she never complains. She takes great pride in the reputation she has built for herself in Treasure Beach. I look forward to going back and spending more time doing what I love with Dawn!