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Heavy Cake. Cayman?s ?unofficial? National Dessert.

31 Dec 2013
Heavy Cake.  Cayman?s ?unofficial? National Dessert.

Originated in the Cayman Islands, Heavy cake has been a truly unique Caymanian creation for the last 200 years or so.  Heavy Cake’s importance is historic as well as culinary. A reminder of a time when this delectable dessert’s beginnings resulted from Caymanian cooks’ resourcefulness and creativity in using ingredients that was on hand.  Many items we associate with cake today (flour, sugar, eggs etc) were often either unavailable or expensive luxuries well into the 20th century in the Cayman Islands, and thus unavailable to these early bakers. Instead, these creative Caymanians turned to items that were readily available-cassava, coconut milk, spices and cornstarch.

In spite of its name, Heavy Cake is unlike what’s called “cake” in other cultures. Here in Cayman, our culinary heritage includes two kinds of “cake,” light and heavy. Caymanian “light cake” is like the cake most people know today. It’s called “light cake” because it’s lighter in texture than Heavy Cake and newer to our cookery, obvious from the ingredients: flour, sugar, shortening and eggs and ingredients like grated coconut or carrots, or mashed ripe bananas and spices. (Chocolate is a recent ingredient here, and not traditional.) It’s baked in round rectangular or Bundt cake pans and sometimes frosted with sugary icing.  Heavy Cake, on the other hand is a dense, often intensely sweet thing whose consistency is so hard to describe that the very name “heavy cake’ could be an adjective.

Famous locations to find Heavy Cake in Grand Cayman is Vivene’s Kitchen in East End, Chisholm’s Grocery in Northside and local farmer’s markets.

See Heavy Cake featured at the Taste of Cayman Food and Wine Festival on Saturday, 8 February 2014 in the Heavy Cake Competition. Festival attendees will be able to also sample heavy cake and learn more about the tradition.

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