The most traditional of Haitian cake recipe is the “Gateau au Beurre,” or butter cake. This is a classic pound cake, with a few special additions that give it a unique flavor: rum, nutmeg, and lime zest. It also traditionally includes evaporated milk, which contributes to its very moist texture.
A Short History of Haitian Gateau au Beurre
It is almost impossible to find anything published on the history of gateau au beurre. We are left to speculate that its origins probably lie in 18th century pound cakes. These were popular in Northern Europe, but also in France. These simple cakes, which rely on a 1:1:1:1 ratio of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs, must have traveled with British and French colonists to Haiti in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, you will find the Haitian gateau au beurre topped with a lemon juice glaze and sprinkled with coconut. This simple cake appears frequently at special occasions and is a favorite among birthday cakes.
Other Haitian Sweets
We did a deep dive into Haitian cuisine (desserts only!) in writing this cake up. The gateau ayisyen zoranj (Haitian orange cake) might come in second . It is a very similar recipe, but orange juice is substituted for the evaporated milk. Another traditional Haitian cake recipe is a rum cake, very similar to the one we have posted here. Other popular dishes include Haitian beignets (bananas with a deep-fried crust), sweet potato pie, dous makos, a Haitian kind of fudge that was invented by Fernand Makos, the Haitian version of Milton Hershey (of Hershey Chocolate fame), and tablet kokoye, a coconut candy.
If you’re being authentic, you can’t make a Haitian gateau au beurre without Barbancourt rum. Barbancourt is the oldest continuously operating family-run distillery on the island and produces award-winning rums. Dupre Barbancourt, an immigrant from the Cognac-producing region of Charentes, founded the distillery in 1862. He learned how to make rum from sugar cane juice upon arriving in Haiti. He added a double-distillation method that he must have learned from the cognac industry. His rum was delicious, and the business expanded rapidly. It is one of Haiti’s best-known exports.
We love that this cake allowed us to test out our brand new fancy bundt pan. Here are few more bundt favorites.
Useful Ingredients for Making this Haitian Cake Recipe
Best Rums For Making this Cake
Obviously, if money is no object Barbancourt Rum should be your go-to for this baking project. You can order it here:
If, however, you don’t have endless funds for rum for baking, you might consider the many affordable options that we have listed here. All are well-suited to cakes.
Haitian Cake Recipe
- bundt cake pan
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 sticks butter unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp fresh lime zest
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 2 tbsp dark rum ideally Barbancourt, of course!
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup guava jelly
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- Preheat oven to 350 F and spray a 10-12 cup Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until just combined.
- Add in the rum, vanilla, almond extract, and lime zest. Stir to combine.
- Add in the evaporated milk and stir to combine.
- Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt,and nutmeg) into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan. Place the cake batter in a preheated oven and bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Do not let the cake sit and fully cool in the pan or it will get stuck. Place a wire rack over the top of the cake pan and flip the cake onto the wire rack to fully cool.
- Once the cake is fully cooled, pick a glaze to decorate your delicious cake.
- For glaze 1, simply melt the jelly in the microwave and brush it on the haitian butter cake.
- For glaze 2, combine the lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Drizzle the glaze over the cake, then sprinkle with coconut. Let the glaze fully set before serving.
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