Portuguese molasses cake

Portuguese molasses cake

The Art Of The Larder
1 x 23cm cake
Mike Lusmore

A Portuguese wine importer friend brought this impressive cake along to a tasting. Served with Madeira, the combination of spiced, treacly cake and the wine was mind-blowing. Lard is sometimes used in lieu of some of the butter; I’ll leave this up to you. Molasses lends depth of flavour and the spices give aromatic complexity. You can alter the balance of spice if you like, adding more of each for a spicier cake – just go easy on the clove, as your palate will be numbed.


Quantity Ingredient
200g mixed dried fruit, see note
7g sachet of dried yeast
100ml madeira, or port
120g skinned walnuts or almonds
500g plain flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or use ground star anise
1/4-1/2 a nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
or 2-3 teaspoons Quatre épices
350g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing tin
200g sugar
4 eggs
400g molasses or black treacle, (or use runny honey)


  1. Soak the dried fruit and yeast in the Madeira or port for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Put them into a bowl with the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and spices, and mix to combine.
  3. Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add one third of the flour mixture to all of the butter mixture and mix until combined, using a hand mixer at a low speed, then add the molasses and mix well. Add another third of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the dried fruit and yeast mixture and the final third of the flour mix. Stir well to combine. Leave the cake mix covered in the mixing bowl for 45 minutes to prove slightly.
  5. Preheat the oven to 160°C, grease a 23cm round cake tin or equivalent square tin and line with baking parchment.
  6. Pour and scrape the proved cake mix into the prepared tin and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If the top of the cake begins to colour too much towards the end of the cooking time, cover with a piece of foil.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool completely. It will keep for up to a week wrapped in foil or in a cake tin.


  • Use a bought combination or use any or all of the following: raisins, currants, chopped dried figs, chopped dried dates or chopped dried cherries
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