Caribbean Burnt Sugar is just as the name suggests, sugar heated until it is dark brown or burnt. It is a sugar caramel typically made with brown sugar. It is most popularly used in stews and in Guyanese Black Cake to give it a rich dark color.
Burnt sugar is the first step of many stew recipes in Caribbean and Guyanese cooking. After you add oil to the pan, the next step is to add some sugar to let it caramelize. This is a quick and easy way to add some color and flavor to stews.
However, making burnt sugar for cakes takes it a bit further by allowing the sugar to fully transform into a dark and rich caramel that can be spiced or left plain.
If you are making black cake this is the burnt sugar recipe you need.
What you'll need to make Caribbean Burnt Sugar
The main ingredient for this recipe is Demerara sugar. Did you know that there are different types of brown sugar? Did you also know that American brown sugar is simply refined sugar with molasses added to it? So for best results please do not use American brown, dark brown or light brown sugar. Check out this post to learn more about different types of sugar.
- Demerara Sugar
- Water or wine
- Cinnamon and cloves (optional)
See recipe card for quantities.
Step By Step Video Tutorial
Step by Step how to
- Start by adding brown sugar to a deep pot then bring the sugar and the pot up to temperature on high heat.
2. Let the sugar come up to temperature until it starts melt. Let it continue to melt without stirring it.
3. It will continue to slowly melt until all the sugar crystals dissolve.
4. When it starts to bubble and smoke a little, give it a stirring to prevent the sugar from burning.
5. Add red wine or water and mix together really well.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Do I need to keep stirring the burnt sugar while it melts? In the past I constantly stirred it, but recently just let it melt without stirring and it was easy and fuss free.
- Can I make it without wine? Yes, you can use water instead of wine. You can even do a spiced infused water as well.
- What if I heated up the pot first then added the sugar? When you add the sugar to a hot pot, it immediately starts to burn. If you are a pro in the kitchen and have all your ingredients prepped this method takes two minutes. And is demonstrated at the end of the video above.
- My burnt sugar is runny, what did I do wrong? You added too much liquid to the burnt sugar. You can cook it down until it thickens a bit but be warned that it might get bitter.
- Burnt sugar is too bitter? This happens when you let it get too dark before adding the wine or water. Ideally as soon as it starts to get frothy, be ready to add the liquid and then remove it from the heat so that it doesn't continue to cook.
- Why is my burnt sugar so thick and sticky? You over cooked the burnt sugar and the sugar moved into a candy stage. As soon as you add the liquid to the caramelized sugar remove it from the heat and then mix in the wine. This prevents it from continuing to cook while you are mixing in the wine.
- Sugar: If you can't find Demerara sugar feel free to use sugar in the raw or turbinado sugar, or pure cane sugar since this is the closest thing to Demerara sugar.
- Water: If making burnt sugar for black cake you can use red wine instead of water in this recipe
Adding spices to your burnt sugar
Most people make burnt sugar with just sugar and water but you can take it up a notch by using water infused with spices instead of plain water or some white wine. Note that this is great if you only intend to use the burnt sugar for cakes. If you also want to use it for stews and marinades, leave it plain to allow for more flexibility when cooking.
How to store
Store any leftover burnt sugar in an air tight container and in the cool, dry place for up to a month. I prefer to keep my burnt sugar in a glass mason jar, labelled and dated.
- Use a deep pot when making burnt sugar, as it will splatter when you add the water or wine to the caramelized sugar.
- The longer you cook the sugar for the darker the burnt sugar will be and the more bitter it will taste. Try not to cook it beyond the recommended time or you risk a very bitter tasting burnt sugar.
Printable Recipe Card
Caribbean Burnt Sugar (Browning)
- ½ cup Demerara Sugar
- ½ cup wine may also use water
- Add sugar to a pot, shake to evenly distribute the sugar in the pot, then bring up to temperature on high heat
- Let the sugar come up to temperature until it caramelizes and becomes bubbly. Do not stir.
- Once the sugar starts to smoke a bit, give it a stir to prevent it from burning then add the red wine turn off the heat and mix the red wine into the burnt sugar as quickly as possible, taking care to mix in and dissolve any bits that hardened when you added the wine
- Then pour into a jar and let it cool completely. Store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.