robben island #christmas cake

robben island #christmas cake

robben island christmas cake

Watch me make this by clicking here.

{honour + understanding}
I was so honoured when Expresso asked me to demonstrate the Robben Island Christmas Cake on the day that Cape Town are going to have a memorial service. After reading this fantastic extract below from Anna Trapido’s book Hunger for Freedom I had to try this myself. I made my version that tasted absolutely delicious … but I am sure not as good as the real deal {see my version of the recipe at the bottom of this page}.

Please read this piece below. It will make you smile and bring some understanding of the food situation Madiba and his fellow comrades faced.

Rest in peace Tata.

{extract from hunger for freedom by anna trapido}
“The monotony of the Robben Island diet was occasionally broken by the observance of religious ritual. Those priests who were brought into minister to the prisoners were legitimately allowed to bring food items in honour of specific festivals. Many prisoners, Madiba included, developed fluid religious affiliations in order to take advantage of the temporary respite from prison food. Laloo Chiba, a fellow inmate to Nelson Mandela, recalled: ‘The authorities would come around and say, “How many people are observing Eid?” And hell, everybody was suddenly converted or Hinduism or Islam or whatever it was, including Madiba and Walter Sisulu! Madiba genuinely respected all religions and he did use to attend all types of service so it was a show of respect for other people’s religion, not just about the food. But we were all born again quite often! Muslims, Christians, Hindus: we were everything! While most of the food for ecclesiastical eating came in from the outside, there are rare examples of prisoners making their own festive food. In 1978 Laloo Chiba took on the role of Chrismas cake-maker. It was not a cake in the conventional sense of the word but all those who tasted it swear that it was delicious”. {see laloo’s recipe below}


{laloo chiba’s robben island christmas cake}
Serves 6-8
4 loaves Sasko white bread
10 tbsp cocoa powder
10 tbsp white sugar
200g currants or raisins
750ml Phuzamandla*

Break the bread into pieces and place inside an old biscuit tin. Sprinkle with cocoa, sugar and currants. Soak in phuzamandla for at least 12 hours. After 6 hours place a food plate on top of the mixture and put a stone on top of the plate in order to weight down and compact the cake. Allow the cake to solidify overnight. Slice and serve.

Makes 1L

4 cups water
½ cup mielie meal
½ cup iron fortified sorghum
4 tbsp powdered yeast

Bring the water to the boil, add the mielie meal and sorghum, reduce the heat and simmer until cooked (about 30 minutes). Leave to cool. Add the yeast and mix well. Dilute with water to pouring consistency. Strain and drink.




my version of the robben island #christmas cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6
  • 9 slices of white bread
  • 5.5 Tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp currents
  • 500ml full cream milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp salt
  • icing sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C.
  2. In a small non stick bread pan break three slices of bread, sprinkle with a 1.5 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp cocoa powder and 1 Tbsp of currents.
  3. Repeat the next two layers doing the same.
  4. Push the bread mixture down with your hands.
  5. Mix the milk, eggs, vanilla essence and salt together. Pour over the bread.
  6. Bake in oven for 50 minutes.
  7. Turn out of pan, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve immediately.

robben island christmas cake

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