Diasporan daughter, raking the soil for a map, a glint of my mama’s gold, a bone to call my own.

—Desiree C. Bailey, “Guesswork”

It can take up to a year to make a good Jamaican black cake. The fruit should be soaked in wine and rum for at least six months, then combined with creamed butter, sugar, spices, and gravy browning (burned sugar) before being baked and repeatedly doused in the rum and wine mixture. The result is a cake that is rich, velvety, and dense, with aromas of vanilla, almond, nutmeg, and cinnamon. As a child I sat and watched my grandmother beat the butter and sugar until they were white: I’d wake up to the sound of the mixer whizzing, and sneak little tastes of the mixture before she added the rum. This is a cake I made with her many times, but she died before I...

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