Bulla Cake is a warmly spiced and popular Jamaican treat with a burst of molasses flavour complemented by ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Cure your sweet tooth with this delicious Caribbean treat that can be enjoyed with avocado (pear), cheese or butter, whenever, wherever!
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Some of my greatest childhood memories include Jamaican bulla cake. Growing up, we would visit the local Caribbean/W.I. food market and bulla was always on the shopping list. On the car ride home, my mom would always break off a piece and give to us in the back seat of the car. It was always received with bright eyes and excitement because it was our kind of treat. Bulla to a Caribbean child is what donuts are to a North American child! All this being said, homemade bulla cake fresh out the oven is nothing compared to store-bought!
Here’s Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- Simple to Prepare – this snack is super common because it’s so easy to make. Also, the ingredients are cheap (if you don’t already have them stocked in your pantry).
- Diet Friendly – this egg-free baked dessert can easily be made vegan too!
- Kid Friendly – maybe it’s the sweetness or the chewy texture… whatever the reason, children really love this soft cookie-like treat.
- Perfect Grab and Go Snack – make a batch for family and pack them up for school, camp, and extracurricular activities.
What is Bulla Cake?
Bulla cake, also called bulla, is a classic Jamaican snack that’s like a cross between a spiced cookie and sweet bread. These beloved flat, circular cakes are a popular Jamaican pastry because they’re inexpensive and just so good. Not to mention, they are very shelf stable and take a while to spoil.
The History of Bulla Cake
Today, you can find bulla cake packaged and on shelves but its roots date back to enslaved people in Jamaica. Enslaved people working on sugar plantations needed nutritious food to keep them full for extended periods of time. Using molasses, a sugar cane byproduct, flour, and pineapple or coconut extract, they created bulla cake.
But it’s not just popular on this island. Other Caribbean countries like Haiti and Trinidad have their own bulla cake variations.
What You Need To Make This Bulla Cake Recipe
- Measuring Spoons and Cups – to accurately measure wet and dry ingredients.
- Mixing Bowls – to mix and contain wet and dry mixtures.
- Whisk – to thoroughly mix dry ingredients until incorporated.
- Wooden Spoon – to combine wet and dry ingredients before dough is fully formed.
- Baking Sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat – to bake without the cakes sticking to the sheet.
Ingredients and Ingredient Notes
- All Purpose Flour – this provides structure.
- Baking Powder – this ensures the cakes are light and fluffy.
- Baking Soda – this leavening agent ensures the bulla cakes rise.
- Spices – I used a delicious, aromatic blend of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg and ground allspice.
- Salt – mellow the sweetness of the sugar and molasses with this. It really makes the other flavours pop.
- Molasses – this gives the cake that distinct golden brown hue it’s known for. It also provides natural sweetness.
- Vanilla Extract – to balance the other flavours.
- Brown Sugar – this adds sweetness and moisture.
- Unsalted Butter – melted, this also adds moisture to the cakes.
- Water – use this to combine the wet ingredients and liquify the brown sugar.
How to Make Jamaican Bulla Cake
Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C), and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.
Combine Dry Ingredients
In a large mixing bowl, add your dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and whisk together until well combined.
Combine Wet Ingredients
In another large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, melted butter, vanilla, molasses and water. Make space in the center of your dry ingredients, pour in your wet mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft and slightly sticky dough has started to form.
Form Dough Balls
Turn out the mixture onto a well floured and clean surface and bring the dough together by kneading gently for a few minutes or until a smooth dough ball forms.
Roll the Dough and Form Cakes
Roll out the dough to about a 1/2 – 1 inch thickness and cut out circles using either a large biscuit cutter or medium sized round bowl.
Bake and Serve
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Once baked, brush with melted butter and let cool. Finally, serve and enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Tips for Success
- Don’t confuse baking powder and baking soda. This bulla cake recipe uses both for different reasons and the measurements are different.
- Pay attention to the texture of the dough. You want it a little sticky but not too tacky and soft. Accurately measure all of your ingredients and this shouldn’t be a problem.
- Don’t roll the dough too thin. Otherwise, you’ll end up with bulla chips. The appeal of this treat is the thickness.
- Time to bake. These bulla cakes bake fairly quickly, you should keep an eye on them (around the 10-minute mark) as they can easily dry out if baked too long.
Recipe Substitutions and Tips
- Vegan – instead of dairy butter, use vegan butter.
- Gluten-Free – use gluten-free all purpose flour instead of the regular stuff.
- Ginger – if you want this recipe to have a stronger gingery flavour, use freshly grated ginger.
- Fruit – for a touch of tropical flavour, consider adding a teaspoon of banana or coconut extract. You can also use almond essence/extract.
How to Eat Bulla Cake
Jamaicans traditionally eat bulla cake with pears (avocados), cheese, or butter. All three options are the perfect sweet and savoury pairing. But, if you want to try something a little out of the box, here are some other ideas:
- Candied Ginger – play up that ginger flavour by topping them with this!
- Powdered Sugar – jazz this simple snack up a bit by dusting freshly baked cakes with this.
- Chocolate Frosting/Jam – coat them with chocolate or place some at the center and make it a sandwich.
Can I Make this Ahead of Time?
Yes! Make bulla cake up to 2 days before serving, although I’m sure you won’t be able to resist indulging before!
Bulla cake lasts 5 days in an airtight container at room temperature. For longer storage, place them in the fridge.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Bulla cakes taste similar to ginger snap or molasses cookies. They are soft and sweet with a subtle warm spiciness.
Vegan and gluten-free options certainly make it a healthier snack. But just like any other dessert, these should be eaten in moderation.
Bulla is made by combining wet and dry ingredients into a dough, flattening then shaping it into thick discs. It is then baked at 350°F for 12-15 minutes (depending on thickness).
Interested in more Jamaican Recipes? Check These Out!
- Jamaican Fried Dumpling
- Jamaican Beef Patty
- Jamaican Curry Chicken
- Gungo Peas Soup
- Ackee and Saltfish
- Brown Stew Fish
- Jamaican Oxtail Recipe
- Jerk Chicken Sandwich
- How to Soak Fruit for Christmas Cake
- Easy Jamaican Pigeon “Gungo” Peas and Rice
- Jamaican Pickled Vegetables (Escovitch Sauce)
- Jamaican Curry Shrimp (Seafood)
- Quick & Easy Jamaican Jerk Chicken
- Jamaican Rasta Pasta
- Measuring Spoons and Cups
- Mixing Bowls
- Wooden Spoon
- Baking Sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat
- 3 cups All Purpose Flour plus more for dusting
- 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- 3 tsp Ground Ginger
- 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp Ground Allspice
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1 1/4 cup Brown Sugar packed
- 3 tbsp Unsalted Butter (60g), melted
- 2 tbsp Molasses
- 2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 cup Water
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C), and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, add your dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and whisk together until well combined.
- In another large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, melted butter, vanilla, molasses and water. Make space in the center of your dry ingredients, pour in your wet mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft and slightly sticky dough has started to form. Turn out the mixture onto a well floured and clean surface and bring the dough together by kneading gently for a few minutes or until a smooth dough ball forms.
- Roll out the dough to about a 1/2 – 1 inch thickness and cut out circles using either a large biscuit cutter or medium sized round bowl. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.
- Once baked, brush with melted butter and let cool. Serve and enjoy!