Bonbon Siwo: Haitian Gingerbread

There is an inherent nostalgia and comforting feeling that arises when the warm aroma of gingerbread fills the home. However, if you believe you already know gingerbread, think again. In Haiti, this classic holiday treat takes on a tropical twist, giving birth to Bonbon Siwo - a cake that is not just a dessert, but a cultural icon brimming with rich flavor.

The Roots: A Bite Into History

Before we delve into the ingredients and cooking process, it is crucial to comprehend the historical significance of Bonbon Siwo. This dish finds its origins deeply rooted in Haitian culture, where it is often prepared over charcoal fires amidst bustling market streets. Passed down through generations, Bonbon Siwo transcends being merely a recipe; it weaves a captivating tale of resilience, community, and the abundant culinary diversity of the Caribbean. The use of indigenous ingredients like coconut milk and blackstrap molasses sets it apart from its European counterparts.

The Ingredients: A Symphony of Flavors

For the Bonbon Siwo, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup of softened butter
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 cups of flour, divided
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

Ingredient Spotlight:

Blackstrap Molasses:

This robust syrup, extracted during the sugar-making process, is nutrient-rich and adds depth to the cake.

Coconut Milk:

An indispensable ingredient in Caribbean cuisine, coconut milk imparts a moist and tender crumb to the cake.

Fresh Ginger:

The zesty and peppery spice brings an unforgettable kick to the gingerbread, setting it apart from milder variations.

The Method: Where Magic Happens

Preparing the Pan and Preheating the Oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Grease a 9” x 5” bread loaf pan.

Making the Batter:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the softened butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of flour and continue beating until smooth.
  3. Incorporate the eggs, coconut milk, molasses, grated ginger, and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 ¾ cups of flour, shredded coconut, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cloves.
  5. Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Mix until just smooth, being careful not to overmix.


  1. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  2. Bake for 55-65 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick.


  • Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting into squares.
  • For an added touch of elegance, dust the squares with powdered sugar.

Variations and Tips

Customizing the Glaze:

Elevate the flavors of Bonbon Siwo with a luscious glaze infused with rum and citrus zest, evoking the vibrant essence of the Caribbean.


This cake is a delightful fusion of flavors that matures over time. It can be stored in an airtight container, and some argue that it tastes even better a day or two after baking.

The Experience: More than Just a Dessert

Bonbon Siwo is not merely food; it embodies an entire experience. Whether you find yourself gathered around a charcoal fire in a bustling Haitian marketplace or cozied up beside your kitchen oven in the suburbs, the creation of Bonbon Siwo is a cherished event. Its aroma evokes nostalgic childhood memories, its taste brings comfort to the soul, and its cultural significance educates and enriches.

Conclusion: A Cake That Tells a Tale

Bonbon Siwo is a tantalizing taste of Haiti—a tropical paradise—brought right to your home. Each bite is not only a burst of flavors but also a tribute to the rich history and diverse culture of the Caribbean. So, why not go beyond the traditional gingerbread this holiday season and immerse yourself in the heartwarming essence of Bonbon Siwo? After all, the most memorable recipes are the ones that tell a captivating story.

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