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by Venesha Johnson | Associater Writer
Recently I was saying out loud, speaking to myself, that I hadn’t had or seen a slice of warm Toto (pronounced as Toe-tuh) in a very long time, and my younger sibling dared to ask “wah name suh?” I was truly offended by the fact that not one of my three younger sisters had a clue as to what Toto is.
You see, Toto is a staple in Jamaica. Or at least, it used to be. There was a time when Toto was frequently made in Jamaican households. It was the go-to cake for most because the ingredients were simple and easily found in every Jamaican kitchen, and it didn’t require a lot of time and attention.
When I think of Toto, I think about the days when after church service the elder ladies would gather in the back, slicing up big baking tins of Toto to be shared with everyone.
But Toto has been around for what may seem like forever. Toto is Jamaican. The tradition of making Toto goes as far back as the times of slavery. It is said that after long days of toil and labour, plus being severely underfed, the slaves would come together to make Toto.
All they needed, were the few ingredients available to them to make this heavy and filling cake, coconut, molasses and flour. Of course, back then, they didn’t have modern ovens as we do, so they would use what Jamaicans fondly refer to as “hell a top, hell a bottom and hallelujah in the middle” to bake the Totos.
This method simply consisted of using a coal stove at the bottom of the baking pan or, in most cases, a Dutch pot and using a metallic sheet or zinc with hot coal on top of the pot. This way, the cake bakes from both sides simultaneously.
One of the main differences with Toto now, compared to back then, is the elimination of molasses from the ingredients, it is instead replaced with other spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.
It may not be quite as easy for us to get our hands on a slice of Toto these days, unless its made at home or if you are lucky enough to run into a street vendor who walks around with a tray filled with slices of Toto, Potato and Cornmeal Pudding, otherwise the chances are quite slim.
So just in case, you can’t get any Toto to buy, here is a simple recipe of how you can make your very own Toto (coconut cake) at home.
Feel free to share this recipe with your friends and families and spread the delicious goodness of Jamaican Toto (coconut cake).
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