Here in Jamaica at this time of year the grocery stores and shops are bustling with energy. The baking aisle is very busy this time of year. You will find these aisle loaded with flours, sugars, baking powders and dried fruits and nuts galore. From early December you will find people stocking up on these supplies, because this is the time of year to enjoy a traditional Jamaican favorite, Christmas Cake. It is laced with rum, red wine, rehydrated fruits and every ounce of love that can be bestowed upon a cake.
This week for the employee Christmas party I was privileged to watch our staff cook prepare and bake the Christmas cake. She also made a sweet potato pudding, which I have only had a couple of times but am determined to learn how to make.
The secret to Christmas cake here is that the fruits are soaked, usually overnight, in rum and red wine. This softens them up and our cook actually blended the fruit to create a paste as some people do not like the texture of fruit pieces in their cakes.
As it was being mixed together she added liquid browning, something I bought and had no idea what to do with as it is simply for color, nothing else! (Brown Stew whatever is the only things I have knowingly seen with it used.) This substance takes it from a light brownish color to a deep rich almost chocolate cake color, which is what I thought Christmas cake was the first time I tried it.
In my whole life I have never actually tried Fruitcake. It usually has nuts in it, I hate candied fruits, and it is typically heavy like a brick and hard like a rock. I have heard many jokes about fruitcake, like you just save it to regift the next year, fortunately it was not something my mother liked and she never forced it upon us. In fact she described it pretty much as an abomination and something that should be banned for life. Having this opinion of fruitcake, I was a little hesitant to try Jamaican Christmas cake when it was offered to me. I took it out of courtesy. I mean, I can only say vegetarian to foods that contain meat to get out of trying them, cake is not made from meat!
So if you are adventurous and trust me, everything is better with rum in it, here is the recipe for Jamaican Christmas cake!! Just remember there is no such thing as too much rum, unless you are giving this to children, then make them a less potent version. Also soak that fruit for 24 hours to really get the flavor and the moisture in it. The other secret ingredient at least for this one is bread crumbs to add density and texture.