Reputation is everything. Good or bad. You’d go to great lengths to protect your rep, because it’s important. I mean, perception of a thing might as well be the truth, right? Except when it’s not the truth. Take the fruit cake for example. Fruit cake has a bad rep. It’s known to be dry, hard, tasteless, and apparently will last until the second coming. That’s what they say… But I know different. The fruit cake I know is sweet, spicy, moist. She also has a bit of an alcohol problem, but who doesn’t?! I want to introduce you to her, but please don’t judge her before you get to know her.
Friend, meet Jamaican fruit cake. Jamaican fruit cake, meet my friend.
Where did she come from? Didn’t I just say she’s Jamaican? Oh, you mean originally. Well her dad was an English fruit cake, and her mom was a plum pudding. When they moved to Jamaica, she got that lovely dark complexion. That’s also where she developed a taste for rum. Not just any rum, but Jamaican overproof rum made by Uncle Wray and his Nephew.
Jamaican fruit cake is sometimes called black cake or rum cake, but at the heart, it’s a celebration cake served most often at Christmastime, weddings and christenings. Jamaican fruit cake is expensive to make due to all of the fruits, spirits and spices, and time involved. It contains mostly dark dried fruits such as raisins, currants, prunes, cherries. Those fruits are cooked down into sticky sweet goodness like preserves, with sugar, molasses, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, almond, vanilla, and mixed essence. Everyone’s auntie, grandma, and mommy has their own special blend, but there’s a whole heap of liquor in the cake. Most commonly, it will contain a sweet red wine, like a port or other dessert wine, brandy, dark rum, and Wray and Nephew white rum. Are you drunk yet? Because I’m feeling a little tipsy myself. Once all of that has been combined, the fruits are left to marinate in that boozy heaven for up to a year. Most people put up, or “soak” their fruits right after New Year’s for the upcoming Christmas. Everyone has a special vessel for their fruits; it could be an earthen jug, plastic bucket or jar. No matter the container, nothing else goes in it except fruits.
The process for mixing up a fruit cake is like making a pound cake. You want to cream your butter and sugar together, then add your “browning” or burnt sugar. After that you’ll add your flour and fruits, alternating between dry and wet ingredients. While you’ll want to use a mixer to cream the butter and sugar, nothing mixes up a good cake like an old fashioned wooden spoon. Bake low and slow for hours. Once set, you’ll take her out of the oven, cool just a bit, then liberally douse with more wine and rum (I told you she had a problem), cover with foil and let rest. The longer she rests, the better she tastes, so this is a cake you can make a week before you plan to serve it.
Jamaican fruit cake can be eaten just like that with no other adornments, but it is frequently presented covered in brittle royal icing, a sweet counterpoint to the savory spices, and bite of the alcohol. For brides with a more modern design sensibility, cakes can be covered in rolled fondant.
If you’re up for the challenge, you can attempt this lovely cake on your own. The Internet abounds with lots of recipes (you didn’t think I’d give you mine did you?). Should you feel like it’s more fun to eat than to bake, be sure to give not a crumb! a call. I’d be happy to bake up some rummy happiness and ship it right to you!
not a crumb! will be taking orders for Christmas cake, packed in festive keepsake tins, beginning October 1st. Please visit us at http://www.notacrumb.com to place your order, or join our mailing list to be kept up to date on our seasonal offerings.