Jamaican Christmas Cake (a.k.a Jamaican Black Cake or Jamaican Fruit Cake)
You can't REALLY be ready for Christmas until you start your Jamaican Christmas Cake recipe. This cake, sometimes called Jamaican Black Cake, is a must-have in Jamaican households during the holidays! It's dark, rich, and filled with rum-soaked fruits, but it's not for the faint-of heart!
The cake is popular in Jamaica and throughout the English-speaking Caribbean, and has its roots in the region’s Colonial heritage. Food historians say it’s related to the traditional English "Christmas Pudding."
A traditional Jamaican Christmas Cake recipe must have RUM in it, and this is the best Jamaican Christmas cake recipe I have ever tried. Although it looks like a lot of ingredients, it's VERY easy to make if you have access to a food processor. The beauty of this recipe is that you don't need to soak your fruits in liquor for months ahead of time - one or two days is enough. (BTW, at the bottom of this page is a non-alcoholic Jamaican Christmas Cake recipe.)
I love fruit cake and dried fruits in general, but I don't like anything "unusual" in my cake... like those glowing green cherry chunks! In Jamaica, you can easily find mixed fruit and mixed peel, but I like to know exactly what I'm putting in my cake. I prefer using only sweet orange peel as I don't like the taste of the more bitter peels in my cake.
If you feel like you MUST soak the fruit for longer, place only the fruits and liquor in the food processor, then put the mixture in a glass container with a lid. Avoid using plastic with rum. Leave the cherries, orange peel and nuts until you're ready to make your cakes.
Jamaican Christmas Cake Recipe
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1 cup dried figs
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1/2 cup dried prunes
- 1/2 cup dark raisins
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup brandied cherries w/liquid (see note below)
- 1/2 cup candied orange peel (see note below)
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds (or substitute another chopped nut)
- 1 1/4 cups port wine (divided)
- 1 1/4 cups Jamaican white rum (divided)
- Juice of 1 orange
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, & extra for greasing pans
- 2 cups flour, sifted
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- 2 teaspoons browning (see note below)
- 5 eggs
- Place the dates, figs, brandied cherries with liquid, currants, candied orange peel, prunes, dark raisins, golden raisins and the almonds in a food processor with 1 cup of the port and 1 cup of the rum. Process this mixture until the dried fruit is broken down into tiny chunks, but don't completely liquefy it. Stir in the orange juice.
- Remove the mixture to a bowl and allow the fruit to soak in the rum for at least 2.5 hours, or up to 2 to 3 days (longer is better).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
- Grease two (2) 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms and sides with wax paper or parchment paper.
- In a stand mixer, combine the butter, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, vanilla, molasses, browning and eggs.
- Slowly add the rum-soaked fruit to the mixer a little at a time and mix to combine all of the ingredients.(Don't over-mix.)
- Divide the cake batter between the two prepared cake pans.
- Bake the cakes in a water bath by filling a large roasting pan halfway up with water and then setting the cake pans inside.
- Bake for 1.5 hours.
- Sprinkle the remaining port and rum on top of the cakes to keep them moist and let them cool.
- These cakes will last for days stored in parchment paper and plastic wrap and for weeks when frozen.
- Makes two cakes.
- Should be accompanied by Sorrel Drink!>
Cherries - Yes, you can substitute maraschino cherries, but the cherries in the recipe should not really be that bright neon red color. Look for the deep, dark red ones by a brand like Luxardo (see link to Amazon.com below), or make your own brandied cherries.
Browning- Jamaican browning is simply brown sugar that is caramelized slowly until it's very dark, and it adds a wonderful color to baked goods and other foods. You should be able to find Jamaican browning at your local Caribbean market. If not, I put a link below to Amazon.com. If you use Kitchen Bouquet or another commercial browning product, read the label to see if there is added salt. If so, reduce or eliminate the salt in this recipe, or your cake may taste overly salty. Or make your own!
Candied Orange Peel - You can usually find candied orange peel in gourmet food markets. If not, King Arthur Flour sells a good product. You can also make your own at home, but you'll have to plan ahead.
(Adapted from a recipe by Venetta Williams)
Non-Alcoholic Jamaican Christmas Cake Recipe
Some people will say it's sacrilegious to make a Jamaican Christmas Cake without liquor, but there are people who don't drink and people who don't like the flavor of rum. (I know, puzzling, right? LOL). Fortunately, you can tweak the above recipe just slightly and still end up with a delicious Jamaican Christmas Cake.
The main reasons for soaking the fruit in wine and rum are to make the cake keep for a long time un-refrigerated, to darken the cake, and to soften the fruit. You could skip the soaking part, but I prefer my fruits soft. Let's substitute or eliminate the following ingredients from the recipe:
- 1/2 cup brandied cherries w/liquid (substitute DRIED cherries)
- 1 1/4 cups port wine
- 1 1/4 cups Jamaican white rum
- Juice of 1 orange (substitute 1 cup orange juice)
Put the nuts aside.
Now, instead of step #2 above, heat all of the usual fruits (plus the dried cherries you're adding) and the peel in a saucepan with 1 cup of orange juice and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let them simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm.
Proceed with the recipe as written, but add 1 extra teaspoon of browning (or 2 if you want it darker). And don't forget to add the nuts back in to the batter. If you think the batter looks overly thick, add about 1/4 cup more water.
Start testing the cake with a toothpick after about 40 minutes, as you don't want it to get dry. After it cools, wrap the cake in aluminum foil, and set it aside overnight. The next day it should be moist, soft and ready to serve.