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Making Caribbean Fruit Cake

For all those Scrooges out there who claim not to like fruitcake, it’s time you gave the Caribbean version a try, as something very special is going on here. It’s the browning in part, which adds a slight bitter note — a welcome twist to the normal fruitcake sweet explosion. The fresh citrus zest brings a delicate little twang to the party, and hello — the wine and the rum. That’s good livin’, Jamaica style. So throw on your favorite Wailing Souls record and let’s get after this.

Begin by gathering your ingredients, preheating your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, and lining two lubricated 9″ x 2″ cake pans.

Now go get that dusty bucket of fruit you’ve been macerating since last December (this year I’m actually doing that). It should look rich and lovely and smell like the world’s strongest rum cocktail.

You want to apply your food processor to that. Pulse until the fruit is finely chopped. Don’t make a complete paste out of it. This may be a bit fine for some, but it worked very well for me. A few whole raisins and date halves left.

You’re going to have a heck of a lot of chopped fruit. So much in fact that you’ll wonder how it’ll possibly fit into two 9′ x 2″ cake rounds. Don’t worry, it will. However in the meantime put it into your biggest bowl.

That step done, sift your flour, spices and leavening into a medium bowl and set it aside:

Now for the wet stuff. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle.

Beat that until it’s light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time:

The mixture will look a little clumpy and broken when you’re done (especially of your eggs were still a little chilly) but just ignore that. Stir in your zest and at least three tablespoons of browning. For a darker cake, add more. I think I put in about 5 tablespoons.

Your three preparations ready, you are cleared to mix. First stir the egg-and-sugar mixture into the fruit, then fold in the flour mixture.

You’ll have a TON of batter. But amazingly, it’ll fit into your two pans. See?

I know, there’s no room for rising. But they scarcely rise at all. See? You want to bake about two hours, until the cake pull away from the sites and a cake tester or knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. A little gooey fruit is OK, just nothing that looks like batter.

You might get a few cracks, but don’t let them bother you since we’re going to turn these things upside-down. Though not before we brush on some more rum, obviously.

OH yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. You want to do that about every 30 minutes until the cakes are completely cool…about two hours. Or five hours if you want to be absolutely sure. Ehem.

So. When you’re ready to de-pan, lay some long strips of cheesecloth over a cardboard cake round, and flip that over onto the cake pan, then flip the whole works back over. Gently remove the pan and the parchment strips and you’ll have something that looks like this:

Now just wrap the cheesecloth around the cake.

You can apply a layer of tin foil to that if you want to cure the cake for a while. I suggest at least 3-4 days of curing, brushing of course with rum ever day or so to keep the cake well inebriated.

The texture of this cake is moist and dense, but not gummy. Very reminiscent of a British pudding (which it is, more or less). Mrs. Pastry tends not to like fruitcakes. However I left this piece near her in the kitchen as I was cleaning up. It got steadily smaller over about half an hour until it disappeared completely. That’s what I call success.

I like it with nuts since they make a nice texture contrast. A dollop of soft whipped cream would make this perfect I think. I’m not sure if that’s traditional, but that’s how it’s going to be served come Christmas Day. If this how they do Christmas in the Caribbean, I should have moved to Trinidad a long time ago.

12 thoughts on “Making Caribbean Fruit Cake”

  1. I made mine up last weekend, as we had to be out of the house for roof repair this weekend. Although mine did not look as cakey as yours – mine really look like a British steamed pudding – my husband and I are not complaining!! The taste is wonderful even though I am used to the final product having more of a cake crumb.

    I made mine in 8 small loaf pans and still had enough batter to fill a 7×4″ loaf pan part way. I only put parchment on the bottom. Since my pans were smaller, I checked them at the 1 1/2hr mark and decided to go for the full 2 hrs. At 2 hrs, the toothpick came out clean and the cakes were pulling away from the sides of the pans. After a couple of brushes with the rum, I did run a knife around the sides to ensure they would come out. I got a little nervous when the knife appeared to have batter on it (what? How could that be?) but decided it was just crumbs that were wet with rum. But at that point, I also stopped brushing on the rum and just allowed them to cool by themselves.

    They all came out of their pans easily on to several cake racks. They did not break when I wrapped them in the cheesecloth and aluminum foil. We stored them in 2 big covered storage containers. We waited patiently for 3 days before trying them. They are so moist that at first I feared that they were not done, but having consumed 2 of the little loaves of deliciousness, we can attest that they are not raw.

    Although the texture is not what I was looking for, the taste is spot on! I will make it again next year and just not grind those fruits as much. There is nary a whole raisin to be discerned. That is probably my culprit. Thanks for this adventure, Joe!!

    1. Hey Melinda!

      I was wondering how you were doing with this! Thanks for the extended debrief. I would not call mine “cakey” exactly, but it may be that the bigger form delivers a slightly different texture. However these cakes are mostly fruit, that much is for sure. They don’t deliver “crumb” in the cake sense.

      The testing problem was something I considered when I was baking mine yesterday (I de-panned one for the photo since the tutorial couldn’t wait). I’m certain that what I saw on the tester was just some hot fruit. Tapping the middles lightly with my fingers, I could feel by the firmness that they were done.

      Overall I’ll say I’m sorry that in the end you didn’t get what you wanted, but yes, I think we had fun along the way.

      Your friend,

      Joe

      1. Hi Joe,

        The fact that I did not get what I was hoping for does not mean that the fruitcakes make me sad! My husband and I are enjoying every bite! I am still puzzling how my 5,000 ft. altitude influenced things. My cakes did rise a little bit in the oven and collapsed in the centers as they cooled. Usually at high altitude that means too much leavening. But I am wondering if I left them in for another 30 min. if the structure would be firmer so they don’t fall. I printed out the recipe and made lots of notes, planning for next year. (It also warms my Caribbean heart to start the fruits soaking in July.) Excelsior!

        1. Hey Melinda!

          Aha! Now I understand the texture problem you were talking about. If you have a collapsed center then I think it’s safe to say there was a structure problem, and the leavening is the most likely culprit at your altitude. The cake rose, there were too many/overly large bubbles inside, and when the top came down at cooling time it caused a cascading bubble collapse. Cut the leavening down by as much as half next year and I think you’ll avoid the problem. Oh, and don’t whip the butter and sugar for too long either. This cake has so little flour in it that structure is hard to come by even at sea level.

          I’m glad you got back to me! Have a Merry Christmas!

          – Joe

  2. Mr. Pastry,

    I had no idea you started up again! I come by now and again for recipes, but I’ve not been able to do much baking in this current unpleasantness. I’m SO happy to see you up and running again!

    (Just the other day, I was thinking how cool a Joe Pastry Cookbook, chocked full of history, puns, and great recipes, would be.)

    I’ll be back regularly to read and bake!

    1. Hey Russ!

      Thanks so much for the comment and the greeting. Welcome back to you as well! By all means make yourself comfortable and weigh in when you feel like!

      And I think you’re right, a book would be fun…but these days you have to publish your own, and I can’t even come close to affording it! Maybe one day when my ship comes in!

      Cheers and thanks!

      – Joe

  3. Hi Joe,

    I made this recipe with my aged fruit mix (at least 15 months). My Guyanese BFF said “It’s perfect in flavor and texture”. She does note an aftertaste (not bad, just different) but that could be from the spiced rum that I used. Success either way. She doesn’t think the cake will make it past this week 🙂

    1. Great to hear, Annie! Thanks for weighing in. I have yet to give my Jamaican friend back in Loiuisville her share. I’m wondering what she’ll think of it, though this is very encouraging!

      Cheers and thanks,

      – Joe

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