The ingredients rum, molasses and sugar in Jamaican Rum Cake, speaks to the island’s long colonial history with Great Britain. The British brought their steamed puddings to the island which are dense Brandy based cakes cooked by hot water steaming. Local cooks and artisans adapted steamed pudding recipes by replacing brandy with readily available rum and added molasses for rich color and flavor. Several adaptations and fusions later, Jamaica’s famed fruitcake was born. It can still be fully cooked by the steaming method, but the less arduous option of baking is typically used. The cake is popular around the Christmas holidays when people tend to splurge on good food and treats as it is a costly cake to bake. This cake is also the traditional choice for Jamaican wedding cakes and important or festive gatherings.
Here are some notes before you start baking:
Creaming butter and sugar:
I pray you have the help of a mixer for this process. I like to cream my butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy because I like a less dense cake. If you want the cake to be denser and heavier, cream the butter and sugar for a little less time.
Lime zest adds a bit of freshness to the cakes that I miss if it’s not present. The acidity also balances the sweetness of the sugar, molasses and browning that gets added to the cake.
Browning is a bit devilish. Your cake may look like it isn’t dark enough but it darkens up much more as the cake cooks. Browning is also very bitter if overused. The trouble with browning is that all brands were not made equal. Grace and Benjamin’s make the best browning on the market and Benjamin’s stands above Grace a bit. Rule of thumb is, the thicker the browning, the less of it you will need. Thicker browning is more concentrated so you wont need a ton of it.
Mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice are all good options in this cake. I like to add the required amount and taste and then adjust if I need to.
Flour, Breadcrumbs or both:
To get the cake to come together, you need flour. I try not to kill this cake with flour again because I like it to not be as dense. You can split the required amount of flour and do half flour and half breadcrumbs. Adding breadcrumbs helps the crumb of the cake and I enjoy having it in there. Going with just flour is also totally okay. If you are looking for a heavier or denser cake people tend to add more flour. The best bet is to add more fruit as well! You will get a richer and denser finish that isn’t just a mouthful of flour.
You need a good amount of mixed dry fruit for this cake to have good flavor. Soaking them for weeks ahead of baking is the best way to get maximum flavor but if you are strapped for time, you can boil the fruit in wine and rum before blending. Do this at least a day ahead of baking for best results.
Jamaican Rum Cake Recipe yields 1- 9 inch cake
Prep Time: 40 minutes Cook time: 75 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups raisins
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1/2 cup maraschino cherries
- 1/2 cup mixed peel/citron
- 1 cup prunes
- 1 quart port wine
- 1 cup rum (divided use)
- 2 sticks salted butter
- 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- Zest from 1 lime
- 2 cups flour, spooned and leveled
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 3 tbsps blackstrap molasses
- 1/4 cup browning
- 1 1/2 tbsps ground nutmeg
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- In a large bowl, combine the raisins, currants, cherries, citron and prunes. Some of the fruit will naturally stick together because of the sugars. Use your hands to separate and mix the fruit together. In a blender, pulse the fruit mixture in batches using the wine as the liquid for blending. Depending on the size of your blender cup, you may need to do 2 or 3 batches. Do not completely blend the fruit until smooth. Pulsing will ensure that the fruit still has good sized pieces and is not entirely smooth.
- Transfer the blended fruit mix to a container with a lid. Add 1/2 cup of rum, cover and store in a dry and cool place. The fruit can soak for a few months so this is great to make ahead of time. If you don't have time for a long rum-soak, you can boil the fruit in the wine and rum mixture before pulsing it slightly in a blender.
- Grease a 9 inch tin with butter or cooking spray. Line the base of the tin with grease, wax or parchment paper. Set tin aside until ready.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl using a stand mixer or hand mixer until light and fluffy. This can take anywhere from 25-30 minutes on medium speed.
- To the same bowl, add eggs (one at a time), lime zest, and beat well.
- Add 2.5 cups of the soaked fruit mixture. Use a large wooden spoon to incorporate well.
- Mix in browning, molasses, 1/2 cup rum and vanilla and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add flour and spice mixture to wet ingredients in 2 amounts. Use a cut and fold method to incorporate the flour. Use the back of the spoon to break apart large lumps if they form.
- Transfer batter to a greased and lined baking tin. Bake for about 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick used to prick the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Once the cake is removed from the oven and is still hot, spray with a mixture of two tablespoons red wine and two tablespoons rum.
- Cool the cake, slice and serve.