Jamaican fruitcake, or “black cake,” is a dense, fragrant version of a traditional fruitcake, made with spices and rum-soaked fruit. This relative of British plum pudding has a deep colour that comes from molasses and a bitter caramel sauce called browning, a staple of Caribbean kitchens used in everything from cakes to stews. You can make your own version of the sauce by caramelizing sugar.
2 1/2 cups mixed dried or candied fruit of your choice (cranberries, cherries, dates, figs, dark raisins, apricots, candied orange peel)
1 1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1 1/2 cup currants
1 1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup rum
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup red wine, or grape or orange juice
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts and/or pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 300°F. In a large bowl, combine the dried fruit and rum; toss and set aside to soak. Grease a Bundt or tube pan well, or line a few loaf pans with parchment.
Place the sugar in a small saucepan or skillet set over medium-high heat and cook, swirling the pan as the sugar melts, until it turns deep golden. Remove from the heat and gently stir in 2 tbsp. water—it will splatter. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until light and creamy. Beat in the molasses and orange and lemon zest and juice.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the wine or juice in two parts. Stir in the fruits (with their juices), the caramel sauce and nuts and scrape into the prepared pan.
Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until dark golden and springy to the touch. If the cake is darkening too quickly on top, cover it loosely with foil for the last 30 to 60 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack, then invert onto a plate. Store well wrapped at room temperature. Serves 12 or more.