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Celebrating the beginning of 2017 with fruitcake…and not just any fruitcake. This is Jamaican fruitcake, baked in according to tradition manner that includes five pounds of fruit, a pound of flour, a pound of butter – and, of course, Carribean style browning. The cake then has to be soaked in rum and aged for a long time, to give it the proper flavor and make it strong enough to ensure you won't be driving your care for a while after eating it. Fruitcake may have originated in Europe, but in Jamaica fruitcake has become an important part of any celebration, especially at weddings and at Christmas. It's said that if you don't serve one of these cakes at a wedding, that marriage is doomed from the start. So, be sure to celebrate your next big gathering with fruitcake.
Chop up the fruit, and mix it all together in a large metal or glass bowl. Don't use a plastic bowl, as the alcohol can react with the plastic. Pour enough wine into the bowl to cover the fruit. Add 1/2 cup of spiced rum to the wine for additional flavor. Cover the bowl (plastic wrap is okay to cover a glass or metal bowl), and place it in the refrigerator to macerate. The fruit can soak for as little as 24 hours, or as long as several months. Some families have huge glass containers with lids, especially for soaking their fruits for a year or more.
Preparing the browning sauce:
Melt brown sugar in saucepan over low to medium heat, stirring constantly until melted. Nothing will appear to happen as you stir the sugar for ten to fifteen minutes, but then the sugar will begin to melt. The sugar will burn, which is why this is called burnt sugar syrup.
When the melted sugar is bubbling and completely liquefied, add water, a little bit at a time. The syrup will expand rapidly for a few seconds when the water is added. Stir to bring it down and remove bubbles, then add more water. Repeat until all the water is mixed into the sugar.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix dry ingredients together: flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger.
Mix wet ingredients together: Butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mix together. Add fruit and mix it all together. Add the browning sauce and mix everything together into a batter. Finally, mix in almonds.
Coat two 10-inch cast iron skillets with shortening. Add batter to the pans. Place maraschino cherries (whole or cut in half) on top of the batter in your own design or pattern.
Bake at 300 degrees F for 100 minutes (1 hour 40 minutes). Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes before releasing. Run a thin blade or frosting spreader around the edge of the pan. Place a plate (plastic or wooden) upside down on top of the pan, and flip the entire pan over onto the plate to release the cake.
Fruitcake’s flavor improves with age. To ripen the cakes, soak cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel with spiced rum or brandy. Wrap the cakes tightly. Then, wrap again with aluminum foil, and place in a plastic zip-top bag or plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for a month at least, up to three months. You may also age it for 2 weeks in the refrigerator and then freeze it, still wrapped, for a year or more.