fruit cake

mix of fruit for blackcake
This is the mix of fruit we included in our fruitcake. Raisins, dates, prunes, maraschino cherries, and of course the wild pears that I foraged last year. You can see they are a bit discolored from the everclear, but it’s not so bad!

Now that the holidays are over, you may be sick of fruit cake. But I want to tell you about a very special fruit cake.

I didn’t realize this until now, but the making of this cake started in the fall of 2012.

Remember when I found those very interesting pears growing wild by a parking lot? The tree was very overgrown and the fruit was small. To this day I still don’t know if they were Asian pears or honey pears or some other variety.

I took the pears home. Peeled them and put them in everclear, without blanching them or any previous treatment. They preserved well. They had a great flavor and gave a nice amber color and a pleasant fruity taste to the everclear. But the pears turned dark brown. Picture a gallon-sized glass jar full of these discolored pears floating in yellow liquid, sitting on the kitchen counter. Not the most appealing sight in a food preparation area. You can imagine the kind of things my wife would say about this, but I was mostly pleased with my experiment and I refused to get rid of it just because it wasn’t pretty.

One day Laura mentioned to me how those pears would probably not be bad in a fruit cake. At first I thought this was probably another derogatory comment towards my pears. But Laura has an obsession with black cake, Jamaican fruit cake. And she has been wanting to make it for a long time.

We gathered dried and preserved fruits, my pears included, and we made black cake. Well–sort of.

burnt sugar on the stovetop
Burnt sugar. This is not nearly black enough for blackcake, but this is as far as I could make myself go! Maybe next time I’ll be able to burn it real good. Or maybe I will put my wife in charge of the sugar. 😉

Black cake calls for very dark, burned sugar. That’s what makes the cake black. And I just couldn’t do it. I started the sugar like I have many times for flans or other preparations, but in this case it has to go beyond to the dark side and it has to be very dark and bitter. I have seen this happen by mistake multiple times. Thick smoke permeates the kitchen and your innocent preparation turns into Napalm in front of your eyes. A rookie pours water on it and then it takes over your kitchen! Years of training kicked in and when the caramel was to a “safe” darkness I pulled it away from the heat. I just couldn’t burn it. It wasn’t dark enough for the Jamaican version but it made a very nice looking “regular” fruit cake.

We kept it in a can for three months, like you do, turning it periodically for the moisture to code evenly.

A few weeks ago we tried it for the first time. It was tasty! Laura was pretty pleased with the results, even if it’s not as dark as she was hoping for.

I was glad my special pears were put to good use. It was a fun project. And I don’t have to hear any more complaints about the big jar of pears on the counter.

a slice of fruitcake--our first attempt at Jamaican "black cake"
A slice of fruitcake–a classic holiday dessert, often mocked, but this one is pretty tasty. It’s our first attempt at Jamaican “black cake.” It was delicious–fruity, tender, soaked in alcohol–what’s not to like?! Happy holidays to me. 🙂

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