Jamaicans are not the only ones for whom fruitcakes are typically served in celebration of weddings and as The Christmas cake.
There has been a long fruitcake tradition with the earliest recipe from ancient Rome listing pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins mixed into barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added.
Fruitcakes soon proliferated all over Europe. Over time recipes varied greatly in different countries throughout the ages depending on locally available ingredients and religious practices. The use of butter and milk was forbidden during Lent by the Catholic church. The initial request to lift the ban was not granted until 1490, some five popes after the initial request. The written permission, granted by Pope Innocent VIII (1432–1492), is known as the Butterbrief.
The traditional British Christmas cake is the merger of two dishes traditionally eaten around Christmas, Plum porridge or pottage and the Twelfth Night cake. The plum porridge was first cited in 1573 and was traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve. It was also the origins of the Christmas pudding.
Other relevant discoveries during the 16th Century included the ability of high concentrations of sugar to preserve fruits. Sugar was grown in the British colonies, including Jamaica. The accessibility of sugar resulted in an excess of candied fruit, thus making fruitcakes more affordable and popular.
In this period oatmeal in the porridge was replaced by butter, flour from wheat and eggs. This mix would still have been boiled and it was not until richer families had ovens in the home, that the mix was baked.
With the slow decline in popularity of the Twelfth Night and the gradual increase in Christmas festivities in the 1830’s, the cake was eaten on or around Christmas Day. With this shift the bakers of the Victorian era started to decorate the cakes with winter snow scenes. They became very popular at Christmas parties and by the 1870’s the modern Christmas cake had developed.
The alcohol and sugar act as preservatives as well as providing extra maturing time which gives the spices a chance to meld and fully flavour the cake.
A Jamaican Christmas celebration is not complete without the traditional Jamaican Christmas cake. It has been a favoured gift amongst Jamaicans during the Christmas season. This fruitcake is a labour of love and rich in flavours with lashings of sherry and Jamaican rum. No other preservatives or artificial colourings are used in our Jamaican Products Christmas cake. Jamaican rum is an appropriate spirit, as rum is a Jamaican originated word. Read more on the story of rum at: https://www.jamaicanproducts.com.au/2018/05/30/rum-a-jamaican-originated-word/
This year be part of the grand Christmas cake tradition, which began as a simple meaty porridge cooked over a fire, with just a bit of sweetness to make the day special. When you bite into your fruitcake this Christmas, savour its history as you enjoy its sweet, rich taste.
If cake-making isn’t your thing or you’ve run out of time this Christmas, you can still enjoy some homestyle goodness with our Jamaican Christmas cake.