Friday, December 16, 2005

The Jamaican Culture - Jamaican Christmas Cake

Recipe for The Jamaican Christmas Cake

My dear wife has kindly consented to share a Christmas Cake recipe with you. This recipe is also used when making a Jamaican wedding cake. Enjoy!

The following recipe will make two 9" round cakes:


2 lbs. Raisins
1/2 lb. Prunes
1/2 lb. Dates
1 lb. Mixed Fruit
Red Wine to soak fruits
6 tablespoons Jamaican white rum

1/2 lb. Cherries - DO NOT SOAK with fruits named above. The unsoaked cherries will remain red and attractive to look at in the cake after baking. Add to mixture after soaked fruits have been added.

With the exception of 1/2 lb raisins, grind all fruits and soak in wine and white rum. Add the 1/2 lb. raisins that was not ground.

It is best to have your fruits soaking well in advance. Some Jamaicans will have this fruit mixture soaking sometimes, even for 1 year! But if you need it quickly, you can still get a nice cake the same day that it is soaked!

Chop up 1/2 lb. cherries but do not add to the fruit mixture. Add these cherries at time of baking.

N.B. My wife does not like using currants since sometimes there are seeds in them.

1 lb. Butter
3/4 lb. dark Sugar
10 Eggs
1 teaspoon Almond Essence
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon Rose Water (Optional)
1 lb. Flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 tablespoons Mixed Spice (NOT Allspice!)
2 tablespoons Cinnamon
Browning (Optional)


Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Line the sides and bottom of two 9" baking pans with a double layer of greaseproof paper and set aside.

  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

  • Add eggs 2 at the time creaming after each addition. After adding the eggs, you will have to move the butter, sugar and egg mixture to a larger bowl and prepare to manually do the balance of the recipe by hand.

  • Add vanilla and almond essence to the butter and sugar mixture.

  • If you use browning, pour a very small amount in mixture and stir. Note: Be very careful with browning! It makes your cake too dark!

  • Add baking powder, mixed spice and cinnamon to the flour.

  • Pour butter and egg mixture in a larger bowl.

  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture by folding it in.

  • Continuously add flour mixture to butter mixture.

  • Add soaked fruits to flour/egg mixture and thoroughly fold it in.

  • Add cut-up cherries to mixture. Leave a few cherries for decorating top of cake.

  • Pour mixture in the 2 lined 9" baking pans.

  • Bake in pre-heated oven until done. Use a knife to test for doneness, etc. The knife should come out clean.

  • Stick cakes all over with a toothpick. Sprinkle sherry over hot baked cakes.

  • Enjoy!
N.B. My wife does not use browning in her cakes, she depends on the very dark sugar, the spices and the red wine to give her the brown color.

The Jamaican Culture - A Jamaican Christmas

Christmas in Jamaica

I will always remember Christmas in Jamaica as a child. It was absolutely the happiest time of my life! I would be on holidays from school and, on several occasions, my parents would take me to Mandeville (the Capital of the Parish of Manchester) to do Christmas shopping.

Although I lived in St. Elizabeth, we did not do any shopping in Black River, which is the Capital of St. Elizabeth. This was because, in those days, Black River was a 'dead' town and Mandeville was much nearer to where we lived.

Because I was an 'only' child, I was kind of 'spoilt' by my parents and my Aunty Carol who lived with us. So, at Christmastime, I got much more toys and clothing than the average child would receive. My parents and Aunty Carol would buy me all kinds of 'goodies' for Christmas.

In those days, it was part of the Jamaican Culture for Jamaicans to wear 'Christmas hats' which were made from crepe paper and cartridge paper. These hats were in various shapes and sizes and were well decorated. The hats would each be adorned with the title of various popular songs and some of them would also have various phrases placed on them.

We would blow horns, light 'star light', fireworks, 'fire crackers' and 'thunder bolt'. The lighting of these items could be dangerous since they could cause fires.

The dogs certainly did not like Christmas since the noise from the fireworks, fire crackers and thunderbolt always frightened them! Jamaicans did not keep dogs in their houses but, during this time, like it or not dogs would try to find some way to get into the house. I use to be very sorry for these dogs!

The Jamaican stores would be filled with various items for Christmas and they would be well decorated.

The Jamaican sidewalks would be filled with people selling various Christmas items. This is normally illegal in Jamaica to be selling on the streets, but during Christmastime, people were allowed to sell on the sidewalks.

The Jamaican radio station (RJR and JBC) would be playing Christmas music and counting down to Christmas.

Our Christmas tree was always a real tree and this was decorated from the first week of Christmas. I always loved the smell!

Christmas Eve
In Jamaica, this day is also known as 'Grand Market' day. Parents would take their children shopping. This was an extremely special day for me. My parents and Aunty Carol would go to Mandeville to do some final Christmas shopping.

Giving at Christmas
My parents were always giving to the poor and Christmastime was very special! They always gave food and money to the poor in our community.

John Canoe
In Jamaica, Christmas was indeed very special for me. There was John Canoe - this is a band of people who dressed up in a variety of costumes and came out on the streets and danced. People would give them money for their performance. Some children were afraid of them but it was really a lot of fun!

Church on Christmas morning
Going to church on Christmas morning was a happy event for me. Christmas Carols would be sung and, after the service, some of the people from the church would visit homes and sing Christmas Carols.

Christmas Food
Yum! Yum! Yum! Jamaican food is certainly extremely delicious! Leading up to Christmas day, Jamaicans did a lot of preparation of food for Christmas. The following items were generally prepared ahead of Christmas day:

  • Christmas cake - This is certainly a part of the Jamaican Culture! It was made with various dried fruits soaked in wine and Jamaican white rum. You can see my wife's recipe in my next post. My wife is an excellent baker and she also decorates cakes. She has been baking and decorating for years. She now says that she has retired from baking!

  • Sorrel - This is a fruit that turns red at Christmas and is made into a drink. This fruit was grown by a lot of Jamaicans. Most Jamaicans love this drink. The sorrel leaves are picked from the pod, they are put in a large container, along with ginger and boiling water is poured on them. The mixture is then left to steep for about 2 days.

    The sorrel drink is then strained and sweetened with dark sugar. Cinnamon, red wine and some Jamaican rum are then added. This drink takes quite a bit of sugar to become sweetened.

  • Baked Ham – This is a staple on the Jamaican table at Christmas time. We use to cure our own pork leg at Christmastime. After the curing period was complete, the ham was boiled then put in the freezer until the day before Christmas. It was then taken out and baked at 350 degrees F. A meat thermometer was placed in the meatiest of the ham and it was allowed to bake until ‘Cured Pork’ was reached on the thermometer.

    We always used a thermometer when baking our ham since we wanted to ensure that it was properly cooked. After cooking the ham, the skin was taken off and the fat was 'cored' in squares. Pineapple juice and sugar were boiled (together) to make a glaze. This glaze was poured over the ham and it was returned to the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. It was then decorated with pineapple slices, cherries and cloves.

    NOTE: The skin of the pork was not thrown out, it was used as an added in the Jamaican Rice and Peas dish!

P.S..... Look out for my wife's Jamaican Christmas cake recipe in my next post!

'Til next time!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Jamaican Culture - I am a Jamaican

There are some people who seem to believe that I am not a Jamaican. Let me state the following:
  • I am a Jamaican - I was born in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, W.I.
  • My late Grandparents and Parents were Jamaicans.
  • My Parents were both Teachers in Jamaica.
  • I attended school in Jamaica; including high school (Munro College) and college (The College of Arts, Science and Technology - CAST).
  • My wife is a Jamaican. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica, W.I.
  • I met my wife at college (CAST).
I am as Jamaican as one can be!

The Jamaican Culture is part of my heritage.

As Jamaicans would say: "Mi bawn a JA - Mi a Jamaican!"

Translated - this means: "I was born in Jamaica - I am a Jamaican!"

...."Til next time!"

Spur Tree Hill, Jamaica, W.I. - This is one of the main highways connecting the capital city (Kingston) to Negril (the main tourist attraction town).

The view from this hill is breathtaking!

This is a very steep and winding road which should be traversed with extreme caution.