Christmas back home in the West Indies, is more than a day, it's a season. You can feel it in the air from early December. Everybody is talking about it, and holiday music is playing on the radio and in the stores. Parang music!!! Not to mention Sparrow's version of "There's no place like home for the holidays", Red Plastic Bag's "Maisie" and The Merrymen's "Santa Got a Sunburn". Friends you haven't seen in ages drop by the house saying "Compliments of the Season!" because they have to taste your ham and cake.
We’re all busy cleaning and fixing our homes up. New curtains, new furniture, even new appliances! We're mincing and soaking our fruit in wine, we're making sorrel, punch-a-creme and ginger beer; we're buying cases of soft drinks and beer; we're making sure we have wine, Harvey’s Bristol Cream and Bailey's Irish Cream.
But the must have is the black cake or fruit cake. This is not the much maligned stuff that everyone hates and passes over in the US. This is the real deal. It's even been written about in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.
It's a rich, dark, moist delicacy, made with dried fruits that have been soaking in alcohol for months. It's the one thing I must have to feel like it is Christmas. So for years I struggled to recreate it in France, but it was never quite right. It was always too pale, or too dry, or not dense enough. My friend Lucy suggested that it might be the flour, so I switched to using the pastry baker's grade (Type 45 in case you're wondering). But still not quite right. Finally it hit me that it had to be the alcohol (of course right?). I'd been using port to soak the fruits, but last year I had an epiphany and remembered that the Cake Wine we use at home was darker and more fruity.
When I told Lucas he said he knew what I needed, and broguht home Creme de Cassis which I mixed with Malaga from Spain. And thus my friends, last year, even though I only soaked the fruits for about 10 days, my cakes looked, smelled and tasted the way I remembered.
Caribbean Black Fruit Cake recipe from Chow
A Christmas Fruitcake Recipe from Gilt Taste
The links above to the New York Time and the Chicago tribune also contain recipes, and here is a great slide show showing how the cake is made from the New York Times.
Now if you'll excuse me, I really need to go get my fruits minced and soaked!
P.S What Christmas traditons do you keep going no matter where you are? Let me know in the comments below! Plus be sure to check out all the other blogs taking part in today's Blog in France Blog Hop!