“Jamaican” Christmas Cake

2 3/4 cups Thompson raisins
1 3/4 cups currants
1 cup candied peel
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped prunes
1/3 cup halved candied cherries
2 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. each vanilla and almond extract
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch each ginger, allspice and cloves
1 cup rum
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. each baking powder and salt
1/2 cup port

One day ahead, in microwaveable bowl, combine raisins, currant, peel, walnuts, prunes and cherries. Add 2/3 cup of the brown sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves. Stir in 1/2 cup of the rum. Cover and microwave at High for 10 minutes, stirring twice; let stand overnight. (OR instead of cooking, let stand in cool, dry place stirring occasionally, for 3 weeks.)

Grease two 9- x 5-inch loaf pans; line with double thickness of waxed paper. Grease paper.

In large pan, bring fruit mixture and 1/2 cup water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Meanwhile, in saucepan, bring granulated sugar and 2 tbsp. water to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium and boil for 6 minutes or until thickened, brushing down pan with water to prevent crystals from forming. Pour over fruit mixture, stirring to coat; LET COOL.

In bowl, beat butter with remaining brown sugar; beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add fruit mixture, blending well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; fold into fruit mixture. Scrape into pans.

Bake in 275F oven for 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 hours or until sides come away from pans and tester inserted in centres comes out slightly gooey. Puncture each cake several times with skewer. Mix remaining rum with port; pour over cakes. Let cool in pans. Cover with foil; let stand for 3 days. (Cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap aand stored at room temperature or in refrigerator for up to 1 month.)

Makes 2 cakes.

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