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The Ultimate Guide to Prepping Dried Fruits for a Jamaican Fruit Cake (the steam method)

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Are you ready to eat a delicious Jamaican fruit cake but put off by the fact that the fruits have to soak for a months? Look no further! With this easy steam method, you’ll be able to prepare your dried fruits and bake a mouth-watering fruit cake in no time.

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INTRODUCTION

Jamaican fruit cake is a holiday favorite known for its rich, moist texture and unique blend of spices. One key to making a super-moist and rich fruit cake is to prepare and hydrate the dried fruits in the right way. Dry fruits are usually soaked for weeks or even months to add that rich, boozy flavor and hydrate them. However, this can be a time-consuming and often forgotten step (no judgment here 😁).

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With this easy steam method, you can have perfectly prepped dried fruits for your fruit cake without sacrificing taste or quality. In just a few simple steps, you’ll be able to soak your fruits and get them ready for baking.

So if you’re short on time or looking for a quicker way to soak the fruits, look no further. Your search stops here! Let’s dive in.

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Why Do You Need to Soak Your Fruits?

The soaking of the fruits not only rehydrates them and makes them plump, but it also prevents the fruits from absorbing the liquid from your fruit cake and throws off the liquid ratio, resulting in a dryer cake.

The soaking also adds flavor and richness to the Jamaican fruit cake. Never skip this step.

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What Are The Best Fruits To Use?

This comes down to personal preference. Use a combination of fruits you would enjoy eating. The Jamaican people traditionally use a combination of dried raisins, candied (glace) cherries, dried current, candied mixed peel, or dried prunes (pitted). I’ve never actually used prunes, (it’s just not my thing so I leave it out) but many home cooks have stated that adding too many prunes can make your cake batter bitter. I would only add 1 cup per cake. But of course, do what works for you.

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What’s The Best Wine To Use?

Wray and Nephew Red Lable Wine (port wine) is the wine of choice among Jamaicans. It is a Jamaican-made port wine. But any port (dessert wine) will work.

Since I first started using it a few years ago, the Fairbanks Port wine has become a mainstay in my fruit cake and  Christmas sorrel cocktail. As an alternative without alcohol, you can also use cherry brandy, Sutter Red Blend Non-alcoholic Wine,  Manischewitz Concord Grape, or grape juice.

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What’s The Best Rum To Use?

The Wray and Nephew Overproof White Rum is traditionally used and preferred, however, in a pinch, you can use a dark spiced rum for flavor or try a rum substitute for an alcohol-free option.

Disclaimer I’ve never used the rum substitute so cannot honestly attest to how it would impact the taste. If you’ve done so, please share your results in the comments. That will help me and the rest of our foodie community.

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Will The Heat Reduce the Alcohol?

Yes, heat reduces the potency and volume of alcohol. For this method, the alcohol is only heated for a few minutes, but bear in mind this mixture will ultimately be baked in a cake for at least an hour. Alcohol will be added back after the cake is baked and it’s also used to keep the cake moist – so the cake will still be potent…just the way you (and me) like it. 😉

As a reference, here’s a helpful rule of thumb: After 30 minutes of cooking, alcohol content decreases by 10 percent with each successive half-hour of cooking, up to 2 hours. That means it takes 30 minutes to boil alcohol down to 35 percent and you can lower that to 25 percent with an hour of cooking. Two hours gets you down to 10 percent.

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INGREDIENTS RUNDOWN

Ingredients To Make Jamaican Stewed Dried Fruits

Dried Fruits – I used a combination of dried raisins, mixed peels and candied (glace) cherries. You can also use dried prunes (seedless) and dried currents as well. If you’re not using mixed peels to add the citrusy flavor you can include a 5-inch piece of dried orange peel or orange jest to the wine mixture. Used whatever combination of dried fruits you like, leave out the ones you don’t. You can also learn how to make your own mixed peels, candied cherries.

Port Wine – You can use any port wine of your choice. Do not use a dry or sparkling wines. Traditionally, Red Label Wine is use, but for all my Jamaican fruit cake and sorrel recipes I use Fairbanks Port. You can also use cherry brandy or grape juice if you’re looking for an alcolohol-free option. The choice is completely up to you. You must rehydrate (soak) the dried fruits before using it the cake batter – if not it will absorb the liquid from the cake batter resulting in a super dry fruit cake. Do Not Skip This Step!

Jamaican Rum – The rum used by most (if not all Jamaicans) is  Wray and Nephew White Rum. You can also use a dark spiced rum. If you want the add the rum flavor without adding alcohol, you can try a rum substitute.

Disclaimer I’ve never used the rum substitiute so cannot honestly attest how it would impact the taste. If you’ve done so, please share your results in the comments. That will help me and the rest of the foodie community.

*** The full recipe, including all ingredients, measurements, and instructions, and recipe video (coming soon) is located in the recipe card below.

Shopping List Generator

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Where To Buy The Key Ingredients

I usually pick up red-label wine, white rum, and fruits at the corner Caribbean store in NYC. The rum and wine are usually hidden behind the store counter so you’ll have to ask for them by name. I’ve seen dry fruits on the shelves at Walmart and the other neighborhood grocery chains, however, I’ve never purchased them.

I just give them the side-eye and kept it pressin’. They always look just a little bit different and weird. They look nothing like the ones I grew up seeing and watching my mom use in her cake. I guess I’m a bit of a food snob – lol.

Alternatively, you can purchase all items online as well. Check the links in the “Product Used” section below.

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RECIPE FAQS

To Blend Or Not To Blend?

Do I Have To Blend The Fruits Into A Paste?

Not at all. You will prepare this a whatever consistency you prefer. You can leave them whole, blend the mixture into a paste or enjoy them chunky. It’s your choice.

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Substitutions

Do I Have To Use Wray And Nephew Red Label Wine? 

No, that’s not your only option. It’s traditionally used in Jamaica and it’s a Jamaican wine, You can use any port wine (dessert wine), or cherry brandy. I personally love and use the Fairbanks Port. The choice is completely up to you. You can also purchase a bottle (or 2) of the Red Label wine here

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Is Wray and Nephew Overproof White Rum Required? 

No, once again, it’s traditionally used in Jamaica in all our fruit cakes. You can use spiced rum for flavor or a rum substitute. You can also purchase a bottle (or 2) of white rum here


Disclaimer I’ve never used the rum substitute so cannot honestly attest to how it would impact the taste. If you’ve done so, please share your results in the comments. That will help me and the other foodies.

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Are There Any Alcohol-Free Options?

Yes, you can use grape juice instead of wine. You may also try adding a rum substitute- mentioned above. 

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Variations

Is The Stew Method The Only Way To Prepare The Fruits?

Not at all. If time allows, you can soak the fruits whole in the wine-rum mixture and store them until ready for use. You can blend only what’s needed and keep the rest in the jar for later. You can also blend the fruits with the alcohol and store the mixture in a jar until ready to use also. 

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These 2 options do not require heat. Depending on how long you’re storing the fruits, you will need to check the liquid level periodically. The fruits will absorb some of the liquid as it rehydrates and you will also lose volume to evaporation. So in a month or two, the alcohol volume will reduce. Both occurrences are normal.

Shake or stir the container to keep the contents moist and add more liquid to cover the fruits (if needed). The fruits will plump up as it takes on the wine-rum color and flavor.

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Many moons ago when I used to soak my fruits months in advance, I would only do them in batches. I would only add more liquid to the fruits but never more fruits. If I made a fresh batch that would be in its own jar. I never combine the freshly made fruit paste with what was already soaking.

In my mind that is like combining aged wine with a newer vintage in the same barrel. You just don’t. Label the containers so you can keep track of what was made and when. I use liquid chalk markers to write the dates on the containers. It washes off easily.

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FOOD PAIRINGS

What Goes Well With The Boozy Dry Fruits?

The boozy fruit paste is not intended to be consumed on its own. It is a staple ingredient in Jamaican fruit cake.

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STORAGE

How To Store Your Soaked Fruits?

Store your wine-fruit mixture in an airtight glass container. Cover and keep in a cool dark area until ready to use. You can add a piece of cling wrap over the opening of your storage container before you close it. It will ensure the container is airtight. The mixture will not go bad or spoil as the alcohol acts as a preservative in addition to adding flavor to the fruits.

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WRAP-UP! ✌🏾

No more waiting weeks or months to soak your dried fruits for a Jamaican fruit cake. With this easy 1-day method, you’ll be able to prep your fruits and bake a delicious fruit cake in just a matter of hours. So why wait? Get started today and treat yourself to the sweet, spicy flavors of a Jamaican fruit cake.

Kraving More?

Check out my other Krave-worthy Desserts, Christmas Recipes or explore  The Recipe Index for even MORE KRAVE-WORTHY EATS.

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The Ultimate Guide to Prepping Dried Fruits for a Jamaican Fruit Cake (the steam method)

The Ultimate Guide to Prepping Dried Fruits for a Jamaican Fruit Cake (the steam method)

Recipe by Kerri-Ann Bryan
5 from 3 votes

Learn how to prepare dried or candied fruits for Jamaican fruit cake and have them ready for baking in just one day. With this easy steam method, you’ll be able to prepare your dried fruits and bake a rich and moist fruit cake in no time.

Course: DIYCuisine: JamaicanDifficulty: Easy
Servings

3

cups
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

5

minutes
Calories

2373.98

kcal
Curing Time

12

hours 
Yields

56

Ounces
Total time

12

hours 

15

minutes
Cook Mode

*keeps your device screen on

Gather Your Ingredients

Instructions
How To Simmer The Dried Fruits

  • In a medium-large pan, add all the dried fruits and wine.
  • Gently heat the wine and fruits over medium-low heat to warm them up. Bring to a simmer. (Do Not Boil)
  • Once the mixture starts to produce steam – turn off the stove.
  • Stir and remove the pot from the heat source.
  • Cover the pot and let the mixture sit overnight (12 hours). This will infuse and rehydrate the fruits.
  • How To Blend The Fruits
  • Pour all the contents from the pot into a high-speed blender or food processor.
  • Add the rum.
  • Blend the fruits and wine mixture on high for about 30 seconds into a smooth paste (or to your desired consistency. (Reduce blending time if you prefer your fruits on the chunkier side.)
  • Pour mixture into a dry clean, airtight glass container and cover.
  • Store in a cool dark area (away from the sun) until ready to use.
  • This recipe yields approximately 56 ounces. You can easily scale up the ingredients if you need to increase it. Most Jamaican fruit cake recipes call for 2-3 cups of fruit paste. You’ll have more than enough for 2 cakes.

Kerri’s Recipe Tips

  • The Wray and Nephew Overproof White Rum is traditionally used and preferred, however, in a pinch, you can use a dark spiced rum for flavor or try a rum substitute for an alcohol-free option.
  • In Jamaica, we typically use the Wray and Nephew Red Lable Wine (port wine) which is a Jamaican wine. But any port (dessert wine) will work. I started using the Fairbanks Port wine a few years ago and now it’s a staple in my fruit cake and Christmas Sorrel cocktail. You can also use cherry brandy, Manischewitz Concord Grape, or grape juice as an alcohol-free option.
  • If you’re not using mixed peels to add the citrusy flavor you can include a 5-inch piece of dried orange peel or orange jest to the wine mixture.
  • You can also learn how to make your own mixed peels and candied cherries
  • For soaking purposes, Store your boozy dry fruit mixture in an airtight glass container. Only glass jars/bowls should be used as alcohol might react with other materials.
  • You can add a piece of cling wrap over the opening of your storage container before you close it. It will ensure the container is airtight. 
  • Cover and keep the jar away from sunlight in a cool dark area until ready to use.
  • I ALWAYS recommend reading through the recipe in full a couple of times before starting. That way you know exactly what to expect and you can prep accordingly.
  • Gather all your ingredients before cooking. This way you don’t forget to add an ingredient or two. Believe me, It has happened so many times so I use “mise en place” to save my sanity and the recipe.
  • For your convenience, you can automatically generate a shopping list of all the ingredients + save the recipe (below scroll ↓).

Nutrition Label

2 servings per container


Calories2373.98

  • Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
  • Total Fat 1.41g 3%
    • Sodium 42.3mg 2%
    • Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
    • Potassium 1881.66mg 54%
    • Total Carbohydrate 386.96g 129%
      • Sugars 320.7g
    • Protein 18.41g 37%
    • Vitamin A 151.2%
    • Vitamin C 166.65%
    • Iron 3.91%
    • Phosphorus 182.1%
    • Zinc 0.71%

    * The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

    Nutritional Disclaimer

    kerriannskravings.com occasionally offers nutritional information for recipes contained on this site. This information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe. For more information read our Nutritional Disclaimer.

    How did this recipe turn out for you? Share your experience with the community in the comments!