Nicola Blaque's Christmas Rum Cake

U.S. Army veteran and chef Nicola Blaque brings her Jamaican holiday traditions to Texas.

Nicola's Christmas Rum Cake
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Ali Ramee; Prop Styling: Giulietta Pinna
Active Time:
25 mins
Bake Time:
55 mins
Cool Time:
2 hrs
Stand Time:
8 hrs
Total Time:
11 hrs 20 mins

Christmas meals throughout Jamaican culture may include vibrant, piquant dishes such as braised oxtails, fried sweet plantains, saltfish and ackee, and sweet potato pudding. The twinkling star on top of the Yuletide festivities? Rum cake. The classic spiked dessert hides out for hours before the merrymaking begins, soaking up rum in a secluded cabinet to safeguard it from those who'd like to take a nibble—or from that one relative who'd prefer to add an extra tipple when no one is watching.

"I remember always waking up and immediately smelling allspice and ginger in the air," says U.S. Army veteran, chef, and Texas restaurateur Nicola Blaque, who was born in Jamaica and lived there until she was five. "For us, Christmas was big, and it was all about the food. My mother would start prepping days in advance for the rum cake and sorrel." (Sorrel is a sweet, hibiscus-infused Jamaican punch customarily enjoyed during the holidays.)

Kindred to a fruitcake, Nicola's Christmas Rum Cake calls for dried fruits, citrus peels, cozy spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, and—of course—a bit of booze. The dessert and digestif tops off the savory feast and keeps the party ticking further into the night.


  • Baking spray with flour

  • 1 ¼ cups cane sugar

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 tablespoons burnt sugar (such as Blue Mountain Country) or molasses

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ½ teaspoon mixed spice (British baking spice blend) or ¼ tsp. each ground allspice and nutmeg

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup port or brandy

  • 2 cups raisins

  • ½ cup pitted dried dates 

  • ¼ cup chopped orange peel (from 1 orange)

  • ¼ cup chopped lemon peel (from 1 lemon)

  • ½ cup drained maraschino cherries (from 1 [7-oz.] jar), plus more for serving (optional)

  • ½ cup dried pitted plums

  • ½ cup light rum

  • Whipped cream, for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with baking spray; set aside. Beat cane sugar, butter, burnt sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium; beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mixed spice, and salt in a medium bowl; stir to combine. Add flour mixture and port alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating on low speed until fully blended after each addition, about 2 minutes total. Set aside.

  3. Process raisins, dates, orange peels, lemon peels, cherries, and dried plums in a food processor almost until a smooth paste forms, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides after 1 minute. Fold raisin mixture into batter; spoon into prepared springform pan.

  4. Bake in preheated oven until cake top is firm to the touch and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 55 minutes to 1 hour, 5 minutes. Transfer springform pan to a wire rack, and let cake cool completely, about 2 hours.

  5. Pour rum over cake; cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Unwrap cake, and remove sides of springform pan. Serve with whipped cream and cherries, if desired.

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