Addie Little of Baltimore requested help in finding a recipe for Jamaican Rum Cake. Melva Kardos of Red River, N.M., submitted a recipe from Gourmet magazine.
Jamaican Rum Cake
Makes 2 cakes (see Laura Reiley's comments)
1 pound raisins, minced
1 pound pitted prunes, minced
1 pound dried currants, minced
1 pound glace (candied) cherries, minced
6 ounces glace (candied) lemon peel, minced
6 ounces glace (candied) orange peel, minced
1 bottle (750 milliliters) Manischewitz Concord Grape wine
1 bottle (750 milliliters) dark rum
2 pounds dark brown sugar
1 cup water
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder , 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
10 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups almond paste (about 3/4 pound), if desired
FOR THE ICING:
7 cups confectioners' sugar
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
silver dragees for decorating the cake (available at specialty foods shops and many supermarkets)
In a large bowl, combine well the raisins, prunes, currants, cherries, lemon and orange peel, wine and rum and let the fruit macerate, covered, at room temperature for at least 2 weeks.
In a heavy skillet, combine 1 pound of the brown sugar and 1 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil over moderate heat, stirring and washing down any sugar crystals clinging to the side with a brush dipped in cold water until the sugar is dissolved. Boil the syrup, swirling the skillet occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it is reduced to 1 3/4 cups. Let the burnt sugar syrup cool and reserve it.
Into a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and cinnamon. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the remaining 1 pound brown sugar and the butter until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, the flour mixture and 1 1/3 cups of the reserved burnt sugar syrup, reserving the remaining syrup for another use.
In another large bowl, combine well the flour mixture and the fruit mixture and divide the batter between 2 buttered and floured 10-inch springform pans. Bake the cakes in the middle of a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour and 50 minutes to 2 hours, or until the cakes are set and a tester inserted in the centers comes out with some crumbs adhering to it. (The centers of the cakes will be quite moist.)
Let the cakes cool in the pans on a rack, remove the sides and the bottoms of the pans, and wrap the cakes in foil or waxed paper. Let the cakes stand at room temperature for 1 week.
Roll out half the almond paste between sheets of plastic wrap to form a 10-inch round and remove the top sheet of plastic wrap. Fit the almond paste layer over one cake, trimming the edge if necessary, and remove the other sheet of plastic wrap. Roll out and fit the remaining almond paste onto the remaining cake in the same manner.
To make the icing, in a bowl with an electric mixer, beat 4 cups of the confectioners' sugar, egg whites and lemon juice for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the mixture holds soft peaks. Beat in the remaining 3 cups confectioners' sugar and beat the icing until it holds stiff peaks.
Transfer 2 cups of the icing to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip. Spread the remaining icing on tops and sides of the cakes with a long metal spatula, and pipe the icing in the pastry bag decoratively onto the cakes. Arrange the dragM-ies on the cakes.
Tester Laura Reiley's comments: "This recipe is enough to feed several dozen people. It is incredibly labor-intensive, and it's worth it. Fruitcake fans may be wary, especially since this cake is truly black in color, but the flavor is so sophisticated and fabulous that it will win anyone over. It would be especially good with a hard sauce or just with a dollop of simple whipped cream. If you can't eat it all right away, don't worry. It will keep for at least 2 weeks in an airtight container.
Joy R. Dion of Northhampton, Mass., wrote: "My Italian mother baked a fabulous peach dessert, and, in my memory, I think of it as a peach pizza. The dough was similar to pizza crust with sliced peaches placed on it, sugar added and possibly other ingredients. Your help would be appreciated."
Linda Kerns of Chillicothe, Ohio, wants a recipe for "old-fashioned soda cookies. It was in a recipe book sold by Hilltop Mission Church in the '70s. There was a story about the pioneer women keeping the cookies in a barrel."
If you are looking for a recipe or can answer a request for a hard-to-find recipe, write to Ellen Hawks, Recipe Finder, The Sun. 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. If you send in more than one recipe, please put each on a separate sheet of paper with your name, address and daytime phone number. Important: Please list the ingredients in order of use, and note the number of servings each recipe makes. Please type or print contributions. Letters may be edited for clarity.