Best Fruitcake

November 27, 2016
9 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 3 hours
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • Makes two 8-inch fruitcakes or 12 mini-Bundt ones
Author Notes

Inspired by a "Simmer & Stir Christmas Cake" on BBC Good Food, I finally, as an adult, have baked a fruitcake! I grew up eating fruitcakes—I didn't ever think I could make one but all that's changed. I've made them many times since I discovered this recipe, which I’ve changed in a few ways: I use more liquid, I make a paste of part of my soaked fruit mixture to infuse the cake with more fruit flavor; sometimes, I use brown butter (talk about adding layers of nut and caramel flavor); I vary the nuts in the recipe beyond the recommended macadamias; and I finish off my studding the top with dried fruits and whole nuts, like a crown. The end result is rich, dense fruitcake, a gift of Christmases past and to come.

Don’t want any alcohol? Use tea, hibiscus infusion (zobo in Nigeria), ginger beer (the carbonated sort), malt drink etc. Use the same amount of liquid as in the recipe. With non-alcoholic liquids, I advise an overnight soak, not longer.

Allergic to eggs? Use chia seeds instead. Chia seeds gelatinize when soaked in water and lend a similar strength and binding power to some mixes. Combine 1 tablespoon of seeds soaked in 1/3 cup water for every egg.

Note: If you can't find "mixed spice," you can make your own: —Kitchen Butterfly

What You'll Need
  • 150 milliliters brandy or other liquor
  • 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice (see note, above)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 500 grams (or 2 and 1/2 cups) luxury dried fruit
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) candied citrus mixed peel
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) glacé cherries
  • 75 grams (1/3 cup) dried apricots, chopped
  • 75 grams (1/3 cup) dried figs, chopped
  • 200 grams (1 packed cup) soft, dark brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 175 grams (3/4 cup) cold (brown/ beurre noisette) unsalted butter
  • 100 grams (2/3 cup) blanched almonds, macadamias, or pecans
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100 grams (3/4 packed cup) ground almonds
  • 200 grams (1 and 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons chocolate chips
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped (this will lend a gingerbread taste to the finished cake)
  • Extra brandy for soaking cheesecloth to wrap the cake, and for feeding the cake later
  • Extra dried fruit and nuts to decorate: whole blanched almonds, apricots, figs, cherries
  1. Make Fruit Paste: Combine the brandy or liquor, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and spices in a jar. Stir well; add the dried mixed fruit and mixed peel and leave to soak for a minimum of two hours and up to six weeks, covered and in a cold, dark place. When ready, divide the soaked fruit into two equal portions. In a food processor or blender, blitz one portion (reserving the liquid until the end) till the fruit is minced and the texture is a thick fruit paste, like mincemeat. This fruit puree is sticky and gooey and infuses the cake with true fruit flavor.
  2. "Simmer & Stir" Cake Mixture: In a large pot, combine the fruit paste, the other half of the soaked dried fruit and any remaining liquid, cherries, apricots, figs, sugar, butter, and zests and juice of the orange and lemon. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until the butter has melted, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat, then simmer and stir for another 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for about half an hour. Pre-heat the oven to 150C/Gas 2/Fan 130C (265°F) and line two 8-inch cake tins with greaseproof or parchment paper, greasing before and after laying the paper at the bottom of the tins.
  3. Toast the whole nuts (blanched almonds, macadamias, or pecans) in a dry frying pan, tossing or stirring till brown. You could also roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes but you'll need to watch them as they burn easily. Once cool, roughly chop. When the mixture has cooled down, add the eggs, nuts and ground almonds. Mix well with a wooden spoon—a hand mixer will aerate the mixture, and leave it light coloured instead of the deep, dark color we seek.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder into the pan. Combine gently until there are no traces of flour left. Fold in the chocolate chips and the candied ginger, if using. Finally, spoon the mixture into the prepared tins.
  5. Bake Fruitcakes: Place the tins in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, then turn the heat down to 140C/Gas 1/Fan 120 deg C (285°F) and bake for another 1 hour or longer, till the cake is dark golden in appearance and firm to the touch. If the top darkens too much, cover the top of the cake with foil and let bake till ready. To check if the cake is done, insert a toothpick or a small knife into the center—if it comes out dry, without wet cake batter clinging to it, it is baked through.
  6. "Cure" & Store Fruitcakes: For those using brandy/other liquor, make holes all over the warm cake with a fine skewer and spoon or brush on the extra liquid over the holes until the cakes have absorbed it. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. When it's cool, remove from tin, peel off the lining paper, then wrap, first in baking parchment or greaseproof paper and then in aluminium foil for almost immediate consumption.
  7. When I want to keep longer, I wrap my cake in cheesecloth which I've completely soaked in brandy. Then I wrap in baking parchment or greaseproof paper and then in aluminium foil. I then store in an airtight container at room temperature; in the fridge, where it stays dry and crumbly; or in the deep freezer where it takes on moistness and a Christmas pudding texture—the choice, my friend is yours.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • jpriddy
  • Kitchen Butterfly
    Kitchen Butterfly
  • Smaug
  • Kristin Schoonveld
    Kristin Schoonveld
I love food and I'm interested in making space for little-heard voices, as well as celebrating Nigerian cuisine in its entirety.

15 Reviews

Kristin S. December 7, 2023
My fruitcakes are in the oven as I write this and they look and smell heavenly. I want to alert readers and the author to one small, but significant typo in the directions. The initial 45 minute baking temp reads 150 c/265 f. It should be 305 F.
lizziemom November 29, 2022
Before I make this I want to know what 2 1/2 C "luxury dried fruit" means. Is this in addition to the candied citrus, cherries, apricots and figs? Thank you.
Rebecca November 29, 2022
I'm making a guess - there's junky dried fruit, cheapy stuff with day-glo food coloring, and then there's the better stuff, made with care, without food coloring and artificial flavors. I'd call them luxury too because they're quite 'spensive.
Kitchen B. December 22, 2022
Thank you
Kitchen B. December 22, 2022
The Luxury dried fruit refers to a mix that typically has currants, raisins, and sultanas. Some have candied citrus and cherries but really small proportions. This is separate from the other listed ingredients. I hope this helps.
Nicholas November 29, 2022
As I write this, I have two fruitcakes reposing in parchment paper, plastic wraps, and tins. Both were made in early October using Fiona Cairn's, Royal Wedding Fruit Cake recipe, published following William & Kate's wedding, for which she supplied the wedding cake. I have made these annually since the wedding, and they are pretty spectacular. No day at the beach either -- they have their demands. All of this said, I question whether this cake written up here is worth the bother. Seriously. The ingredients are tempting and appropriate, but the technique leaves me cold. Just sayin'.
Kitchen B. December 22, 2022
:) - you'll have to try it to figure out for yourself, I guess. I've been making this for 10 years, and I haven't looked back.

What about the technique leaves you cold?

It's similar to many dump all cake recipes, many of which have fantastic outcomes. Enjoy, whatever choice you make.
jpriddy November 29, 2022
When I married in 1974 I served fruitcake at my wedding. Until WW1, that was typical. Rationing replaced the traditional fruitcake with the "bride's cake" and in my childhood at even at the time of my wedding, tiny chunks of fruitcake were wrap and sent home as "groom's cake" not to be eaten, but to put under your pillow and dream.

My 1915 original Boston School of Cooking Cookbook has two wedding cake recipes. BOTH are fruit cake. I used a traditional wedding cake recipe in my New Fanny Farmer Cook Book. In those days it was still possible for me to go to the Pikeplace Market in Seattle and purchase candied fruit as half-peels of oranges, lemons, and citron, and also several kinds of raisin and real currants. I aged the fruit for a few weeks and then aged the cakes themselves even longer wrapped in cheesecloth, regularly brushing them with brandy.
Ehac1980 November 29, 2022
This sounds like a great cake, but with the number of typos in the description, I am dubious about the content of the recipe.
Kitchen B. December 22, 2022
Thanks but what typos?
Smaug January 10, 2023
I detect no typos- the author is Nigerian educated in England, and her syntax is a bit different from what you'd expect from Kansas.
elizabeth C. December 27, 2017
I also love fruitcake, mostly because it reminds me of my grandmother, but also because its warm, scented goodness fills my house with memories and love. Most Americans have missed out on this Christmas treasure and turn up their noses thinking of the Johnny Carson joke of there only being one fruitcake in the world that makes rounds to everyone. I call this "my nan's boiled cake" when I present it to friends and smile as they savor every bite.
Kitchen B. June 21, 2020
Happy to meet you, fruitcake friend :). That warm, scented goodness and the memories - that's amazing
Rebecca March 9, 2017
Cups, please! I'll never be ready for grams.
Kitchen B. April 7, 2017
I'll update this weekend!