Patricia’s Holiday Fruitcake

Every year around this time, we anxiously await the arrival of a package from my dad’s friend Fred. What we crave is a loaf of the most wonderful fruitcake, packed with dates, raisins, and glazed cherries—a raisin bread on steroids—made by Fred’s elegant and gifted wife Patricia. As soon as the loaf arrives, dad opens it up from its foil wrapping, pours brandy or bourbon on it, wraps it up again, and hides it from the rest of us until Christmas day. He has to hide it or we would be tortured everyday by wanting to eat it and not being allowed to.

I’ve never understood some people’s aversion to fruitcake. Maybe it’s a bit like opera, or anchovies, things for which you need to develop an appreciation. Too bad, really, because this fruitcake is terrific, and it would be a shame not to make it just because one had a fruitcake prejudice.

After several years of my begging dad to see if Patricia would be willing to share her recipe, my father finally got the nerve to ask, and she happily offered to it to us. (Thank you Patricia!) To give you an idea of its appeal here, this loaf I baked lasted a day an a half between 3 people. The minute my dad finished the last crumb he made plans to make another loaf the next day.

Patricia's Holiday Fruitcake

  • Prep: 15 minutes
  • Cook: 2 hours
  • Yield: Makes one loaf

Best to slice this fruitcake with a knife with a serrated edge, such as a bread knife.


  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped glazed cherries (can sub dried sweetened cranberries)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (divided into 1/4 cup and 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • Grated rind of one orange
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 1 to 2 ounces Brandy (optional)


1 Preheat oven to 325°F. In a small bowl, mix together the baking soda and sour cream; set aside.

2 Combine the dates, raisins, cherries, and nuts with 1/4 cup of the flour and toss to coat the fruit and nuts. Set aside.

3 Cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the egg, then the orange rind, then the sour cream/baking soda mix. Add the flour and the salt and mix together. Combine fruit/nut mixture with creamed ingredients and mix well to distribute the fruit and nuts evenly.

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4 Pour batter into a prepared 5x9-inch loaf pan (see note) and bake at 325°F for one and a half to two hours or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Place a pan of water in the oven when the cake goes in. Water may need to be replenished during baking.

5 Wrap tightly with aluminum foil and plastic wrap to store. If you want, you can sprinkle on a few ounces of brandy or bourbon, especially if you would like to store the fruit cake for a while.

Note: Line the loaf pan with greased parchment paper or brown baking paper, cut to fit the pan. Place one piece to run the length of the pan and stand up above the rim about an inch. Place the other piece or pieces to cover the other sides. When the cake comes out of the oven, you can easily remove it by holding the sides of the paper and lifting the cake out of the pan. Once the cake has cooled completely, you can pull off the paper.


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Patricia's Holiday Fruitcake

Main Ingredients