Best Holiday Fruitcake

This easy fruitcake is perfect for the holidays. It's light, tender, and full of dried fruits and nuts. Sprinkle the loaf with brandy, or leave it out. Either way, this fruitcake is a welcome addition to the holiday table.

Christmas fruit cake sliced and on a platter
Elise Bauer

Are you a fruitcake lover? Though this traditional holiday cake is often maligned (I guess some people don't like candied fruit?), it's wonderful when well prepared.

This fruitcake is our family's favorite, packed with dates, walnuts, raisins, and glazed cherries. Think raisin bread on steroids. The recipe comes from the wife of a family friend, Patricia, who for years sent us a loaf every Christmas.

We usually have to make at least two loaves—one to eat right away, because we just can't wait, and the other to sprinkle with brandy and save for Christmas day. These loaves also make terrific gifts.

Video: How to Make Holiday Fruitcake

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Best Holiday Fruitcake

How to Make Fruitcake

Fruitcake is really just like any other quick bread or loaf cake, only with a lot more fruit and nuts added. You make a simple cake batter, stir in the fruits and nuts, and bake until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

The resulting cake is dense and looks like a beautiful mosaic when sliced, with fruits and nuts in every bite.

You can sprinkle the cake with liquor (we like brandy), or leave it alcohol-free. The liquor will make the fruitcake more moist, and will help it last longer.

Tips for the Best Fruit Cake

  • Toss the fruits and nuts in flour before mixing them into the batter. This will help keep them evenly distributed throughout the cake during baking.
  • Place a pan of water in the oven alongside the fruitcake. This makes for more even, gentle cooking.
  • It's best to slice this fruitcake with a serrated knife, such as a bread knife.
Best fruit cake on a serving platter
Elise Bauer

How Long Does Fruitcake Last?

Fruitcake lasts longer than most other cakes because it is filled with nuts and candied fruit. It will last even longer if you sprinkle it with a spirit like brandy. Just keep it tightly wrapped.

  • Without brandy, the cake will last tightly wrapped a week or more.
  • With brandy, the cake can last a month or more.

How to Store and Freeze Fruitcake

Cool the fruitcake completely, poke a few holes in the top of the cake and sprinkle it with brandy, if desired. Wrap the loaf tightly with aluminum foil, and store it on the counter.

To freeze, wrap the loaf in plastic and then in aluminum foil. Then, freeze for up to 3 months.

Fruit Cake Variations Suggested by Readers

  • Add more sour cream for a moister cake.
  • Includes some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger.
  • Use almonds or leave out the nuts completely.
  • Use dark brown sugar for a darker finish.
  • Add whiskey instead of brandy.
  • Soak the dry fruits in rum or brandy overnight.

How to Cure Fruitcake With Alcohol

You can age your fruitcake using alcohol as a preservative for about 1 to 3 months. Take about a yard of cheesecloth and soak it in brandy, whisky, bourbon, rum or some other liquor. Then wrap it around your cooked (completely cooled) fruitcake before wrapping it in plastic. Re-soak the cheesecloth about once a month for 6 weeks to 3 months (however long you'd like to age your fruitcake).

Alternately, brush your fruitcake with the liquor of your choice before wrapping it tightly in plastic film. Brush it with more alcohol every few days for the first 2 months of aging.

Store in a cool dry place while curing the fruitcake. Once it's been aged properly, you can eat it right away or refrigerate it for months, even years. When properly cured, the alcohol prevents bacteria from growing.

Aged fruitcake can be frozen, but it oddly lasts longer in the refrigerator once cured.

More Festive Holiday Treats

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Best Holiday Fruitcake

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Servings 12 to 16 servings
Yield 1 loaf

It's best to slice this fruitcake with a serrated knife, such as a bread knife.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 cup (236ml) full fat sour cream

  • 1 cup (130g) chopped dates

  • 2 cups (280g) raisins

  • 1/2 cup (75g) chopped glazed cherries (can sub dried sweetened cranberries)

  • 1 cup (100g) chopped walnuts

  • 2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour, divided

  • 8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar

  • 1 large egg

  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60ml) brandy, optional

Method

  1. Preheat the oven and prepare the pan:

    Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with greased parchment or brown baking paper. Cut the paper 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.

    Line the fruit cake loaf pan with parchment
    Elise Bauer
  2. Combine the sour cream and baking soda:

    In a small bowl, mix together the baking soda and sour cream. Set aside.

    Mix together the sour cream and the baking soda for the fruit cake recipe
    Elise Bauer
  3. Toss the fruits and nuts with flour:

    Combine the dates, raisins, cherries, and nuts with 1/4 cup (30g) of the flour. Toss to coat the fruit and nuts completely in flour. Set aside.

    Toss the dried fruits for the fruitcake with a little flour
    Elise Bauer
  4. Make the fruitcake batter:

    Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the egg, then the orange rind, then the sour cream/baking soda mix.

    Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups (230g) flour and the salt and mix together. Pour the fruit and nut mixture into the batter and mix well to distribute the fruit and nuts evenly.

    Beat together the butter, sugar, egg, and orange rind for the fruitcake recipe
    Elise Bauer
    Add the sour cream/baking soda mixture to the egg mixture for the fruitcake recipe
    Elise Bauer
    Add the flour to the fruitcake batter and gently mix
    Elise Bauer
    Stir the dried fruits into the batter for the fruitcake recipe
    Elise Bauer
  5. Bake the fruitcake:

    Scoop the batter into a prepared 5 x 9-inch loaf pan, and press down to even the surface.

    Place the pan into the preheated oven. Place a separate pan of water in the oven either on a rack underneath the fruitcake or beside it. (The water make for a more even, gentler cooking.)

    Bake at 325°F (160°C) for approximately 1 1/2 hours to 1 3/4 hours, or until the internal temperature is between 205°F and 209°F, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. The water may need to be replenished during baking, if it evaporates.

    If the top of the fruitcake is getting too browned as it bakes, tent it with some foil.

    Transfer the fruitcake batter to a baking pan
    Elise Bauer
    Bake the fruitcake with another pan of water alongside
    Elise Bauer
  6. Cool on a rack, then, sprinkle with brandy:

    Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then, using the edges of the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan, move to a rack to cool completely.

    Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and then aluminum to store.

    If you want, poke a few holes over the top of the cake and sprinkle on a few ounces of brandy or bourbon. This will make the fruitcake more moist and will help it last longer.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
320 Calories
13g Fat
50g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 16
Amount per serving
Calories 320
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g 17%
Saturated Fat 5g 27%
Cholesterol 35mg 12%
Sodium 223mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 50g 18%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Total Sugars 32g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 38mg 3%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 255mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.