Traditional Christmas fruitcake: do you love it or loathe it?
This loaf is a much-beloved staple for us around the holidays—and our ultimate fruitcake recipe never fails. (It was developed by former food editor, Monda Rosenberg, who helmed the test kitchen from the 1977 for three decades, and we dug out this recipe from our archives!) We’ve even converted several fruitcake-averse staffers: they all agree that this cake is moist, flavourful and delicious. If you can, try to bake it early (anytime from now to two weeks before you want to eat it—especially before the holiday cookie season revs up) and wrap it in brandy-soaked cheesecloth so the flavours can work their magic on the cake.
Kitchen note: Really love fruitcake? Try a more luxurious version of the cake, complete with weekly brandy-brushings and decadent marzipan and fondant layers.
Ultimate fruitcake recipe
Prep: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook: 30 min
Bake: 3 hours
- 1 3/4 cups whole blanched almonds, about 250 g
- 1 cup slivered blanched almonds, about 125 g
- 2 cups seeded raisins, about 450 g
- 2 cups seedless raisins, about 375 g
- 2 cups currants, about 250 g
- 2 cups cut lemon peel or mixed peel, about 500 g
- 500 g pitted dates
- 2 375-mL bottles red maraschino cherries
- 3/4 cup brandy or cognac
- 540-mL can crushed pineapple, about 2 cups
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup strawberry jam
- 1/4 cup brandy or cognac
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp each allspice and ground cloves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 454 g butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 12 eggs
How to make your fruitcake
The night before
- MEASURE almonds, raisins, currants and lemon peel into a large bowl. Thinly slice dates using a sharp knife. (They should measure about 2-1/2 cups.) Stir into almond mixture.
- DRAIN cherries, saving 1/4 cup juice, then slice thickly. Stir cherries into almond mixture along with 3/4 cup brandy. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature overnight. Stir occasionally.
- COMBINE pineapple (and its juice) and 2 cups sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low 30 min to reduce most of liquid. Stir frequently, especially near end of cooking, to prevent burning. Remove from heat. Stir in jam and 1/4 cup each maraschino-cherry juice and brandy. Cover and refrigerate.
Choose square pans that are at least 3 in. high. The finished batter measures 24 cups; this amount will fit into a set of 3 graduated wedding-cake pans (a 7-1/2-in., a 5-1/2-in. and a 4-in. pan) and an 8×4-in. loaf pan.
When baked, each cake will be 2-1/2 in. high. (You can use other pans such as loaf pans and square pans. Just make sure to leave space at top for batter to rise.) Lightly grease pans, then line with heavy brown paper or foil, dull-side out. Grease paper or foil well.
- PREHEAT oven to 275F. In a large bowl, using a fork, stir flour with spices, salt and baking soda until blended. Sprinkle 1 cup of this mixture over fruit-and-almond mixture. Toss with your hands until all fruit is lightly coated. Set aside.
- MEASURE butter and 2-1/4 cups sugar into a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Continue to beat at low speed. Gradually beat in one-third of flour mixture, followed by half of pineapple mixture. Repeat additions, ending with flour mixture.
- POUR over flour-coated fruit and almonds. Mix with your hands until fruit is evenly coated. Divide mixture between prepared pans, leaving a 1-in. space at top of each pan for batter to rise. Smooth tops.
- BAKE in centre of preheated 275F oven 3 to 3-1/2 hours, depending on sizes of pans. After cakes have baked 1 hour, lay a large sheet of heavy foil over tops of pans to prevent crusts from darkening. A small loaf takes about 2-3/4 hours; the 7-1/2-in. square cake will need about 3-1/2 hours. Cakes are done when they are fairly firm to the touch in centre and a skewer inserted in centre right to bottom of pan comes out without any batter on it. It may have a little sticky raisin or cherry attached to it.
- When cakes are done, remove from oven. Place pans on a cake rack to cool, 15 to 30 min. Run a sharp knife around edges of pans, then turn out cakes onto a rack. Carefully peel off paper and cool cakes completely.
- To store, wrap cooled fruitcakes in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, if you wish (this is not essential, as cakes are very moist). Overwrap in foil and store in the refrigerator or another cool place. Cakes keep well in the refrigerator for months.
Makes one 1-1/2 lb (5-3/4 kg) fruitcake. Nutrients per 15 g slice: 55 calories, 1 g protein, 9 g carbs, 2 g fat
Originally published November 2014; November 2020.