Fruitcake: More than just a punchline, the dessert can be a holiday heavy hitter

A homemade cake can be anything but funny

Fruitcake is usually the butt of holiday jokes, but that doesn't mean it's flavor is anything to laugh at.

Fruitcake is usually the butt of holiday jokes, but that doesn't mean it's flavor is anything to laugh at.


The Associated Press

This chocolate fruitcake comes from a recipe created by Marie Rudisill, author of "Fruitcake" and aunt to famed Southern writer Truman Capote.

Much of the holiday cheer surrounding fruitcake is usually in the form of jokes about the cake’s dense texture and penchant for being an unwanted present.

But homemade fruitcake can be a serious matter — of taste.

Home baked versions can be classic (dense and green-cherry filled) to decadent (fruitcake made with coconut milk) to decidedly nontraditional (fruitcake made with trail mix?). But more than that, they don’t have to be the brick-like fodder for merry holiday joking. They can just be what they are — a highly misunderstood seasonal specialty.

Take a stab at one of these recipes and you may never joke about fruit cake again.

Orange-Cranberry-Nut Fruit Cake


2 cups dried cranberries or orange-flavored dried cranberries

2 cups dried fruit blend or dried apricots, chopped

1/2 cup water, cranberry juice, or brandy

1 3/4 cups candied red cherries


1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon orange oil or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, optional

4 large eggs

3 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 cup orange juice

2 cups diced pecans or walnuts, optional

Optional glaze

1/3 cup orange juice

1/3 cup sugar

To prepare the fruit: Combine the dried fruit (except the candied cherries) with liquid in a bowl. Cover and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, stir, then set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease the pans of your choice: two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 loaf pans; or five 7-inch wooden bakers; or six 7-paper bake & give pans; or one 12-cup bundt-style pan; or two 6-cup bundt-style pans.

To prepare the cake: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, baking powder, salt and flavors.

Beat in the eggs one at time.

Stir in the flour alternately with the orange juice.

Add the undrained fruit, the candied cherries, and the nuts.

Spoon the batter into the lightly greased baking pans, filling them about three-quarters full. If you have a scale, dividing the batter evenly among the pans is simple math. If you've included the nuts, the batter weighs about 90 ounces (2552 grams).

Bake the cakes for 50 to 80 minutes; smaller pans will bake for the shorter length of time. Full- or half-size bundt-style cakes will bake the full 80 minutes. When done, the cakes will be a light golden brown all over, and a cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean.

If you’re planning on using the glaze, stir together the orange juice and sugar while the cakes are baking. Set aside to rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally to help dissolve the sugar.

Remove the cakes from the oven. If you’re removing them from the pan(s), wait about 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a rack. If you're using the glaze, brush the warm cakes all over with the glaze, continuing to brush until you've used it all. If you choose not to use the glaze, you may wish to brush the warm cake(s) with brandy or the liquor of your choice.

When completely cooled, wrap well and let rest at least 24 hours (or for up to a month, brushing with liquor or flavored syrup weekly), before serving.

Yield: 1 large bundt-style cake; 2 small bundt-style cakes; 2 standard loaves, or 5 to 6 smaller gift loaves.

— Recipe from

Chocolate Fruit Cake

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

Three 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate, melted

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons milk

3 cups mixed chopped candied fruits and peels

1 cup raisins

1 cup broken walnuts

2 teaspoons butter

Cocoa powder, to coat the pan

Heat the oven to 275 degrees.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the shortening and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between. Stir in the chocolate.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the egg-sugar mixture in batches, alternating with the milk. Mix well. Stir in the candied fruit, raisins and walnuts.

Use the butter to coat a 10-inch tube pan. Dust the pan with cocoa powder, tapping the pan to remove any excess. Spread the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted at the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan.

— Recipe from Marie Rudisill’s “Fruitcake,” and courtesy The Associated Press.

Taste of the Tropics Fruit Cake

Rum-soaked pineapple

3 cups finely diced dried pineapple

3/4 cup rum, apple juice, or water


1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 cup apricot jam or orange marmalade

1 ripe medium banana, peeled and mashed; about 1/2 cup

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon coconut flavor, optional

5 large eggs

3/4 cup coconut milk powder

3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

2 cups sweetened coconut, toasted in a 300-degree oven for about 13 to 15 minutes, till light golden brown

2 cups pecan halves

22 to 30 candied red cherries, for garnish

Glaze (optional)

1 cup sugar syrup or simple syrup

2 to 4 tablespoons rum, brandy, or liqueur, optional

The night before, combine the pineapple and rum in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap, and heat till the liquid starts to form tiny bubbles, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the microwave, and let rest overnight, covered.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease the loaf pans of your choice: two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pans or five 7-inch wooden bakers or six 7-inch paper bake & give pans.

To prepare the cake: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, jam or marmalade, mashed banana, baking powder, salt and coconut flavor.

Beat in the eggs one at time.

Whisk together the coconut milk powder and the flour. Stir the dry ingredients into the the wet ingredients alternately with the milk.

Add the undrained pineapple, toasted coconut, and the pecans.

Spoon the batter into the lightly greased baking pans, filling them three-quarters full. The small (7-inch) paper pans will take about 430 grams batter (a generous 15 ounces). An 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 pan will take about 1290 grams (1 pound, 13 1/2 ounces).

Bake the small cakes for about 60 minutes, the larger cake for about 90 to 95 minutes. When done, the cakes will be a light golden brown all over, and a paring knife inserted into the center will come out clean. The temperature at the center will be about 200 degrees. The very center on top may still look a bit undone; that’s OK.

To make the glaze: stir together the simple syrup (sugar syrup) and liquor of your choice. Note: To make your own simple syrup, bring 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup water to a boil; simmer for 3 minutes, remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature.

Remove the cakes from the oven. While still warm, brush with the glaze.

When completely cooled, wrap well and let rest at least 24 hours before serving. Or store well-wrapped cake for up to a month, brushing with additional glaze weekly. Each time you brush the cakes, you'll use about half as much glaze as you did the first time.

Yield: 5 or 6 small, or 2 large cakes.

— Recipe from

Fruit Cake


8 ounces (about 1 1/4 cups) pitted prunes (dried plums)

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) water

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) rum (or substitute water or apple juice)

1 can (20 ounces) unsweetened pineapple chunks in juice, undrained

1 cup (6 ounces) candied red cherries

1 cup (5 ounces) dried apricots

1 cup (5 ounces) golden raisins

1 cup (4 ounces) diced pecans or walnuts

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar

3/4 cup (6 ounces, 1 1/2 sticks) butter

4 large eggs

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

11/4 teaspoons ground allspice

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

4 cups (17 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour


1/4 cup (2 ounces) flavored syrup (cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, or your favorite complementary flavor)

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) rum (or substitute additional flavored syrup)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch tube, angel food, or bundt-style pan (The pan must hold at least 11 cups liquid, when measured right to the brim.)

Place the prunes, 2 tablespoons water, and 2 tablespoons rum in a microwave-safe container. Cover, and microwave for about 5 minutes, till the liquid is bubbling. Remove from the microwave, and set aside for 10 minutes, till cooled a bit and the liquid is mostly absorbed.

Place the prunes (and any remaining liquid), pineapple chunks and their juice, cherries, and dried apricots in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly, just until the pineapple is shredded, and the other fruits are chopped. Stir in the raisins and nuts, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and butter till smooth. Beat in the eggs, again beating till smooth. Add the spices, salt and baking soda. Add the fruit mixture, scraping the bowl and stirring to combine. Add the flour, stirring till everything is well combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Place a 9-inch round cake pan, bottom side up, on top; you’re creating a lid for the tube pan, which will keep the cake nice and moist as it bakes.

Bake the cake for 75 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove it from the oven, and remove the cake-pan lid; the surface of the cake will be fairly tacky. That’s OK; it’ll firm up as it cools. Wait 10 minutes, then carefully turn the cake out of the pan onto a rack set over parchment or waxed paper.

Stir together the glaze ingredients, and brush all over the warm cake. Keep brushing till you’ve used all the glaze. Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting; it’s best if you can wait overnight. Once it’s completely cool, cover with a cake cover, or wrap in plastic.

Yield: 16 to 20 servings.

— Recipe from

Holiday Fruited Pound Cake


1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

6 eggs

1 tablespoon freshly grated orange peel

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon rum extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup green candied cherries, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup red candied cherries, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup raisins


3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon rum extract

3 to 4 teaspoons milk

Green and/or red candied cherries, if desired

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup bundt or 10-inch tube pan; set aside. Combine sugar, butter, cream cheese, eggs, orange peel, vanilla and 1 teaspoon rum extract in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add flour and baking powder. Beat until well mixed. Stir in 1/2 cup green candied cherries, 1/2 cup red candied cherries and raisins.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely.

Combine powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon rum extract and enough milk for desired glazing consistency in small bowl. Drizzle over cooled cake. Garnish with additional green and red candied cherries, if desired.

— Recipe from

Gluten-Free Fruitcake

1 cup dried apples, chopped

3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped

3/4 cup halved dates, chopped

1/3 cup dried currants

1/3 cup seedless raisins

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup apple juice

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup soy flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup applesauce

Combine apples, apricots, dates, currants, raisins and cranberries in a large bowl. Heat the apple juice just to a boil and then pour over the fruit. Mix well, cover and set aside at room temperature overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together pecans, soy flour, potato starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice; set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add pecan mixture alternately with applesauce, stirring after each addition. Add fruit mixture and stir just until combined. Divide thick batter evenly between 4 greased loaf pans. Bake for about 1 hour, or a toothpick inserted in the center of each loaf comes out clean. Set loaves aside to let cool.

— Recipe from

Trail Mix Fruitcake

1 1/2 cups packaged trail mix, divided

2 cups sugar

2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 1/4 cups canola oil

4 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large granny smith apples, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-inch bundt pan and set aside.

Process 1 cup of trail mix in a food processor for 30 seconds. Chop remaining 1/2 cup into 1/4-inch pieces.

Place trail mix and remaining ingredients into a large bowl and mix until fully combined. Place into prepared pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes until top of cake is firm.

Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for approximately 30 minutes before removing cake from pan.

— Recipe from

Festive Loaf Cake with Winter Fruit Compote

1/4 cup apricots, dried, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup ginger, crystallized, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup cranberries, dried, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, unsifted and unbleached plus

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, unsifted and unbleached

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup butter, unsalted (2 1/2 sticks)

1 1/3 cups ultrafine baker's sugar

5 eggs, large

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Adjust rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if pan has a dark finish). Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Using fingertips, blend together dried fruits and walnuts in a small bowl; set aside. Sift flour and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper; set aside. Using an electric mixer, preferably with a paddle attachment, beat butter at medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 30 to 45 seconds. Add baker’s sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes; stop mixer and scrape bowl occasionally. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add vanilla. At very low speed, add the flour mixture; stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl occasionally. Gently fold in orange zest, then dried fruit-nut mixture.

Spoon batter into loaf pan and spread evenly. Bake for at least 55 minutes, until golden, or when a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out free of cake, and cake springs back when lightly touched in center. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. Cool upright in pan for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Winter Fruit Compote

4 oranges, small navel

1 pear, D`Anjou, large, ripe, firm, peeled, cored and cut in half lengthwise

1 apple, red, crisp, cored and cut in half lengthwise

1/2 cup cranberries, fresh

2 cups orange juice, fresh

1/2 cup ultrafine baker’s sugar

1 pomegranate, large (to yield about 1-1/4 cups pomegranate seeds)

Using a sharp knife, remove peel and all bitter white pith from oranges. Working over a medium bowl, cut out the orange sections between the membranes and set aside. Cut pear and apple halves into 4 strips; then cut these strips crosswise into æ-inch slices, and transfer pear and apple slices to a medium bowl. In a 2-1/2 quart, non-reactive saucepan, stir orange juice and baker’s sugar together. Over medium-high heat, bring just to boiling and add prepared pear and apple pieces. Add cranberries. Simmer mixture over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes or just until pear and apples pieces are fork-tender (but still hold their shape.) With slotted spoon, remove fruit from pan and put in a mixing bowl.

Bring remaining syrup to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until reduced to æ cup, about 12 minutes. Turn off heat and cool 10 minutes. Pour over prepared fruit. Gently toss in orange sections and any juice remaining in bowl. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over compote.

To serve, place a tablespoon of compote over half of a cake slice, or next to a slice of cake. Makes about 4 cups.

Serving Size: Serves 14 to 16

— Recipe from

Christmas Fruit Cake

2 pounds mixed of dried peaches, nectarines and apricots

1 pound marshmallows

1 pound graham crackers, crushed fine in a food processor is best

3/4 cup canned evaporated milk

1 1/2 cup raisins

6 cups nuts (4 cups almonds, 2 cups chopped walnuts)

Chop dried fruits and mix well with graham cracker crumbs, using fingertips to mix.

In pot mix milk and marshmallows. Melt over low heat until marshmallows are melted. Pour over mixture in bowl. Grease small cake pans and form mixture in to them. Garnish with dried cherries and bay leaf. Slice while frozen for best results. Enjoy!

— Recipe from


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