CHRISTMAS FRUIT CAKE RECIPE
There is not a single memory of Christmas without the amazing aroma of Christmas Fruit Cake baking in the house. For my family the Christmas season starts with getting all the ingredients together for baking this old British tradition. During the winter season having a slice of fruit cake with a cup of tea is the usual breakfast.
Holidays are all about the traditions, celebrating old ones and creating new traditions. Traditions teach us so much about who we are and what’s important to us. Today I am sharing a tradition that is very close to my heart. I hope you enjoy it!
WHAT IS CHRISTMAS FRUIT CAKE?
The Christmas Fruit Cake is a type of cake made with a simple cake batter with warm spices and loads and loads of variety of dry fruits, candied fruits and a combination of nuts. There are many variations to the Fruit cake in different countries throughout the ages.
Like many recipes it has evolved depending on availability of ingredients or just preference. Traditional Fruit Cakes are usually round, soaked in a good deal of alcohol to preserve the cake for an extended shelf life. They can also be covered in marzipan or royal icing.
Over the years experimenting and having so much Fruit Cake around Christmas I have gotten to know how my family likes to enjoy the Christmas Fruit Cake. I will share all the details in the notes here.
THE TEXTURE OF FRUIT CAKE
Traditionally, the fruit cake was very dense. But I don’t like the cake to be so dense that it feels like you are cutting into fudge. For me it has to have a nice cake crumb that is moist. I have added butter for the flavor and oil which brings moistness to cakes.
ADDITION OF DRY FRUITS & NUTS
This is where you add what you like. You can buy prepackaged candied dry fruit, but I don’t prefer that. Usually, they are just soaked with high fructose corn syrup and all you taste is sugar not the dry fruit. There is no rule that you only have to add a certain combination or variety of dry fruits and nuts. There are many options, so try a few different ones.
- cherries, cranberries add some tartness.
- raisins add sweetness.
- orange flavor from juice, zest or peel works great with warm spice cakes.
- add chopped figs, dates, apricots, and crystallized ginger.
- almonds, walnuts
HOW TO PREP DRY FRUITS & NUTS TO THE BATTER
The dry fruit has to be soaked before adding to the cake batter. If it’s not soaked once the cake starts to bake the dry fruit will soak moisture from the batter and that can result in a dry cake. There are few ways you can do this.
Some people use a variety of brandy or rum to soak the dry fruits overnight, which is the traditional way. I like to use orange juice; you can also use apple juice or cranberry juice. Add the juice of choice over the dry fruits and microwave to warm it up than let it sit for about 20-30 minutes for the dry fruit to soak as much moisture as it can. I boiled the dry fruit and the orange juice together in a small saucepan for a few minutes then turned the heat off and let it rest till the raisins and currants were plump. Soaking overnight is not necessary especially for raisins. Make sure to drain the dry fruit before adding to the batter. For some reason if your cake batter is thinner, you don’t want the dry fruit and nuts to sink to the bottom of the cake as it bakes. You can toss the dry fruit and nuts in some flour before adding to the batter.
LIGHT BROWN & DARK BROWN SUGAR
I have made this cake with a combination of light and dark brown sugar and the flavor is great. This time I only used dark brown sugar. This has more molasses, so the flavor is rich, and the cake will have more of a darker brown caramel color. I also added some molasses, again this gives the cake a rich deep flavor. You can leave it out if you don’t have any on hand. I love the deep brown color you get with using the dark brown sugar. As the cake is baking and you think it’s browning too quickly you can cover the cake in foil as it continues to bake.
Make sure that your oven is always preheated. I baked at 320 degrees F for 1 hour 25 minutes. Keep in mind all oven temperatures are a little different. So, the baking time can vary. You don’t want to bake it on high, the top will burn, and the center will still be under baked. Towards the end of baking time if you see the cake color is getting too dark you can cover with foil. Cake will be done when you see the sides of the cake pull away from the pan. Also insert a toothpick into the center of the cake, it should come out with no wet batter.
I baked this in a 9×5 loaf pan. A 10-inch loaf pan may be too big. Usually, the standard loaf pans are 8×4 or 8×5 any of those should be fine. Line the pan with parchment paper.
HOW LONG DOES FRUIT CAKE LAST?
Like I mentioned before, fruit cake that has been cured or aged with some sort of alcohol will be preserved and can last up to 3 months. But usually, fruit cake has a lot of the dry fruits and nuts and sugar, so it is preserved and won’t spoil that quickly. I keep the fruit cake wrapped in foil and a clean kitchen towel in an airtight container. We enjoy it for a few weeks at room temperature. Since cakes can create rancid flavors and odors, you can refrigerate the fruit cake.
CHRISTMAS FRUIT CAKE
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. allspice
- 1/8 ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
- 2 eggs (at room temperature)
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup neutral oil
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup dark raisins
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Have all your ingredients ready and measured out. Make sure the butter and eggs are at room temp. Go ahead and line baking pan with parchment paper. I used a handheld mixer.
- In a small saucepan add orange juice and all the raisins. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes than turn heat off and let it sit for about 30 minutes or until the raisins are plump. Then drain the leftover orange juice and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 320 degrees F. Keep the rack right in the center of the oven.
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy and fluffy about 3 minutes.
- Add the dark brown sugar and beat again till creamy and smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed.
- Add eggs, molasses, vanilla and oil. Beat until combined.
- Sift in the flour, spices, salt and baking powder. Using a spatula mix until well combined. Batter should be thick.
- Mix the soaked and drained raisins and the nuts together, than add to the cake batter. Mix well.
- Pour cake batter into the prepared pan, spread evenly.
- Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. I would recommend that you keep an eye on the cake after 1 hour. If you insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean or just with some dry crumbs the cake is done. If it starts to brown to much cover with foil until done. Make sure it's baking on the center rack.
- Once cool enough to handle take out the cake from pan and let it completely cook before serving or storing it. Keep wrapped in foil and a clean kitchen towel in airtight container. Cake will be easy to slice once cooled using a serrated knife.
- Enjoy with spread of butter, cream cheese or marmalade.