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 fruit cake is a welcome addition to the holiday table.
Photography Credit: 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! The 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 will help with a more even, gentle cooking.
It’s best to slice this fruitcake with a knife with a serrated edge, such as a bread knife.
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 and freeze for up to three months.
More Festive Holiday Treats
Updated December 20, 2020 : We added a new video to help you make the best fruitcake ever. No changes to the original recipe.
Best Holiday Fruitcake Recipe
Best to slice this fruitcake with a knife with a serrated edge, such as a bread knife.
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (236 ml) full fat sour cream
1 cup (130 g) chopped dates
2 cups (280 g) raisins
1/2 cup (75 g) chopped glazed cherries (can sub dried sweetened cranberries)
1 cup (100 g) chopped walnuts
2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour [divided into 1/4 cup (30 g) and 1 3/4 cups (130 g)]
1/2 cup butter (1 stick, 113 g)
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
Grated rind of one orange
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60 ml) brandy (optional)
1 Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Line a 9×5-inch 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.
2 Mix together sour cream and baking soda: In a small bowl, mix together the baking soda and sour cream; set aside.
3 Toss the fruits and nuts with flour: Combine the dates, raisins, cherries, and nuts with 1/4 cup of the flour and toss to coat the fruit and nuts. Set aside.
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 flour and the salt and mix together. Combine fruit/nut mixture with creamed ingredients and mix well to distribute the fruit and nuts evenly.
5 Bake the fruitcake: Scoop the batter into a prepared 5×9-inch loaf pan, and press down to even the surface.
Place the batter-filled 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 will help with a more even, gentle 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. Water may need to be replenished during baking. If the top of the fruitcake is getting too browned as it bakes, tent it with some foil.
6 Cool on a rack: Remove to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Use the edges of the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan. Let 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.
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Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family’s recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.
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