5 Variations on Holiday Fruitcake

Holiday Baked Goods Image Gallery Fruitcake may bring thoughts of bricks and broken teeth, but try these delicious variations for this holiday staple. See more pictures of holiday baked goods.

What's full of jellied fruit, a variety of nuts and frequently used as a doorstop? If you guessed fruitcake, you're right on the nose. Traditional fruitcake has gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years. With old-timer ingredients like jellied nuts and brandy, it has a reputation for being a holiday cake that only a great-grandmother could love. The gist of a traditional holiday fruitcake is a plentiful mixture of dried and sugar-coated fruits and nuts with just enough cake batter to keep it all together. And it's heavily preserved with alcohol, giving it a long shelf-life and the density of a brick. But don't dismiss it too quickly, because we have some recipes with modern twists to funk up your fruitcake.


Modern Fruitcake

Perhaps it's the dried fruit minus the jellied factor or maybe it's the toasted hazelnuts and freshly grated spices, but the consensus is that this fruitcake recipe is tender, light and flavorful.


  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup dried pitted cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup good-quality brandy
  • Soft butter and flour for the cake pan
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar plus 3 tablespoons sugar to sprinkle on top
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup candied lemon and orange rind, chopped coarse
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted in the oven for 10 minutes and chopped coarsely


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (162.7 degrees Celsius).
  2. Put the baking soda in a 2-cup measuring cup and add the buttermilk. Stir well with a fork and set aside.
  3. Combine the dried cherries, cranberries and raisins with the brandy in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, cover the pan and let the fruit steep.
  4. Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan or angel food cake pan. Tap out any excess flour.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, and beat in the eggs. Combine the flour with the salt and nutmeg, and sift the dry ingredients together.
  6. Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk mixture. Scrape the bowl as necessary. Fold in the fruit, the candied rind and the nuts, making sure they're evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the cake pan, smooth the top and sprinkle it evenly with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar.
  8. Bake 1 hour and 40 minutes. Let the cake cool on a rack for an hour. Carefully turn it out of the pan and invert it onto a cake plate, sugared side up. Serve right away or wrap tightly in several layers of plastic wrap and store in an airtight container 2 weeks at room temperature, or 1 month in the refrigerator.

Healthy Low-fat Fruitcake

Fresh fruit can cut the calories.
Fresh fruit can cut the calories.

Traditional fruitcake is loaded with sugar, which adds up to empty calories. Even the nuts and fruits are traditionally candied or jellied. Here's a recipe using fresh fruits and nectar that cuts the fat, but not the flavor.


  • 2 3/4 cups mixed fruit
  • 1 cup fruit nectar
  • 1 tbs. honey
  • 1 cup mashed pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 tsp. mixed spice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda, zest of lemon and orange.


  1. Combine nectar, fruit and honey in saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
  2. Allow to cool and stir in pumpkin, sifted flour, spices and soda zests.
  3. Spread mixture into loaf tin, and bake for approximately 1 hour at 356 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
  4. Remove from oven and cover with foil until cool.

White Fruitcake

The absence of dark liquor gives this cake a lighter look and feel. But you don't have to be a teetotaler to enjoy this fruitcake recipe.


  • 2 cups butter
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 2 ounces candied citron peel
  • 2 ounces candied orange peel
  • 1 cup dried currants
  • 1 1/2 cups candied pineapple chunks
  • 3 cups golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups candied cherries
  • 4 cups pecans, chopped
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup orange juice


  1. Chop pineapple, raisins and cherries. Combine chopped fruit with currants, peel and citron; soak in orange juice overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius). Place a small pan of water in the oven. Line one 5x9-inch loaf pan and two 3x8-inch loaf pans with parchment or doubled waxed paper.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the cream, butter and confectioner's sugar. Stir in beaten egg yolks. Stir in fruit, juice and nuts. Mix in sifted flour.
  4. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites to peaks. Fold into batter. Fill pans two-thirds full.
  5. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until golden brown, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake

Chocolate makes everything better.
Chocolate makes everything better.

You can't go wrong when you add a chocolate and cherry twist to this fruitcake recipe.


  • 1 package Pillsbury nut or date quick bread mix
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 (10 oz.) jar maraschino cherries, drained and cut in half
  • 3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Kirsch (cherry flavored liqueur) or 2 tsp. almond extract, plus 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 egg


  • 1/4 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp. oil


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius).
  2. Grease and flour bottom of 9x5-inch loaf pan.
  3. In large bowl, combine all fruitcake ingredients. Stir by hand until mix is moistened. Pour into prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.
  5. In small saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips and oil, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over fruitcake. Allow glaze to set in refrigerator.
  6. Wrap well in plastic wrap or foil and store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 3 months. For optimum flavor, refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving.

Christmas Fruitcake Cookies

Who says fruitcake has to be cake? These cookies have a fruitcake base and can be decorated like traditional holiday cookies.


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 3 cups flour, divided
  • 1/2 lb candied cherries, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb candied pineapples, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb golden raisins
  • 1 quart shelled pecans, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in hot water


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar; beat in egg yolks.
  2. Sprinkle the rum over the fruits. Chopping the fruits and nuts is made easier with a food processor, or simply mound them together and sprinkle with a little of the flour to make chopping easier.
  3. Stir the remaining flour together with the spices and salt to mix evenly. Then add remaining ingredients (except for the egg whites).
  4. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Drop by small teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet brushed with Crisco or vegetable oil.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius) for 10 to 15 minutes.


Cuneiform Cookies Just in Time for the Holidays!

Cuneiform Cookies Just in Time for the Holidays!

If you love history and cookies, you might want to try this ancient twist on the gingerbread cookie. Learn more at HowStuffWorks Now.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Bond, Annie B. "Grandma Harris' Fruitcake Recipe." Care2.com, February 20, 2001.http://www.care2.com/greenliving/grandma-harris-s-fruitcake-recipe.html#
  • "Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake." Cooks.com, 2009. http://www.cooks.com/rec/doc/0,1622,151184-236192,00.html
  • "Christmas Fruitcake Cookies." Cooks.com, 2009. http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1710,128185-243195,00.html
  • Jaworski, Stephanie. "Fruit Cake." Joyofbaking.com, 2009.http://www.joyofbaking.com/FruitCake.html
  • "Recipes - Healthy Low Fat Fruit Cake." Craftown.com, 2009. http://www.craftown.com/cook/seven.htm
  • "White Fruitcake." Allrecipes.com, 2009. http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/White-Fruit-Cake/Detail.aspx