Best Holiday Fruitcake
Updated: Jul 8, 2021
If you’re a fruitcake skeptic, this recipe will make you a fruitcake convert! Classic fruitcake is often slandered due to the addition of candied fruit, but when you can control what goes into the recipe, the result is a festive, flavorful, and tasty treat to enjoy all holiday season. Packed with soaked dried fruit and nuts baked into a tender spice cake and infused with orange and lemon zest for added flavor, this dense, rich, and moist fruitcake is beautifully delicious. Traditional fruitcake is brushed with liquor to act as a preservative, but this recipe is alcohol-free so it’s kid-friendly and can be enjoyed immediately. This fruitcake makes for a fantastic holiday gift, but be sure to bake an extra for yourself!
½ cup dates, chopped
½ cup raisins, golden or regular
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
½ cup dried pineapple, chopped
¼ cup crystalized ginger, diced
Zest of ½ orange
Zest of ½ lemon
¾ cup rum, brandy, apple juice, or apple cider
1 cup full-fat sour cream
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, chopped
3 Tbsp apricot preserves or jam, hot
Pecan halves, for decorating
Red and/or green candied cherries, for decorating
Combine all fruits, crystallized ginger, orange zest, and lemon zest in a bowl. Add rum or other liquid of your choice, cover, and let sit overnight. Stir the mixture occasionally.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving about 2-inches overhanging on the sides and spray the paper with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the sour cream and baking soda together until combined. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder until combined. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugars until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Then beat in the sour cream/baking soda mixture until combined.
Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, ensuring not to overmix the batter.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the fruit with any remaining liquid and the walnuts. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and continue folding until everything is well combined and the fruit and nuts are evenly distributed.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to spread evenly to the edges. Decorate the top with pecan halves and candied cherries, if desired.
Place a pan with boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven. Fill the pan as needed during baking. (This method of baking keeps the cake moist and soft and will help the cake cook evenly.)
Bake for about 2 hours, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Start checking the cake around 90 minutes. You may need to cook the cake for up to 2½ hours. (If the cake browns too quickly, cover it loosely with foil.)
Once baked, remove the cake from the oven and immediately brush the warm cake with the hot apricot preserves. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
Note: The dried fruits suggested in this recipe are simply suggestions. Feel free to substitute your own favorites; you’ll need 2½ cups total. Other suggestions include dried cranberries, figs, plums, currants, kiwi, prunes, pears, and apples.