“Fruitcakes / Cakes-with-Fruit…a Holiday Quest”

 I opened the local paper this week to the food section and was….well…what was I? Hmmmm……not horrified exactly, and not fearful, yet I felt a certain unease somewhere in the primal brain as my eyes fell on a bigger-than-most newspaper image of just the sort of fruitcake that gives cakes-with-fruit a bad name  (see newspaper image at top in the photo below). The image was complete with a sticky sweet looking glaze, lots of bright green & red candied fruit that had not been real fruit for a long, long time….Maybe some pieces of translucent pale yellow pineapple…but wait are those nuts? Yes, yes a few nuts…I recognized the nuts. I felt a little better.

newspaper image of fruitcake

 This fruitcake image landed in my cerebral cortex almost at the same time that I was experimenting with “fruitcakes or cakes-with-fruit” recipes.

For some time now I have been convinced it is possible to make a cake with nuts and dried fruit for the Holidays that is appealing …that is dense, not too sweet, that is chock full of good dried fruits for moistness, nuts for a bit of crunch. I want a “fruitcake” that is good, simple, sliced and toasted, with a cup of coffee or tea.

cake with fruit

Let me make it clear that I have nothing personal against a commercially made fruitcake. They have always been abundant in my life. As a girl I was  sometimes a bit confused when grown-ups referred to another person as “a fruitcake” and the “fruitcakes” that arrived on sideboards and kitchens every Holiday season.  It eventually became clear how they were somewhat similar yet different! All those muddled, unrecognizable bits and pieces…see what I mean?

Do you like commercially produced fruitcakes? Have you ever had a fruitcake you loved that came from a supermarket? What made it good?

“A Really Good Cake-with-Fruit or Fruitcake”


2 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit – dried cranberries or cherries, chopped peaches, currants, raisins, chopped apples or apricots (any combinations that you like)

2 cups strong Chai Tea, chilled

1/2 cup mixed chopped nuts – pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts (again whatever you like)

1/2 cup superfine sugar (if you don’t have any just put regular sugar in the food processor and pulse until fine-grained)

1 whole large egg

2 cups all-purpose flour whisked with 2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

the zest from 1 orange


1. Soak dried fruit in the chilled tea for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. I used       “Firepot Chia” made right here in Nashville.

Fire Pot Chai Tea

Tea with dried fruit

2. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a bundt cake pan or loaf pan. In a large bowl whisk the sugar & egg together until well mixed.  Stir in flour, baking powder mixture & dried spices. Mixture will be dry & crumbly at this point which is okay.

eggs & sugar whippedfruitcake batter

3. Add tea soaked fruit, nuts, orange zest & all the tea left in the bowl. Stir until batter is wet throughout.

fruitcake batter

4. Scrape batter into prepared pan & bake for 35-45 minutes. Test with a toothpick which should come out clean. Cool cake in the pan for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack. Can be eaten warm or cooled completely, wrapped and eaten later. This cake just got better as the day went by!

fruit cake batter in panbaked fruitcake

sliced fruitcake

“Day 2”

Toasted fruitcake

My faith in the concept of “fruitcake” has been restored. All it took was turning my kitchen in to a laboratory dedicated to the artful study of “fruitcakes” for a couple of days and a bit of a (some might say) “fruitcake” approach to all this on my part.

It turned out better than I had hoped…a few not so great versions came before this one, but it has been worth it. I finally like “fruitcake”.

Happy Holiday Baking to you.l

tea and fruitcake

Day 1

slice of fruitcake with tea

11 thoughts on ““Fruitcakes / Cakes-with-Fruit…a Holiday Quest”

  1. Teresa, as they say ” you are firing on all cylinders” !! Home made fruit cake knocks shop bought into oblivion as far as I’m concerned. And I was intrigued to read about soaking the fruit in tea as this is what we do for making a proper Bara Brith (a classic traditional Welsh bread-cake), so I’m going to investigate using my Bundt tin and my Granny’s recipe and make it and see how we go. Oh and the other similarity (for me) is that you had some butter on a slice – the first time my partner ate Bara Brith he was appalled at the idea of having a cake-bread with butter, but I insisted it was the ONLY way to eat Bara Brith!
    Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and a joyful New Year, Claire x

    1. Claire, Thanks for your wonderful story of Bara Brith. I am intrigued and must investigate this great sounding cake-bread. I am very fond of this sort of cake or bread…not to sweet, not too savory…somewhere between the two. We have been toasting it and smearing with butter and it is just fine. My partner, Wouter, see comment above, is Dutch and is very happy when I make this. He eats everything with butter of course! Happy Holidays to you and your family.

      1. Yes Claire, we always have to pick some up from Albert Heijn when we are in Amsterdam to bring home. We have a few family converts to the sprinkles on toast, but not so much the liquorice! XOX

  2. Wow, Teresa. That cake is gorgeous. My mother made fruit cake every Christmas, despite the fact that not one of her children would touch it. And she didn’t make just one—she would make a dozen or so and give them as gifts. They must have weighed about 5 pounds a piece, perfect for use as a doorstop. I’m going to try your recipe—it’s just too beautiful to pass up. Also, I need to share Mom’s Jam Cake recipe with you. It, too, was a Christmas cake, and we all loved it and the wonderful caramel icing on top. Merry Christmas! Candace

    1. Oh I know what you mean about the fruitcakes of childhood! We were always encouraged to have a slice and managed to avoid all offers for the most part. When I did succumb (good manners) I was so unhappy chewing the cloyingly sweet mess!! It is a wonder I even tried to come up with an alternative, but this is easy, and very , very pleasing sliced, toasted & buttered or plain as a snack or as Wouter suggested with both cheese & butter. Let me know how it comes out if you do make it. Happy Holidays to you and all your family.

  3. What a great recipe and such a good looking cake! I’ve been thinking about buying myself a bundt tin for a while now and after reading this post I am even more inspired to do so..I do like fruitcake but I often find that they are either too sweet or too dry but this one looks as though it has the perfect balance of textures and flavours.

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