This is the Best Fruit Cake Recipe! It is my grandmother’s recipe for a moist, incredibly flavorful fruit cake. The cake is well spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and then packed with dried fruit and nuts!
This is my Grandmother’s Fruit Cake Recipe. It is moist even without soaking! It comes from the Best Loved Foods of Christmas book by Pillsbury, which I inherited from Nana herself. I have been meaning to make it for years, but never quite got around to it. This year I managed to make two different fruit cake recipes. I blame weird pregnancy cravings for all things containing dried fruit, the more the merrier. I clearly didn’t think through the alcohol part of that craving!
This fruit cake recipe is lighter and less intensely spiced than the Old Fashioned Fruit Cake recipe I posted earlier this year. The molasses and fruit preserves in the other recipe add to the heaviness and rich flavor. This really is the best fruit cake recipe because it is moist, perfectly dense and mellow. You can even eat it fresh without soaking for a delightful Christmas cake.
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Why is my homemade fruit cake dry?
Homemade fruit cake is commonly dry from overbaking, baking in too hot an oven, or not adding moisture from soaking. Un-soaked fruit cake should be served within a week of baking for the best flavor and texture. This fruit cake recipe is delightful un-soaked when eaten fresh!
How do you soak a fruit cake?
Time needed: 15 minutes.
Fruit cakes are commonly soaked in brandy or rum to give them extra flavor and moisture.
- Set Up Plastic Wrap
I find the easiest way to soak a fruit cake is to stretch out a piece of plastic wrap on your counter and place the fruit cake upside down on the plastic wrap.
- Measure Brandy
Measure ½ - ¾ cup brandy or rum in a large measuring cup. Soak the kitchen or tea towel in the measuring cup until saturated.
Place the soaked towel over the bottom of the fruit cake. Flip over while holding the towel to the sides. Cover the top of the fruit cake with the soaked towel.
Wrap cake using the plastic wrap underneath and adding additional layers of plastic wrap until well-sealed.
Ingredients in the Best Fruit Cake Recipe
- Dried & Candied Fruit: The recipe uses a combination of golden raisin, candied pineapple, and candied cherries. They add sweetness and they absorb some of that booze! Think of them like slow-release moisture vessels.
- All-purpose flour: All-purpose flour has just the right amount of gluten to make a tender, soft cake. To avoid holes and "tunnels" in your cake, be careful not to overmix the batter. Add flour in several additions without waiting for all of the previous addition to be incorporated before adding the next. When in doubt, finish folding in the flour by hand.
- Baking Powder: Double acting baking powder will react instantly when it is mixed with an acid and then again when it is heated. Because it is double acting, it has a slower, more stable rise than baking soda alone.
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is less salty than table salt and a teaspoon weighs less than other finer ground varieties. It heightens the flavor here and will keep your cakes from tasting dull or flat.
- Cinnamon: I use Saigon cinnamon but any cinnamon will do.
- Ground Nutmeg: This recipe is written for pre-ground nutmeg. If you use freshly ground, then you'll need to adjust the quantity by half or even ⅔rds. Fresh nutmeg has a completely different and wonderful flavor but it is stronger.
- Pecans: I love to use Southern pecans in baking. Nothing beats fresh, plump pecans. But any pecan halves will do. If you keep them for longer than a month or your kitchen is consistently warm, store them in the freezer to preserve freshness.
- Butter: I use unsalted butter for baking, because you want to control the amount of salt you are adding. Every brand is different and it makes adjusting the recipe a challenge.
- Sugar: I use granulated sugar in this cake. It is here for the more obvious flavor reasons, but also to aid in leavening, moisture, texture and stability.
- Eggs: Whole eggs allow you to emulsify all that oil into the batter, resulting in a moist, not greasy, cake. They also help with leavening by trapping air with the sugar.
- Brandy: Adding brandy or alcohol to a cake is for moisture and flavor. Alcohol does not hydrate the gluten in flour the same way that water does, so it will create a tender, moist cake.
- Honey: Choose a local honey to get all the allergy-fighting benefits! Honey adds just a little bit of extra sweetness but can absolutely be omitted if desired.
- Dried Fruit: If you don’t enjoy one or any of the dried fruit in this fruit cake recipe, substitute any that you do. Chopped dried apricots, pears and apples would also be a fun twist. Dried Tart cherries would bring a welcome burst of tart to balance the sweet.
- Candied Fruit: Use any combination of candied fruit that you desire. Next time I will use all dried fruit and omit the candied cherries and pineapple. Bring on the raisins!
- Nuts: Use any of your favorite nuts! Almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios all make great options. You could even use macadamia nuts for a tropical option!
- Non-Alcoholic: Substitute fruit juice or apple cider for the brandy in the recipe. You can soak the cake in apple cider or simply serve it fresh and forgo the soaking process completely. It will still be delightful.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can soak fruit cake in apple cider instead of alcohol. You can also omit soaking the whole cake and simply soak the fruit in apple cider before making the cake. It will have similar results. The resulting cake will not be shelf-stable and should be refrigerated. You can substitute the 1 ½ tablespoons of brandy in this fruit cake recipe with apple cider or another fruit juice. You can also serve fruit cake within a few days of baking and forgo soaking completely.
Store alcohol soaked fruit cake well-wrapped at room temperature for up to 6 months. After one month it will begin to dry out if not re-soaked. Once done soaking, store the fruitcake well-wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator or freezer.
You can absolutely freeze fruitcake. Wrap well in plastic wrap and store for up to 6 additional months.
You can make larger batches of this cake. You are only limited by the capacity of your mixer.
I used an easy cream cheese glaze for this fruit cake recipe. The creaminess and slight tang will balance the strong, spiced flavors of the fruit cake. A simple orange glaze with orange juice and confectioner’s sugar would also be delicious and lock in the moisture.
I have made all the mistakes so you don’t have to. Use a nonstick, non-removable bottom tube pan for the best results. The tube will allow it to cook evenly and not dry out. You can also use a removable bottom tube pan like I did, but the cake will leak out and glue the pieces together. This isn’t the end of the world, but using a decorative bundt pan is the end of the world. Don’t do that. Trust me.
What to serve with the best fruit cake recipe?
I topped this fruit cake with a cream cheese glaze and served it with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, but a crème fraiche whipped cream would also be nice pairing. I would avoid any garnish adding additional sweetness like caramel, but a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or vanilla bean anglaise would be a welcome addition! The creaminess of the dairy highlights the spices and tames the richness of this fruit cake recipe!
Chef Lindsey's Recipe Tips
Line the bottom of your tube pan with parchment paper for quick release! I trace the outside of the pan bottom then reach my marker down the tube and trace a circle inside. Fold the paper and cut inside the marker for a perfect donut shape!
Best Fruit Cake Recipe
- 2 cups All-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon Baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
- 3 ½ cups Pecans (chopped)
- 1 ½ cups Candied pineapple (¾ lb)
- 2 cups Candied cherries (¾ lb)
- 1 ½ cups Golden Raisins (½ lb)
- ½ cup Butter (softened)
- 2 ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
- 6 Eggs
- 1 ½ tablespoons Brandy (for the batter)
- 2 tablespoons Honey (for brushing cake)
- 1 cup Brandy (for soaking, optional )
- ½ Apple (peeled & sliced, for storing, optional)
- Spray and line a 10-inch tube pan with parchment paper. A non-removable bottomed tube pan works best. Bonus points for nonstick.
- Preheat oven to 275°F. I preferred to bake it in the convection setting because the top got a nice golden brown and the cake baked faster.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add pecans, pineapple, cherries, and golden raisins. Toss to coat.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, waiting until the first has incorporated before adding the next.
- Beat in the brandy.
- Add the dry ingredient/nut mixture to the batter and fold to incorporate.
- Pour into prepared pan and place in preheated oven.
- Fill a large baking dish or roasting pan with hot water and place below the cake in the oven. Do not bake the cake in the water.
- Bake 2 hours or until a cake tester comes out clean. Once the top crumb has set, but the cake is not done baking (after about 90 minutes), brush the top with warmed honey. Continue baking until done.
- Cool and unmold cake.
- Soak a clean kitchen towel in about ½ cup brandy. Wrap the cake in the kitchen towel, place a few slices of apple in the center and wrap the whole cake in plastic wrap. Allow to sit 2 weeks before unwrapping and serving. I repeated this soaking process one additional time. My grandmother would soak the cake twice a month for 3-4 months.
Before You Go!
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