Traditional British Rich Fruitcake Recipe

Traditional British Rich Fruitcake

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 2 hrs 30 mins
Soaking and Cooling Time:: 14 hrs
Total: 17 hrs
Servings: 12 to 14 servings
Yield: 1 4-pound cake
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
469 Calories
15g Fat
79g Carbs
6g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 14
Amount per serving
Calories 469
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 6g 31%
Cholesterol 76mg 25%
Sodium 111mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 79g 29%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 51g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 69mg 5%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 374mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Those who think fruitcake is dry, hard, and tasteless have never tried this Yorkshire recipe for a rich British-style fruitcake. It is chock-full of dried fruit that is soaked in tea overnight and flavored with treacle, brandy, nutmeg, and lemon juice. The ground almonds, glacé cherries, and candied peel contribute even more levels of taste and wonderful texture.

You can use a prepared dried fruit mixture available in most supermarkets, or blend your own to create a customized cake, balancing the mixture to your preferences. Be warned, though, one slice of this dark fruitcake will never be enough.

The success of this delicious, moist cake lies in soaking the dried mixed fruits in strong dark tea the evening before making it; the tea adds a subtle depth of flavor to the cake. Therefore, be sure to plan ahead because you don't want to skip this step.

"This fruitcake is fantastic—it's moist, loaded with fruit, and utterly irresistible. For dried fruit I used raisins, diced dried apricots and pineapple, and some dates. I baked the fruitcake for about 2 hours and 10 minutes in an 8 x 3-inch round springform pan, and it was perfect." —Diana Rattray

British fruitcake/tester image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450 grams) mixed dried fruit

  • 10 ounces (296 milliliters) brewed strong black tea, cold

  • 5 1/2 ounces (150 grams) unsalted butter, slightly softened, more for the pan

  • 5 1/2 ounces (150 grams) dark muscovado sugar

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 3/4 cups (225 grams) all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon dark treacle, or cane molasses

  • 3 ounces (100 milliliters) brandy, or sherry

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 4 ounces (110 grams) ground almonds

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) glacé cherries, halved

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) candied orange peel, coarsely chopped

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make traditional British fruitcake

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. The day before baking, place the dried fruits in a large bowl. Add the tea and stir well. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.

    A large bowl of dried fruit and tea

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 325 F/170 C/Gas Mark 3. Line the bottom and sides of a greased 8 x 3-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.

    A cake pan lined with parchment paper

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl.

    A large bowl with butter and sugar

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Using an electric hand whisk or fork, cream the butter and the sugar until the mixture is light, smooth, and creamy.

    Creamed butter and sugar mixture in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Beat 1 egg into the creamed butter, then beat in 1/4 of the flour. Repeat until all the eggs and flour are used. Add the treacle, brandy, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Stir gently using a spoon or spatula. Stir in the baking powder.

    A bowl of cake dough

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  7. Drain the dried fruits and add to a separate large bowl with the ground almonds, glacé cherries, and candied peel. Stir well to combine. Add the fruit mixture to the cake mixture, folding gently, until all the fruits are incorporated into the mixture. Fold gently so as not to "flatten" the cake mixture.

    Fruitcake batter mixed with strained dried fruit

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  8. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan and gently smooth and level the surface.

    A cake pan filled with fruitcake batter

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  9. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until dark golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove to a rack and let cool, about 40 minutes.

    A baked fruitcake in a pan on a cooling rack

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  10. Remove from the cake pan and place on the rack to cool completely before serving.

    A fruitcake sitting on a cooling rack

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Tips

  • To assure the best tasting fruitcake, make sure all of your ingredients are of good quality and as fresh as possible.
  • Because this cake is so dense, it will take longer to cool than other types of cake.
  • To make the fruitcake a little more festive, serve it with a brandy sauce or this classic English custard sauce.

Recipe Variations

  • The best substitutes for dark muscovado sugar are unrefined brown sugars. If you can't find muscovado or unrefined brown sugar, you may substitute refined dark brown sugar.
  • Add 1 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans to the fruitcake for extra texture and flavor.

Do I Need to Age a Fruitcake?

  • Aging a fruitcake extends the life of the cake exponentially. If you don't plan on eating the cake right away, it is better to age it than put it in the freezer. To age the fruitcake, either brush the cooled cake with brandy (or sherry, rum, or whiskey) or soak cheesecloth in the liquor and wrap around the cake. Wrap the cake in plastic and store in a cool, dark place. Resoak the cheesecloth once a week and store for six weeks or up to three months, and if the cake was brushed with the brandy, reapply every few days for the first two months of storage.
  • For longer storage, wrap the fruitcake or individual slices in plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to 1 year.

What are the Origin of the Fruitcake?

Although fruitcake has become known as a traditional English Christmas dessert, the idea of this dense, fruit-studded confection actually originated in Roman times as a mixture of pomegranate seeds, raisins, pine nuts, barley mash, and honeyed wine.


The fruitcake that we know today goes all the way back to the Middle Ages; it was discovered that sugar helped preserve fruit, so the mixture was left overnight and then added to a cake batter.


After a brief outlawing of the cake in Continental Europe in the 18th century because it was "sinfully rich," the cake gained even more popularity and became part of unusual traditions, like putting a slice under the pillow of unmarried wedding guests so they would dream of their future spouce.

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