How to Make a Fruitcake
It's unfair that fruitcake has become such a joke at Christmastime, because when you make them right, they're rich and decadent—everything you want in a holiday indulgence. At their essence, fruitcakes are a simple mixture of candied fruits, nuts, and just enough rich batter to hold them together, with an optional step that involves steeping the cake in liqueur. We'll share tips for making fruitcakes, plus favorite recipes to try.
Top Tips for Baking Fruitcakes
Time is of the Essence
- Left to age, homemade fruitcakes develop wonderfully rich, complex flavors. Some bakers begin soaking dried or candied fruit in rum for many months in advance.
- For most recipes, a full month of ripening is a necessity. You can always store it longer than a recipe requires, but don't shorten the aging time.
- Ideally, take several days to make your fruitcakes. Chop the nuts and fruits, cover with liquor and/or fruit juice, and let the mixture stand, covered, for two or three days. Then make the batter and bake your cakes.
Making Fruitcake Step by Step
1. Prepare your pans by greasing and flouring them or by lining them with greased parchment paper. When the cake batter is ready, spoon it into the prepared pans, and tap the pans on the work surface to pop any air bubbles. Arrange pecan halves, whole almonds, candied cherries, or other fruit decoratively on the cake.
2. Place cake pans on center oven rack; pans should not be touching each other. You may wish to cover fruitcakes with aluminum foil for the last half hour of baking.
3. Bake fruitcakes slowly, at a low temperature -- between 275 to 325 degrees F (135 to 165 degrees C). The cakes are dense with fruit that will release liquid during baking.
4. Test for doneness by poking a skewer or a toothpick near the cake's center. It should come out clean. With such a long baking time and with so many varieties of fruitcake, color alone won't indicate when the cake is done.
5. Cool cakes thoroughly after baking. Use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes in the cake, and sprinkle with brandy or rum if desired.
6. Wrap in liquor-dampened cheesecloth, and store in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. The fridge is fine, but don't transfer cakes to the freezer until the flavors have ripened and mellowed.
7. Check the cakes once a week. Brush the cakes with more liquor, if necessary, and then rewrap them in the damp cloth.
"'Tis the season for fruitcake," says Cathy Brisco. "This one is more candy than cake and oh so delicious. Keep it in the refrigerator indefinitely. Really."
Fruitcake Storage & Serving Tips
When wrapped in cloth and foil, a fruitcake may be kept for months or even years. Liquor-based cakes may be stored several months in a cool place. Cakes made without liquor may be kept in the refrigerator for short-term storage or freezer for longer storage.
A classic technique for storing fruitcakes for a long time without losing quality is to wrap the aged cakes in a thin layer of marzipan, coated with royal icing. The icing forms a firm, protective seal that will keep the cake moist. Store at room temperature.
Fruitcakes freeze very well. However, since they won't mellow and ripen in the freezer, they must be aged for at least a few weeks before freezing.
When ready to serve, cut the cake into thin slices using a sawing motion. To avoid crumbling, use a serrated knife or other sharp knife.