For some reason, fruitcake has become a common punchline in the U.S. The idea that fruitcake is dry and bland is a misconception—not to mention a cheap joke. There are dozens of varieties of fruitcake enjoyed around the globe, all the way from the Bahamas to India. Some dense and boozy, while others are fluffy and delicately flavored. Even if you think you know everything about this seasonal dessert, we’re urging you to give it another chance.
Types of fruitcake
You can find different versions of fruitcake recipes all around the world. In Germany, stollen is popular. Italy has both airy panettone and dense, sticky panforte. Most recipes rely on candied, preserved fruit. Many include brandy or rum, which keeps the cake moist and acts as a preservative. If it’s thoroughly soaked and properly wrapped, a fruit cake can last for years.
Make a fruit cake at home with our fragrant recipe, spiked with Chai.
Holiday Fruit Cake Recipe
Makes one 9×5 loaf cake
- 3 ¾ cups dried fruit*
- 3 cups brewed Chai**
- 1 ½ cups flour
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 stick of butter, softened
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Chai Simple Syrup (see recipe below)
Soak the dried fruit:
If necessary, roughly chop the dried fruit*. Place the chopped dried fruit in a medium nonreactive bowl. Pour the chai tea over the fruit and stir to combine. The tea should fully cover the fruit. If necessary, add more tea until fully covered. If the tea was warm, let cool to room temperature. Cover and let soak at room temperature overnight or up to 12 hours.
Prepare the batter:
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Coat a 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder. Stir to combine. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a separate large bowl with a hand mixer), combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed, 2 to 3 minutes, or until fully combined. Add the vanilla and beat to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until just combined. Using a slotted spoon, add the soaked fruit to the batter***, discarding the remaining liquid. Add the pecans. Using a spatula, fold the soaked fruit and pecans into the batter.
Bake the cake:
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth until evenly distributed. Bake 1 hour and 25 minutes to 1 hour and 35 minutes, or until a toothpick (or cake tester) inserted into the center comes out clean. Set aside in the pan for about 5 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Place a wire rack on top of parchment paper or foil on a work surface. Run a butter knife or an offset spatula around the edges of the cake to make sure it isn’t sticking, then transfer the cake to the prepared wire rack.
Brush & cool the cake:
Generously brush the tops and side of the warm cake with the chai simple syrup. (This will help keep it moist.) Let cool completely. Slice and enjoy.
*Chef Tip: The kind of dried fruit you use is totally up to you! Mix and match as you’d like to result in a cake made with your favorites. This recipe was tested with ¾ cup dried cranberries, ¾ cup raisins, 1 cup dried apricots, 1 cup pitted dates, and ¼ cup crystalized ginger. You could also use dried pineapple, dried apple, dried peaches, dried figs, or dried currants. Just make sure the resulting mixture yields 3 ¾ cups dried fruit. Small fruits like cranberries and raisins don’t need chopped, but larger pieces of dried fruit like apricots or dates should be chopped down to about to the same size.
**Chef Tip: The soaking step of fruit cake can be done with many liquids. Traditionally brandy is used. Here we used chai tea, but other options are whiskey, apple cider, apple juice, or cranberry juice.
***Chef Tip: Do not press any of the liquid out of the fruit. It’s okay if some of the soaking liquid goes into the batter. That’s what you want, so no need to be a perfectionist here. Use the slotted spoon to help drain as you go.
Chai Simple Syrup
Makes 1 cup syrup
- 1 cup brewed chai tea
- 1 cup granulated sugar
In a small pot, combine the tea and sugar. Heat on medium-high, stirring frequently, until thoroughly combined and the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Note: This will make much more simple syrup than you need for just this cake, but it lasts a long time. Save the extra and use it to make cocktails or mocktails, flavor your coffee, drizzle on pancakes or waffles, or save for another baked good recipe.
For more holiday dessert ideas, check out some of our favorite cookie recipes.