December 18, 2012

Boozy Christmas Fruit Cake

I imagine you're probably wondering - what is she doing posting about fruitcake? I mean, come on, it's fruit cake. A cake that we all *cringed* at the thought of as kids. That strange texture with those weird bits of fruit. You wouldn't catch me milling around the fruit cake table. I'd be over by the cheese and pickle platter, or cracking my way through a cluster of walnuts like a foraging squirrel.

Over the years I have grown very fond of this cake, appreciating the cost, effort, and time that goes into making it. I've also learned that the key to a great fruit cake is a lot of booze - brandy or rum will usually do the trick. It wasn't until a few years back that I sampled my mother-in-law's recipe, and my mind was changed. I was completely smitten with the boozy flavor, and I asked for a copy of the recipe in hopes of making it a family tradition. Others must also feel affectionate towards this cake because it was the first dessert to go at our holiday party, despite its close proximity to the cherry thumbprint and ginger cookies.

Early last week I set out to make this cake, allowing enough time for it to soak up the rum flavors before our holiday party. Most ingredients I found in the pantry.  A few of them (candied green and red cherries, citron, and mace) were all but unknown to me. It turns out that mace isn't just a company that produces pepper spray, it's also a spice - who would have thought? It is the waxy red covering that surrounds the nutmeg seed, and it has a flavor quite similar to nutmeg, but a little more peppery.

I went to three grocery stores in search of candied cherries and citron before finding them at Safeway, conveniently located in the produce aisle on the bright and festive singing Christmas fruit cake display stand. I'm not sure you'd have much luck finding candied fruit any other time of year, so if you think you're going to have a fruit cake craving in July, you'd better make some extra and store it in the freezer. 

As for the booze, Mr. H and myself have now acquired a proper liquor cabinet, following my birthday gift to him (a decanter and whiskey glasses). We have a few different bottles of rum, but I'm always confused which one is the *special* rum. That's the one we brought back from Belize, and it is only drank in fancy glasses, no ice, no coke. I know that we also have a few less classy bottles tucked away in the back, so I rooted around the cupboard and pulled out what I thought to be an *ok* bottle for the cake. After taking a sip to test it out, I noticed a weird mesh lid on the spout. I also noticed that there was a deep burn that lined my esophagus. I shrugged it off as my distaste for rum, and low tolerance. Mr. H returned from work that day and noticed the bottle of rum on the counter. He was curious. "What do you plan to do with this Bacardi 151 (which is apparently 75% alcohol)?" he asked. I probably would have known it was 75% alcohol if I read the label, but I didn't. It turns out that the mesh lid is a flame guard and the burning in my esophagus was real. Lucky, it was only a 1/2 cup used for soaking the fruit, so to make up for my mishaps, I decided to brush the cake with the fancy rum instead.

I feel as though it is important to note the take home message from this incident. Always read the label on the alcohol bottle before you start throwing it around like a drunken sailor. Throw out that bottle of Bacardi 151 that mysteriously ended up in the cupboard, and do not serve your 2-year-old nephew the boozy rum cake. He'll be fine will cheese and crackers. 

makes 2 regular sized loaf cakes
notes: Christmas cake can be made well in advance, up to one month. The longer you let the cake soak in the rum or brandy, the more flavor is will have. Candied cherries and citron are hard to find during the year, except at Christmas. They are kept in the grocery store either in the baking aisle or near the produce. 

1 cup glace/candied red cherries
1 cup glace/candied green cherries
1 cup citron peel
2 cups Thompson raisins
2 cups golden raisins
2 cups pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup brandy or rum + extra for basting
2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp mace

In a large bowl, combine the candied cherries, citron peel, raisins, and dates. Add the brandy or rum. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 2 hours, up to 24 hours - stirring periodically.

Once you are ready to make, grease the loaf pans with butter and line with parchment paper so that the cakes are easy to remove once baked.

Reposition the oven rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 275ºF.

Toss the fruit with 1/2 cup of the flour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the granulated sugar on low-med speed until light and fluffy - 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar and mix until combined.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Beat in the vanilla and almond extract until combined.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining flour, baking soda and spices with a wire whisk.

Add the flour to the fruit mixture and mix thoroughly on low speed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Place the loaf pans in the oven and bake for 3 to 3 ½ hours. Insert a toothpick after 3 hours. If it comes out clean, the cakes are done.

Let the cakes cool for 30 minutes in their pans, and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

When the cakes are cool, wrap them in cheesecloth and brush with brandy or rum to dampen the entire cheese cloth. Place the cakes in a plastic bag, and let sit for up to a month on the counter or in a cool dry place. Do not store in the fridge. When the cheesecloth looks dry, brush the cakes with more brandy or rum.  Can be eaten 2 days after baking and stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.


  1. wow this is really loaded with fruit! Very christmasy and delish!

  2. Two of my favorite one; cake and booze!! lol. Great recipe! I might even enjoy this fruit cake....

  3. I love this! Your fruit cake looks adorable and festive!

  4. You know, I don't think I've ever tried fruit cake! Maybe this is the year :). It sure looks pretty.

  5. I won't need any special occasion to eat that ! All I need is some hot coffee :) Love it Heather!

  6. Is there anyway to substitute candied pineapple for the citron peel? And also did you soak the dates in the Rum mixture?

    1. I think you could probably sub in pineapple for citron peel, as long as it is candied. I did soak the dates in the rum mixture.

  7. Can walnuts or pecans be added?

    1. I definitely know people whom add nuts to their cake, specifically pecans and walnuts.

  8. Just made your cake:-) in the oven hope it turns out great:-)

  9. Hi,
    These Sounds like Yummy..!!
    This Christmas Fruit Cake looks delicious and adorable.
    I love Fruit cake most. I read your recipe its really unique and easy to make.
    Thanks For Sharing....

  10. ohmygosh my boyfriend has an aunt ethel too! she is the coolest! it must be an aunt ethel thing.

    and isn't mace cool? my mom is going through a mace obsession currently :)

    yay for non sucky fruit cakes!

  11. I remember eating fruit cake at my in-laws place first time! Never tried to make it for myself, I think its time:) I am going to follow your recipe - love the touch of mace and almond extract. Such a gorgeous photography - love your blog.

  12. Do you know how this would go in a cake tin? Is it to dense to be lager in size?

    1. To be honest, I've only made/eaten fruit cake in a loaf pan. It is most definitely a dense cake, and you only want to eat a small slice per serving. No harm in giving it a try though.

  13. I just made these. They're wrapped in the cheesecloth now. I can't wait to give these as gifts for Christmas!

    1. You know that old saying give a fruitcake to someone you don't like, that so does not apply with this fruitcake :)

  14. I have 4 loaves cooling right now and I am so far very impressed with this recipe. They turned out fantastic and look gorgeous. One thing I do to add more boozinees is I pierce the top of the loaves several times with a wood skewer and pour a little rum over top. I do it every two weeks leading up to Christmas and the results are delicious. I love fruitcake cause there is something very old world about it. Thank you so much for this recipe!

  15. Any reason why it's baked for 3 hrs at 275 degrees? Why not 350 or 325 degrees?

  16. What kind of rum are you supposed to use in this recipe?

  17. :( I have a loaf in the oven and realized I forgot the baking soda! It's been a king for 3 hours.... so much for over confidence :D Made your cake last year, big hit. Made 3 loaves last night, all good .... today :(

    Can I still save it?

  18. Got the fruit soaking now. Christmas here we come!

  19. I'm going to make this. Do you put the finished cakes in the fridge after putting in the plastic bag or at room temperature?

    1. Store the fruit cake at room temperature.

  20. I was wondering the same thing about storing it in the fridge?

  21. Hi... I love your recipe. Its so easy to follow. I made a batch yesterday. Although it turned out amazing, all the fruit collected at the bottom. Any suggestions on how to avoid that. Thanks :)

  22. Great recipe, the dough looked really weird to me but baked up great. Of course I ended up using a bunch of different fruits (whatever I could find) but tried to keep the same proportions. It was great!

  23. What a beauty. Its really amazing heather hands.