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Fabulous Light Fruitcake

If you are not a fan of fruitcake it is likely that you have been subjected to the introduction of mass-produced cakes in the early 20th century which took all the love out of the process, and just a lack of knowledge as to how to make a great moist cake.  I defended the much-alligned fruitcake on national radio in the Great Fruitcake Debate.

Fruitcake can be traced back to the Middle Ages when dried fruits became more widely available in Europe, with regional variations evolving.  Still, dried fruits were expensive to buy, and time-consuming for home cooks to make themselves, so the tradition of making fruitcakes for special occasions such as weddings and holidays gained in popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries.

This recipe will make one large loaf.  I love making a number of fruitcakes for the holidays and slice into small portions as a homemade gift for friends and family. The trick is to start in October and let the cake mature a month or so before the holiday season.


Fabulous Light Fruitcake

This recipe will make one large loaf, the recipe shared by my pastry chef friend Jeanette. I love making a number of fruitcakes for the holidays, slicing them into small portions as a homemade gift for friends and family.
Course Afternoon Tea, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Edwardian, English, Low Fat, Vegetarian, Victorian
Keyword Downton Abbey Recipes, Downton Christmas, Stir Up Sunday
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Sitting time 30 days
Total Time 30 days 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 20 servings


  • 8.5" loaf pan


  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 cup seedless raisins
  • cups currants
  • ½ cup candied red cherries
  • ½ cup candied orange peel
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. mixed spice
  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. molasses
  • 1/3 cup Brandy or Ruby Port for soaking the fruit


  • Rinse the fruit, strain and let dry.  Add the brandy, mix well and soak for at least 2 days. I start my soaking process before Halloween and feed the fruit more brandy every week or so.
  • Preheat oven to 325°F.  Prepare a 8 1/2″ loaf pan and cut lengths of corrugated cardboard to tie around the pan and to make a lid.
  • Cream the sugar, butter and molasses together in a large bowl.  Add the eggs in about 5 – 6 stages. Scrape down the sides after each addition. If the batter starts to curdle, add a little flour until it looks smooth again.
  • Mix the two flours and spices together and fold into the wet ingredients.  Add the fruit and fold into the mixture, being careful not to break the fruit (namely the cherries).
  • Place the batter into your loaf pan and smooth the top out. Don’t place bowl scrapings on top or the top of the cake will not have any fruit. Level the top of the cake with a spatula, pushing any protruding fruit under.
  • Once the mixture is in the pan, place it in the centre of a baking sheet.  Tie a length of corrugated cardboard around the pan with kitchen twine.  The height of the cardboard should be at least one inch taller than the baking pan. Lay another piece of cardboard on top.  Place the tray with the cake pan covered in cardboard in the preheated oven.
  • Turn the heat of the oven down to 300°F. The loaf will take around 2 1/4hours to bake.  About 45minutes before the cake is ready remove the card from the top of the cake and finish baking.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to rest for about 3hours.
  • Spray or brush some alcohol on the surface of the cake, this will speed up the maturing process.

Storing and caring for your cake

  • Brush the top with Brandy/Rum and wrap up in foil, keep in a cool, dark pace (not in the fridge).
  • The flavours start to develop more as the cake matures.  The texture will also begin to change from crumbly to soft and more moist over time.
  • Brush the cake once a week with Brandy/Rum. Brandy is of course the more traditional way. The flavours start penetrating the cake and you will be rewarded with a delicious cake at Christmas time.
  • This is very rich so I often cut into fingers or small wedges. I will wrap those with plastic wrap, package and gift to colleagues and neighbours.


*how to make your own mixed spice.

Qualities of a Great Fruitcake

To help you make a great fruitcake keep these tips in mind:
  • The best fruitcake should mature for at least a month, two months is even better.
  • Fruitcake should have square shoulders, sides and a slightly rounded top
  • The top should be glossy and have a rich colour
  • When cut, the cut should be clean, not crumbly
  • The cake should have a delicious aroma and a rich flavour
  • The cake should be moist but not soggy
  • The fruit should be evenly distributed
  • The corners should not be dry and the top should be evenly baked
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