How to Make Rich & Moist Fruit Cake
This fruit cake is rich, moist and tastes amazing. An easy fruit cake recipe that uses soaked unsweetened fruit and nut mix. Skip the liquor for a family-friendly version! Perfect for gifting and feasting well beyond the holiday season!
It’s an exciting time of the year as the holidays approach, especially for those of us who love baking up Christmas treats and all the merry feasting that follows.
With just 5 weeks to Christmas, everybody, that means it’s time for fruit cakes!
Now, I know lots of folks might consider November a little too late to be making good fruit cake. But let me just say, you can make a fabulous fruit cake you’ll be proud of, even at this time!
You’ll have more than enough time to soak your favourite fruits and bake up this delicious fruit cake.
And if you love your cake a tad boozy, as I do, you’ll have at least a month to age it with liquor once a week till Christmas. This way, your fruit cake keeps moist as its flavour deepens and mellows.
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This fruit cake is made deliberately less sweet, but extra moist and chock full with a homemade fruit and nut mix.
For a family-friendly version, replace the soaking liquor with apple cider, unsweetened apple or orange juice, and skip moistening with alcohol.
If you’re like me and can’t think of making a fruit cake too early in the year, then this fruit cake recipe is meant for you! I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as we do!
Why this fruit cake is extra moist
- Uses dried fruits soaked in rum (or unsweetened apple juice). It’s really important to soak your fruit mix so that they soften and plump up. This way, they’ll stay moist and juicy and won’t absorb moisture from the cake batter during baking, ensuring that your cake stays moist. Bonus! Home soaked fruits taste amazing, and you’ll be ridding your fruit mix of excess sugar as well!
- Bakes in a water bath. The steam that arises from a water bath during baking will ensure the fruit cake doesn’t dry out during the long baking time. And its super easy to set up. When you’re ready to preheat the oven, place a tray on the bottom of the oven and fill it with hot water. That’s it!
- Recipe ingredient ratios turns out a moist cake. The ratio of butter and brown sugar to flour in this recipe ensures a moist, firm and buttery crumb.
Fruit cake ingredients
- Home-made fruit mix. This is the fun part! You can change up your fruit mix as you like, but just make sure that you stick to the total weight as specified in the recipe. I used golden raisins, currants, apricots, prunes, glace cherries, and mixed citrus peel.
- Liquor or juice for soaking. I like to use a mixture of rum and brandy, but feel free to use dry white wine, whiskey, or mildly flavoured liquors. For a non-boozy cake, use unsweetened apple or orange juice.
- Nuts. I love walnuts, but you can change that up for pecans, cashews or other nuts.
- Spices. There’s just enough to infuse the cake with the warmth and flavour of mixed spices, without overpowering the fruity notes in the cake. I particularly love the combination of ground mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
- Brown sugar. Brown sugar is moisture-loaded and contributes to a moist fruit cake. It also imparts a lovely molassey flavour.
- Golden syrup. Golden syrup is added here for it’s mild buttery flavour (though it contains no butter) and being made of sugar, adds moisture as well. If you can’t get your hands on golden syrup, use honey, corn or maple syrup, but note that each has its inherent flavour. Light treacle will also do, though it will darken the cake a bit and is more bitter-sweet.
- Butter. I use unsalted. To ensure a light cake batter, have the butter slightly softened at room temperature. But not too warm, as it won’t cream and incorporate air as well when it’s greasy.
- Flour. Use plain or all-purpose. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices together three (3x) times, to ensure an even rise during baking.
- Eggs. Use large eggs, wherever possible, about 60 grams each.
- Baking powder. This is the leavening agent that helps the cake rise.
- Milk. I use full cream milk.
- Sweet rum. This is rum sweetened from soaking the dried fruits. If using apple or orange juice for soaking, use this in equal amount.
Moist fruit cake in 3 easy steps
- Make and soak the fruit mix, leave overnight but preferably 3 to 5 days for deeper flavour
- Bake the fruit cake
- Brush the cake with liquor, once or twice weekly (skip this if you don’t intend to keep till Christmas)
Step 1. Make and soak the dried fruit mix
- Ideally, your dried fruits should be more or less of similar size. Cut up larger dried fruit like figs, apricots, prunes and dates into roughly the same size as the smaller fruit.
- Combine in a glass bowl. Pour in enough liquor (I used rum and brandy) or juice to cover all the fruit. Give it a couple of stirs to ensure all the fruit is soaked. Cover tightly with clingwrap or transfer to a suitable glass jar with an air-tight lid.
- Let it soak overnight at room temperature, or preferably for 3 to 5 days. The fruit will absorb quite a bit of liquid overnight, so you may need to top up a bit more to cover the fruit. Fruit mix soaked in juice will need to sit in the chiller.
Step 2. Bake the fruit cake
- Pre-heat oven to 150°C (300°F). Set the oven rack in the centre of the oven. Grease the base and sides of a 9 x 5″ loaf pan. Line the base and sides with baking paper, allowing for 2 inches of overhang. Prepare the water bath. Set a tray on the bottom of the oven. Carefully pour in enough hot water to fill the pan ½-inch or 1-cm deep.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and ground spices three (3x) times.
- In a stand mixer bowl, combine butter and brown sugar. Beat on medium speed (speed 3 to 4 on my Kitchen Aid mixer) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter should still feel light and fluffy.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low, and fold in the sifted flour-spice mixture in three additions. Each time, fold just until the flour mixture is fully incorporated into the batter, and there aren’t any streaks of flour left.
- Tip in the sweet rum, golden syrup and milk, and beat until well mixed. At this point, the batter should look smooth and have a uniform consistency throughout.
- Lastly, fold in the fruit mix (drained) and nuts. It will be very chunky! Don’t be alarmed. It might seem like there’s too much fruit for the batter but trust me, there’s enough! Make sure all the fruits and nuts are fully coated in batter.
- Tip out the cake batter into the prepared pan. Spread it with a spatula to fill and cover all the corners and edges. Smooth the surface.
- Place the filled cake pan on the oven rack. Bake at the low temperature of 150°C (300°F) for 2 to 2½ hours, or until done. Baking times will vary depending on the pan used, as well as the internal oven temperature.
- When done baking, remove from the oven. Let it cool in the pan on a metal rack.
Step 3. Maturing the cake with liquor/alcohol (optional)
- Once the cake has cooled, brush generously with 2 tbsp brandy or choice of liquor. Wrap and seal in several layers of cling wrap, and keep in an air-tight container. Place in a cool, dry and dark space like a pantry cupboard.
- Once a week, or every 4 to 5 days, brush the cake with liquor to keep it moist and extend its shelf life. With a pastry brush, brush 1 – 2 tablespoons of rum or brandy all over the surface and sides of the cake.
Can I use a fruit pre-mix instead of making my own?
Yes, you absolutely can! The quantity of the pre-mix should not exceed the total quantity of the individual dried fruits, by weight.
Different brands of pre-mixed fruit can vary in sugar content. Some can be cloyingly sweet. You should still macerate the fruit pre-mix in liquor or juice to soften and moisten them, as well as to rid of excess sugar.
What constitutes a good homemade fruit mix?
When making your own fruit mix, try to strike a good balance between sweet-tasting dried fruit and tart ones.
Choose from the wide variety of unsweetened dried fruit like currants, raisins, golden raisins or sultanas, dried cranberries, crystallised ginger, dried blueberries, figs, apricots, prunes, and dates.
For nuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, and cashews are popular choices.
However, keep bitter-tasting citrus peel to a minimum, as too much can be unpleasant to taste.
How long can homemade fruit mix keep?
If soaked in rum, the fruit mix will keep well in a cool, dark and dry space for up to 6 months. With juice-soaked fruit, it needs to be stored in the chiller and used within 5 days.
To keep well, make sure the fruit is covered in thesoaking liquid. Give the liquor-soaked fruit mix the occasional stir once every couple of weeks.
How do I store fruit cake?
Once completely cooled, wrap the fruit cake in several layers of cling wrap and place in an air-tight container. Place in a cool, dark and dry area of the kitchen like a pantry.
Fruit cakes aged with liquor can keep well for up to 6 months or longer. Fruit cakes without liquor will keep for up to 5 days.
Can I freeze fruit cake?
Once the cake is completely cooled, wrap in several layers of cling wrap to seal it well, and then in aluminum foil. I even put my fruit cake in a freezer bag after all this wrapping, because I’m super obsessive about avoiding freezer burn!
Store in the freezer for up to 6 months. Thaw in the chiller overnight, then unwrap, and bring to room temperature when you’re ready to enjoy it!
Can I bake in different cake pans?
I baked this as a 9 x 5-inch loaf cake, but you can always bake in round or square pans, as well as mini loaf pans. Line the pans with baking paper, and with a generous overhang to facilitate cake release. Bear in mind that baking times will vary, depending on the size of the pan you use.
Don’t delay and get to baking your best ever fruit cake now! Give this gift of a homemade fruit cake to your loved ones this Christmas! – ♥ Celia
Here are more delicious cakes to inspire your next bake:
- Super Moist Rum and Raisin Banana Bread
- Fig and Cherry Cake
- Extra Moist Coffee Walnut Cake with Coffee Glaze
- Indonesian Prune Layer Cake (Prune Lapis Cake)
- Super Moist and Tender Carrot Cake
- Traditional Indonesian Layer Cake (Thousand Layer Spice Cake/ Kue Lapis Legit)
Tried this recipe? I’d love to see! Share your bakes on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.
For the fruit mix (soak overnight):
- 100 g dried apricots
- 100 g dried prunes
- 100 g currants
- 75 g golden raisins
- 50 g glace candied cherries
- 50 g mixed citrus peel
- 2 – 2½ cups of rum or unsweetened apple/orange juice, as needed
For the cake batter
- Fruit mix drained (reserve soaking liquid)
- 200 g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 175 g unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- 200 g brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 tbsp milk
- 3 tbsp sweet rum or fruit juice from reserved soaking liquid
- 100 g walnuts chopped
For maturing the fruit cake (optional):
- 1 – 2 tbsp brandy or choice of liquor per brushing
Make and soak the fruit mix:
- Cut up larger dried fruit into roughly the same size as the smaller fruit. Combine in a glass bowl.
- Pour in enough rum (or juice) to cover all the fruit. Stir to moisten all the fruit.
- Cover tightly with clingwrap or transfer to a suitable glass jar with an air-tight lid.
- Leave overnight to soak at room temperature, or 3 – 5 days for deeper flavour. Note: Fruit mix soaked in juice will need to be placed in the chiller.
- When preparing to bake the fruit cake, drain the fruit mix, and reserve 3 tbsp of the soaking rum or juice.
Bake the fruit cake:
- Pre-heat oven to 150°C (300°F). Set the oven rack in the centre of the oven. Place a tray of hot water on the bottom of the oven. Line a 9 x 5" loaf pan with baking paper with a 2-inch overhang, and grease.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and ground spices three times (3x).
- Using a stand mixer or hand-held beater, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 mins.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low. Fold the sifted flour mixture into the butter mixture in three batches, until well combined.
- Fold in the syrup, milk and sweet rum (or juice) until well combined. At this point, the batter should be smooth, thick and of uniform consistency throughout.
- Lastly, fold in the fruit mix (drained) and chopped walnuts by hand. Don’t be alarmed, it will be very chunky! Make sure all the fruits and nuts are fully coated in batter.
- Open the oven door SLOWLY from the side (and not standing in front) as hot steam will escape. Bake in water bath at 150°C (300°F) for 2 – 2½ hours, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cover with foil when the top is golden to prevent over-browning.
- When done, allow the cake to cool in the pan on a rack.
To store and age the fruit cake:
- Once the cake has cooled, brush generously with 2 tbsp brandy or choice of liquor.
- Wrap and seal in several layers of cling wrap, and keep in an air-tight container. Place in a cool, dry and dark space like a pantry cupboard.
- Once a week, brush the top and sides of the cake with 2 tbsp brandy to moisten and keep well. Re-wrap and seal tightly. Do this every week until Christmas, for a moist and richly flavoured cake.