There is not a single memory of Christmas without the amazing aroma of Christmas Fruit Cake baking in the house. For me the Christmas season starts with getting all the ingredients together for baking this old British tradition. I could safely say this is very true all across Pakistani Christian homes during the Christmas season. The Christmas Fruit Cake is a type of cake made with a simple warm spices and loads and loads of variety of dry/candied fruits and nuts. There are many variations to the Fruit cake in different countries throughout the ages. Holidays are all about the traditions, celebrating old ones and creating new traditions. Traditions teach us so much about who we are and what’s important to us. Today I am sharing a tradition that is very close to my heart. I hope you enjoy it!
There are many variations of the Fruit Cake throughout countries and families. Like many recipes it evolved depending on availability of ingredients or just preference. Traditional Fruit Cakes are usually round, soaked in a good deal of alcohol for an extended shelf life. They can also be covered in marzipan or royal icing.
Over the years experimenting and having so much Fruit Cake around Christmas I have gotten to know what my family and I like. I will share all the details in the notes here.
Lets talk about the cake batter which results in the texture. These types of cakes are suppose to be very dense. But I don’t like the cake to be so dense that it feels like you are cutting into fudge. For me it has to have a nice cake crumb that is moist. I have added butter for the flavor and oil which brings moistness to cakes.
Now lets talk about all the dry fruit and nuts added to this cake. There is where you add what you like. You can buy prepackaged candied dry fruit, but I don’t prefer that. Usually they are just soaked with high fructose corn syrup and all you taste is sugar not the dry fruit. There is no rule that you only have to add a certain combination. The nuts add a nice crunch to the cake. Dry fruits like cherries, cranberries add some tartness. A blend of raisins add sweetness and adding some lemon/orange add a citrus fresh flavor. You can also add chopped figs, dates, apricots, crystallized ginger, orange/lemon peel. Orange zest adds a nice citrus flavor as well. So the options are endless. You can add little more or less of the dry fruits/nuts I have mentioned.
The dry fruit has to be soaked before adding to the cake batter. If it’s not soaked once the cake starts to bake the dry fruit will soak moisture from the batter and that can result in a dry cake. There are few ways you can do this. Some people use a variety of brandy/rum to soak the dry fruits overnight which is the traditional way. I like to use orange juice, you can also use apple juice or cranberry juice. Add the juice of choice over the dry fruits and microwave to warm it up than let it sit for about 20-30 minutes for the dry fruit to soak as much moisture as it can. I boiled the dry fruit and the orange juice together in a small saucepan for few minutes than turn heat off and let it rest till the raisins/currants were plump. Soaking overnight is not necessary especially for raisins. Make sure to drain the dry fruit before adding to the batter.
LIGHT BROWN/DARK BROWN SUGAR I have made this cake with half light brown sugar and half dark brown sugar in the past. The flavor is great. This time I only used dark brown sugar. This has more molasses so the flavor is rich and darker brown in color. I also added some molasses, again the gives the cake a rich deep flavor. You can leave it out if you don’t have any on hand. I love the deep brown color you get with using the dark brown sugar.
I baked this in a 9×5 loaf pan. A 10 inch loaf pan may be to big. Usually the standard loaf pans are 8×4 or 8×5 any of those should be fine. Line the pan with parchment paper.
Make sure that your oven is always preheated. I baked at 320 degrees F for 1 hour 25 minutes. Keep in mind all oven temperatures are a little different. So the baking time can vary. This is a dense cake so you don’t want to bake it on high, the top will burn and the center will still be under baked. Towards the end of baking time if you see the cake color is getting too dark you can cover with foil. When the sides of the cake pull away from the pans that is one sign it’s done another is if a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean with no batter.
Let the cake cool so it’s easy to take out of pan. Than let it completely cool before serving. I keep the cake wrapped in foil than a clean kitchen towel in airtight container. It does have a long shelf live because it’s packed with already preserved food like dry fruits/nuts. If the cake has been soaked with alcohol than it has even a longer shelf life. It’s safe to keep this type of cake wrapped and on the counter for up to 5 days than you can refrigerate it for longer. But we have kept this cake on counter longer than 5 days and it hasn’t spoiled.
Keep in mind prep time includes boiling the raisins in orange juice and letting it sit.
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp. nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp. allspice
- ⅛ ground cloves
- ⅛ tsp. ground ginger
- ½ cup butter, room temperature
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar (see notes)
- 1 tbsp. molasses
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- 1 cup orange juice
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ½ cup dark raisins
- ½ cup currants
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- Have all your ingredients ready and measured out. Make sure the butter and eggs are at room temp. Go ahead and line baking pan with parchment paper. I used a hand held mixer because it's a small batch.
- In a small saucepan add orange juice and all the raisins. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes than turn heat off and let it sit for about 30 minutes or until the raisins are plump. Than drain the leftover orange juice and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 320 degrees F. Keep the rack right in the center of the oven.
- Using a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy and fluffy about 3 minutes.
- Add the dark brown sugar and beat again till creamy and smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed.
- Add eggs, molasses, vanilla and oil. Beat until combined.
- Using a mesh strainer/sieve sift in the flour, spices, salt and baking powder. Using a spatula mix until well combined. Batter should be thick.
- Mix the soaked/drained raisins and the nuts together, than add to the cake batter. Mix well.
- Pour cake batter into the prepared pan, spread evenly.
- Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. I would recommend that you keep an eye on the cake after 1 hour. If you insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean or just with some dry crumbs the cake is done. If it starts to brown to much cover with foil until done. Make sure it's baking on the center rack.
- Once cool enough to handle take out the cake from pan and let it completely cook before serving or storing it. Keep wrapped in foil and a clean kitchen towel in airtight container. Cake will be easy to slice once cooled. You can keep cake stored like this for about a week. Leftovers can be refrigerated
- We enjoy this cake with butter or cream cheese.