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Old-Fashioned Fruitcake Baking Secrets (Plus 5 Recipes)

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I don’t know about you, but to me, commercial fruitcakes taste terrible. Welcome to Fruitcake 101!

Homemade fruitcake is just so much better than store-bought.

Homemade fruitcake is just so much better than store-bought.

I don’t know about any of you, but to me, the commercial fruitcakes are some of the most terrible things that I have ever tasted. My father used to love them, but he and I used to see opposites on just about everything. Anyway, there really can be an art to making fruitcake, from some of the simplest and most flavorful breads to some of the most wonderful cakes that will literally melt in your mouth. Welcome to Fruitcake 101!

In this article, we will cover general tips for making, storing, aging, and decorating fruitcake, as well as the following recipes:

  • Everyday Fruitcake
  • Honey Fruitcake
  • White Fruitcake
  • Old-Fashioned Fruitcake
  • Molasses Fruitcake

General Tips for Holiday Cakes

  • To chop suet, sprinkle it well with flour while chopping so it won’t stick to the knife.
  • To separate raisins and candied fruit, immerse them in a bowl of flour. Rub them until they are coated and separated before adding to your batter.
  • When your cake is first baked, it could have a hard dry crust. Never fear, as this is normal. During the aging process, the crust and fruit moisten and the flavors blend well.

How to Age a Fruitcake

A properly made, old-fashioned fruitcake should keep for two or three months, and that isn’t even counting freezing. You will need an airtight pan to store your cakes in, and these can be found in cooking stores or at the hardware store. Look for some at garage sales, too, as many can be picked up very inexpensively. Then you can make more fruitcake with all those tins!

When you first begin making fruitcakes for storage, it is all right to keep a watch on things. In fact, I encourage it to bolster your confidence.

  1. Begin by soaking cheesecloth in brandy or rum. Wrap each cake with four lengths of the cheesecloth.
  2. Overwrap the cake tightly with plastic or foil.
  3. Put it in a tin with a lid and store in a cool area.
  4. Every two weeks (mark it on your calendar!), unwrap the cake to take a look and try a small piece.
  5. Re-soak the cheesecloth, rewrap the cake, and repack it.

This system is good for an easy six weeks.

What If You Need It to Keep for Longer?

You can actually make it last a year or so with more rum, brandy, or any other kind of strong spirits, as alcohol prevents mold: Wrap your cake in cheesecloth or some kind of cloth that has been soaked in the alcohol. Then wrap over the cloth with plastic wrap or foil, and place it in an airtight tin in a cool place.

Another way you can ready the cake for longtime storage is to bury it in powdered sugar in an airtight tin and keep it in a cool place. For very long storage, poke the cake with a skewer, and pour a little brandy or rum in the holes. The reason for the airtight packaging is to keep the alcohol from evaporating.

More Tips for Storing Fruitcake

  • Keep the tin with the cake in a cool place to prevent mold, such as your refrigerator, cellar, or basement.
  • To help the cake last or to put it through the mail, soak the outside in a brandy bath. You can paint the brandy on with a pastry brush by giving it two or three coats.
  • If it molds anyway, just trim it off. Mold will not harm your fruitcake.
  • If you plan to eat it soon, just cover it with plastic wrap or foil.
Walnut halves make a good decoration for a fruitcake.

Walnut halves make a good decoration for a fruitcake.

Decorating Your Fruitcake

To decorate cakes, wait until after the storage time is up and you’re ready to serve. It doesn’t matter if it has been two weeks or two years.

  1. Make a glaze by combining 1/2 cup light corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water in a pan.
  2. Bring to a full boil, then allow it to cool a bit.
  3. Brush the surface crumbs off your unwrapped fruitcake, then brush on the glaze.
  4. Decorate with walnut halves, candied cherries, and/or citron, then brush again with the glaze.

Now that you’re armed with all this information about the way that the old-time bakers used to do this, make your fruitcake!

Everyday Fruitcake

  1. Mix 4 ½ cups whole wheat flour, 2 ½ cups rye flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and ½ cup canola oil.
  2. Add 1 cup raisins, ½ cup roasted sunflower seeds, ½ cup roasted almonds, pecans, or a mix (except peanuts), and ½ cup dried fruit, cooked enough to chop, like apricots or prunes.
  3. Add enough water to make a dough, about 2 2/3 cups.
  4. Knead, then make a loaf. One large loaf is better than two small ones!
  5. Place in a loaf pan and allow to rest overnight.
  6. Brush the top with water, then bake at 275ºF for 1 ½ hours.
  7. When cooled to lukewarm, wrap tightly in foil or plastic and allow to season for at least two days. This will allow the crust to soften and the flavor to improve.

Honey Fruitcake

  1. Mix 2 cups honey with ½ cup water.
  2. Beat in 4 ½ cups rye flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, and 1 ½ cups dried fruit.
  3. Bake at 350ºF in 2 round pans, with a pan of boiling water in the bottom of the oven, for about 40 minutes.
  4. Age for about a week, wrapped tightly in plastic or foil.

White Fruitcake

  1. Combine 2 ounces white raisins, ½ pound each light citron, candied pineapple, and candied cherries, 1 small, grated fresh coconut (save the milk), and one pound chopped, blanched almonds.
  2. Sprinkle the fruit and nut mix with 1 cup flour and set aside.
  3. Cream 2 cups sugar with 1 cup shortening.
  4. Add alternately to creamed mix, 1 cup coconut milk (add water if nut was short on milk) and 3 cups flour (presifted with 2 teaspoons baking powder).
  5. Add 1 teaspoon each vanilla and lemon extract, and then the floured nuts and fruit. Mix well.
  6. Beat 8 egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold them in gently.
  7. Bake ½ hour at 250ºF in a round tube pan (10 x 4 ½ inches).
  8. When ready to serve, decorate with citron slices and cherry halves.

Old-Fashioned Fruitcake

  1. Place 6 ½ cups fruit and 1 pound of nuts in a bowl and pour 1 cup dark rum over them.
  2. Stir, cover, and let rest overnight.
  3. For fruit, use your favorite combination—candied pineapple, candied cherries, citron, candied lemon and orange peel, and raisins. Golden or Muscat raisins toss better than dark raisins. You can even add dates, figs, dried apricots, prunes, currants, etc.
  4. For nuts, use pecans, walnuts, almonds, filberts, etc.—anything but peanuts.
  5. Cream together a pound each of butter and brown sugar.
  6. Add 12 egg yolks (keep the whites).
  7. Now add 4 cups flour, a teaspoon each nutmeg, salt, and ground allspice.
  8. Add 2 teaspoons each mace, cloves, and cinnamon.
  9. Stir in fruit and nuts.
  10. Whip the 12 egg whites stiffly, then fold in.
  11. Bake in four 9½x 4½-inch or 12x5x3-inch loaf pans that have been oiled and preferably lined with parchment paper, then lightly oil again.
  12. Brush the tops of the cakes with milk.
  13. Use about a 250ºF oven. Bake 3 ½ hours for the large loaf pans, 2 ½ to 3 hours for the smaller ones.
  14. Use the toothpick test to check when done. Let cool for about 15 minutes before you peel the paper off the cakes.

Molasses Fruitcake

  1. Combine 3 cups dark raisins, pitted prunes or chopped dates, 2 cups golden raisins or chopped dried apricots.
  2. Add two 16-ounce packages of candied fruit.
  3. Stir in rum, brandy, or apple juice if you don’t want to use alcohol. Allow to soak overnight.
  4. Cream together 3 cups butter and 2 ½ cups sugar.
  5. Beat in 12 eggs, then add a tablespoon vanilla extract and a 12-ounce bottle of molasses.
  6. Add a tablespoon each grated lemon and orange zest.
  7. Sift together 7 cups flour, 2 tablespoons each nutmeg and ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons each salt and baking soda, and a tablespoon ground cloves.
  8. Then add 4 ½ cups chopped walnuts or pecans.
  9. Combine with egg and molasses mixture.
  10. Bake at about 300ºF for 2 hours in floured 9x5x3-inch loaf pans, greased and lined with baking paper that has been oiled on the top. Use the toothpick test to check when done.

Comments

Rose on January 18, 2020:

What is one of the famous FRUIT CAKES

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 20, 2015:

Hey, Missy! A homemade fruitcake is definitely better than the stuff that they churn out commercially. It requires tending and care, and if that isn't done, you're definitely not going to get a good product. I'm sure that you will like that fruitcake from TX!

Missy Smith from Florida on December 20, 2015:

This is a great hub to bring back for the season, Deb. I hope I can call you that now. I feel I know you now. :)

I do not like fruitcake! However, it is probably because, as you have written here, there is a process to making and storing one to make them taste just right, and I haven't tasted a great one of those yet.

My dad actually found out about this place that is famous for their fruitcakes out in Texas, and he had me order one for Christmas. I'm going to be brave and try it, I'm optimistic that I may like it. The bakery has really good reviews from people who never liked fruitcake until they ate one from there.

I was unaware that there was different types of fruitcakes until I read your hub. I actually think I would like the White Fruitcake. It sounds yummy, and has ingredients that I like very much.

Great Hub! Sharing!

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on November 22, 2015:

You might find that you like it, too. My father loved that commercially made stuff, which I hated. A next door neighbor made her own, which turned me on to the finer things in life!

Chantelle Porter from Ann Arbor on November 22, 2015:

My mom loves fruitcake. I'm going to go be this a try

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on June 15, 2015:

It is in a cool place and infused with alcohol. Like a wine, it ages. One does check on it, too.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 15, 2015:

Why wouldn't the fruit cake turn rot if kept two months?

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on June 14, 2015:

Understood, Kevin. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

The Examiner-1 on June 14, 2015:

Well Deb, I have never baked so I might become a connoisseur for eating it but once at baking (your cake) I will not become one yet. (grin)

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on June 14, 2015:

Oh, Kevin...these are fantastic, really. It will turn you into a connoisseur AND a baker of the finer things in life. Even though fruitcakes take time, they are well worth the effort, which you shall soon discover. I am trying to get caught up, as school(ornithology), really had me tied up. I still have to prove what I know in August, but I know I can do that. Wait until you hear about my some of my goings-on!

The Examiner-1 on June 14, 2015:

Those all looked and sounded delicious Deb but I think that I might prefer the molasses recipe best. I might try a couple. Since I cannot bake this now - working on Hub, find pie pan, etc. - I bookmarked it. I voted it up, shared and pinned it.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on November 22, 2014:

Peg, everything homemade is always so much better, especially that unmistakable taste of love.

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on November 22, 2014:

It's been so many years since I baked a fruitcake. I love the basting in rum part and after it has seasoned for a while they are really tasty. Thanks for the wonderful recipes, helpful instructions and storage tips. You're so right about the commercial ones. They are awful.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on November 22, 2014:

Susan, you will NOT be sorry with these recipes, time, patience, and the ingredients are all that it required.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on November 22, 2014:

Mary, you don't know what you're missing. I felt the same way, as all my father would do was drag the commercially made trash in the house, which was disgusting. My next door neighbor MADE her own every holiday season. Try it, you'l LIKE it!

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on November 22, 2014:

Vellur, I guarantee that if you have the time, a real fruitcake will be well worth it for you.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on November 22, 2014:

I do enjoy a good homemade fruitcake and miss the ones that my grandmother used to make. I've never tried to make one myself but this year I may just try. Thanks for all your secrets I'm sure they'll help a lot.

Mary Craig from New York on November 21, 2014:

IF I were to eat fruitcake, there might be one I'd try here. Unfortunately fruitcake is still a joke in my house but your efforts are appreciated. Job well done.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on November 21, 2014:

Very useful baking secrets, bookmarked for future reference. Voted up very useful.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on January 10, 2014:

These fruitcakes are incredible homemade. I'm sure that if you do it once, you will keep on making them, Eddy. Thanks, as always.

Eiddwen from Wales on January 10, 2014:

Mmm sounds and looks great Deb and another for me to vote up and save.

Eddy,

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 31, 2013:

You will find it, agaglia. But remember: it is always in the last place that you look...

Annette Gagliardi from Minneapolis on December 30, 2013:

I used to make a fruitcake and it was delicious. There was very little batter, mixed nuts, and the candied fruit. I can't find the recipe, but you have given me inspiration to keep looking :D

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 19, 2013:

Jackie, I think people are used to those terrible commercially made cakes, and fear that homemade is just as bad. Little do the realize…well, we know the truth, eh?

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 18, 2013:

Sure look good. I love them but since I am the only one, I never get any. whaaaaa! lol But it is true. How could people not love them, makes no sense. Thanks for sharing though; I will save it just in case!

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on July 24, 2013:

If it was not for my next door neighbor growing up, I never would have known the virtues to great things that can be made in our own kitchens, KoffeeKlatch Gals.

Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on July 24, 2013:

I love a good fruitcake but they are so hard to find. Yours look delicious. I will be trying them. Thanks

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on April 18, 2013:

You're entirely welcome, Vacation Trip. There are so many fabulous recipes out there, it can be mind boggling to look at them all, especially the sweet things!

Susan from India on April 18, 2013:

Great hub. It is simply mouth watering. Thanks for sharing.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on January 21, 2013:

Kim, they are amazing. When I was a kid, the next door neighbor sent one over every Christmas that she made herself.

Sasha Kim on January 20, 2013:

I have actually never tried fruitcake! ^_^ I had no idea they're traditionally aged for so long!!! Very interesting hub ^_^ voting up!

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 07, 2012:

Hey, rajan! There are so many good recipes out there for those willing to give it a shot. If you make it, let me know how you like it.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 06, 2012:

Interesting and useful tips and recipes. Would love to try the white fruit cake. Voted up & useful.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 06, 2012:

Yes, frogy, a glaze is another one of those secrets. I'm glad that you enjoyed the piece!

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 06, 2012:

Yes, By Lori, but that is the real reason that I gave the information for baking and aging. Not everyone knows that.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 06, 2012:

Hey, europewalker. The essence of the rum has a nice flavor, which is usually used for preservation. Did you hear that a 133-year-old fruitcake was recently auctioned?

frogyfish from Central United States of America on December 05, 2012:

I have made several fruitcakes similar to your Old Fashioned recipe, but your Molasses sounds great also. I use lots of fruits and nuts and my non-fruitcake loving family members even like it. Thanks for sharing your hints about storage...I make a syrup/sugar/ rum or lemon glaze that works well too.

By Lori from USA on December 05, 2012:

I love fruitcake. But I was buying some candied citrus to bake one with, and the cashier almost threw up just looking at it ! because she hates fruitcake. I think with fruitcake you either love it or hate it ? There are so many recipes, seems a person could find at least one that they like ?!

europewalker on December 05, 2012:

Awesome hub. I am the only one in my family that loves fruitcake. I like it made with a little rum added to the recipe. Thanks for sharing:)

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 05, 2012:

I'm sorry that you got bad fruitcake. Unless it is made correctly, t is dry, stale tasting, and just overall, rather nasty.

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on December 05, 2012:

Although you make the fruitcake look delicious, there is no way I'm trying another piece as the first two I tried in my lifetime were not to my liking.

You are a creative individual with many talents.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 04, 2012:

You are most welcome, idigwebsites. Give it a shot, you'll never know unless you try it.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 04, 2012:

Hey, Tammy! Thanks. I'm going to put a new recipe on there very shortly, too.

idigwebsites from United States on December 04, 2012:

Yup, I guess it's optional... Thank you very much for the added tips! :)

Tammy from North Carolina on December 04, 2012:

Wonderful variations. The every day bread looks really good. Very useful tips!

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 03, 2012:

If you try it, idig, I know that you won't be sorry. If there is any fruit that you don't like, leave it out, or put in what you do like.

idigwebsites from United States on December 03, 2012:

I am also not keen on fruitcakes but the white fruitcakes sounds interesting and delicious. Might have a try. :)

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 02, 2012:

Hey, rmcleve. I have never tried Christmas Pudding...perhaps I should do research and make some...thanks for the idea!

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 02, 2012:

Hey, Bumpsysmum! You are so welcome. Wait until you see the plan that I have for recipes and comments this month. You're bound to find several things that you will like.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 02, 2012:

Thanks for sharing, Tom. Sorry that the stuff that you had was not worthy. Believe me, I sure know what you mean.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 02, 2012:

Carol, a lot of people don't like candied fruit, especially the citron. Those things can always be omitted.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 02, 2012:

Hope you try one, Meldz. These are pretty decent recipes.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 02, 2012:

Hey, Eddy! I think you'll like these old-style recipes. They sure have a lot of character. Don't pick one yet, as I have a molasses fruitcake that I found that I will be getting on here soon.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 02, 2012:

Right, Martin? Homemade recipes sure make a big difference, compared to that stuff that is mass produced cheaply.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 02, 2012:

No, Nettlemere, I can't imagine a gravy browned fruitcake, either. Maybe I should research that to find out more.

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on December 02, 2012:

Hey, whonu! No, you can't beat a real homemade cake, that's for sure. Thanks for taking a look.

rmcleve on December 02, 2012:

Mmmm...You know, so many people say mean things about fruitcake. I've always enjoyed it, especially with dense, moist cake, big chunks of fruit, and dollops of crunchy nuts. I never turn up my nose at a fruitcake, so bring 'em on!

One exception: I tried Christmas Pudding in England while we lived there, and could not get a taste for it at all...

Bumpsysmum from Cambridgeshire on December 02, 2012:

Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! My Gran was a head pastry cook in a well-to-do house in the 1920s and 30s. She went into service at the age of 12 and was taught by the head cook. Her pastry and cakes were to die for, she passed some of her skill on to me but not her fruit cakes, sadly. I can still remember the smell of baking when you entered her house....it made you drool! I will be trying these, thank you so much again. Voted B/A/U

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on December 02, 2012:

Great recipes but not for me. I'm with Bill on this one i tried it once and told myself i would never try it again.

Vote up and more !!! SHARING !

carol stanley from Arizona on December 01, 2012:

I like certain fruitcakes but many not. I used to make one with cherries, brazil nuts and a few other things. I guess it is the small fruits I don't like..But you did a good job on this.

ignugent17 on December 01, 2012:

Wow ! Looks so good. yum yum. :-)

Eiddwen from Wales on December 01, 2012:

Hi Deb another great one for my recipe book ;I haven't made a Christmas cake for years now but am all prepared to make one tomorrow!!!

I am going to save this gem in to my Christmas recipe book.

Thank you so much for sharing and have a great day.

Eddy.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on November 30, 2012:

An eatable fruitcake, imagine that.

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on November 30, 2012:

I love a fruitcake but had never heard of a white fruitcake - that sounds interested and worth a go.

My father remembers fruit cakes which were browned with gravy browning during rationing after the war. Goodness knows what that must have tasted like!

whonunuwho from United States on November 30, 2012:

What would any holiday be, without a nice homemade fruitcake on the table? Thanks for the great tips and recipes. whonu

Deb Hirt (author) from Stillwater, OK on November 30, 2012:

Billy, it surprised me, too. When I was growing up, my next door neighbor had me BEGGING for it every Christmas.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 30, 2012:

Deb, there is no way I'm eating one of those things. LOL I'm sure your suggestions are great for those who like fruitcake, but this boy had it once and swore never to do it again. :) Have a great weekend at the Lake!