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Recipe for a Moist Christmas Drunken Fruitcake

Scientist and author, Beth is also a keen home cook. She enjoys trying new recipes.

A good fruitcake is irresistible. One slice leads to another.

A good fruitcake is irresistible. One slice leads to another.

A Winter Treat for Xmas-Time

Drunken (or boozy) fruitcake is moister than a standard fruitcake because of the large quantity of alcohol in the recipe. Due to the preservative nature of alcohol, this fruitcake remains edible and appetizing for several months if kept in an airtight container. For a nonalcoholic version the alcohol can be replaced by fruit juice, although this gives it a shorter storage life. It's usually baked at Christmas-time or other winter holidays, but it's a wonderful cake to make at any time of the year.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

2 hours

2 hours 30 min

A very rich 8-inch cake (8-10 servings)


For the cake:

  • 8 ounces butter
  • 6 ounces soft brown sugar
  • 2 ounces Muscovado sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 10 ounces plain flour
  • 5 large eggs

For the drunken fruit mixture:

  • 1½ pounds dried fruit and candied peel. (This can be in any combination, but a good mix is 6 ounces light raisins, 6 ounces dark raisins, 4 ounces chopped dried figs, 4 ounces chopped dates, and 4 ounces mixed peel. If I’m short on time, I cheat a little and buy a ready-prepared mixture of dried fruit and peel.)
  • 2 ounces superfine sugar
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1½ cups brandy
  • 1 small orange
  • 1 heaped teaspoonful cinnamon

Three Steps to Heaven

There are three steps to making this tasty very alcoholic fruit cake.

  1. The dried fruits are soaked in alcohol overnight so that they are enlarged before they are added to the dry ingredients.
  2. The cake is baked using the alcohol bloated fruits.
  3. The optional final stage is to “irrigate” the cake after it has been baked with even more alcohol.

Step 1: Prepare the Dried Fruit

Note: This should be done at least 24 hours before baking.

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  1. Make a sugar syrup by dissolving the sugar into the hot water.
  2. In a large bowl pour the sugar syrup over the dried mixed fruit.
  3. Add the brandy, the cinnamon and then the zest and juice of the orange.
  4. Stir it all together. Cover the bowl with clingfilm or foil and place it in the fridge to rest. You should allow at least 24 hours for the dried fruit mixture to absorb all the liquid and plump up to their original size.

Step 2: Make the Boozy Fruitcake

  1. Before you start to mix the cake, turn on the oven. This ensures it reaches a high enough temperature by the time you have finished your prep. The cake is baked at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, 170 degrees Centigrade or Gas Mark 3 for two hours. The cooking time required may vary slightly depending on your oven.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Then stir in the treacle.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and beat air into the mixture as you do so. This will help your final cake taste light and airy.
  4. Gently fold in the sieved flour and the mixed spice. The action of lightly folding the mixture at this stage (rather than beating,) helps keep the cake light and fluffy.
  5. Add the alcoholic plumped-fruit mix and stir the mixture well (but don’t beat it). This helps distribute the fruit throughout the cake.
  6. To stop the cake from sticking to the baking tin, grease it well or use greaseproof paper before pouring the mixture into it.
  7. Put the cake into the preheated oven to bake. About 15 minutes before the two-hour baking period is up, test to see if your cake is done by inserting a clean knife or skewer into it. If the knife comes out cleanly with no crumbs sticking to it, then the cake is cooked.
  8. Turn the cake out of the baking tin and place it on a wire rack to cool.
  9. The final optional stage is to make the fruit cake more alcoholic. To do this, put the cake in a storage container and make tiny incisions into the cake with either a knife or skewer. Using a teaspoon, pour a few spoonful’s of brandy over the cake.
  10. Place the cake in an airtight container in a cool place.

Step 3: Irrigate the Fruitcake

Note: This step should be done over the next few days.

  1. Every day for a week pour an additional 2 teaspoonfuls of brandy onto the cake.
  2. The drunken fruit cake is ready for eating when it will soak up no more alcohol (about a week). Or when you can resist eating it no longer!
  3. Serve with either fresh cream or custard.

The video below shows another boozy rich fruit cake recipe; this one originates from Barbados. The celebrity chef Delia Smith says the smell of the alcohol-soaked fruit used in the cake reminds her of Christmas and family holidays.

Delia Smith's Christmas Creole Cake

Fig Sherry and Almond Christmas Cake

Here's an alternative recipe for a holiday fruitcake that was created by the Waitrose and John Lewis Partnership team; a quality British grocery chain. Unusually it uses figs alongside traditional vine fruits. The quantities are given in grams and the oven temperatures are in Celsius. This cake serves 16 people.


  • 500 grams dried mixed fruit
  • 270 grams soft figs, chopped
  • 200 grams glace cherries, halved
  • 1 large orange, zest and juice
  • 125 ml cream sherry
  • 225 grams salted butter, softened
  • 225 grams muscovado sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 150 grams plain flour
  • 100 grams ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoonfuls mixed spice
  • 100 grams toasted flaked almonds


  1. At least 24 hours before baking, put the dried fruit, figs, and cherries into a pan with the orange juice, zest, and sherry. Bring to the boil, stir and remove from heat to cool. Over the 24 hours stir the mixture occasionally.
  2. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 3. Grease a 20cm deep cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring each is fully mixed in before adding the next. Tip in the flour, ground almonds, spice and a pinch of salt and stir. Fold in the toasted almonds and soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top.
  4. Bake for 1 hour 30 mins at 160 degrees before turning down the temperature to 140 degrees, Gas Mark 1 and baking for a further 1 hour 45 minutes. It is cooked when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  5. Once cold remove the cake from the tin. Poke holes in the top with a cocktail stick and feed the cake with a mixture of equal parts cream sherry and orange juice. Wrap in clean baking parchment and a layer of foil and feed the cake every few days with the liquid for up to four weeks depending on personal taste.
Homemade fruitcake can be decorated with a Christmas theme.

Homemade fruitcake can be decorated with a Christmas theme.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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