Recipes » Dessert Recipes » Candied Holiday Fruitcake

Candied Holiday Fruitcake

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This light, golden, and buttery Candied Holiday Fruitcake filled with fruits and nuts is delicious from the first bite to the last.
4.9 from 10 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
A slice of candied holiday fruitcake on a plate with remaining cake in background.

This recipe will change your mind about fruitcakes! This light, golden, and buttery Candied Holiday Fruitcake filled with fruits and nuts is delicious from the first bite to the last.

Fruitcake. That most maligned of holiday desserts. The butt of hundreds of holiday jokes.

A slice of candied holiday fruitcake on a plate with remaining cake in background.

Theories abound about fruitcake. Some people say there’s really only one and it gets passed from person to person. Other people swear it’s best used as the filler for potholes. And, honestly, there are some fruitcake recipes that are deserving of that treatment. 

Still others adore its rich, dark candied texture. People seem to be of two minds about fruitcake – they either love it or they don’t. Not much ambivalence with fruitcake.

Fruitcake Has a Long, Long History

Did you know that fruitcake has been around for hundreds of years? In the Middle Ages honey, spices, and dried fruits were added to bread dough for special occasions. Fruitcake was once even protected by laws that restricted its consumption to celebrations such as Christmas and weddings.

Most traditional recipes that have come down to modern cooks contain loads of candied citron, raisins, either dark brown sugar or molasses, and a healthy dose of rum or brandy. They’re dense, heavy, dark, and rich. They’re also loaded with booze. Maybe that’s part of the appeal for those in the fruitcake lovers camp.

A Lighter Version of Fruitcake

This fruitcake has many of the same ingredients as the traditional, but instead of dark and dense, it’s light in color, texture, and taste. It’s what southerners call a “blonde fruitcake.” It’s loaded with candied pineapple, cherries and orange peel (no citron!), and pecans. And the cake is light in color, rich and buttery.

Handwritten recipe card in the foreground with candied fruit in the background.

I’ve been making this fruitcake (with a few personal tweaks by me) every year since I first saw the recipe in the November 1991 issue of Bon Appetit. I really need to re-write that recipe card before I forget what it says in all the places that are spattered with butter and vanilla.

This is one of the treats that BeeBop looks forward to every Christmas and every crumb is consumed by the end of the holidays. For several years I sent one to work with him near Christmas and it became a standing request from the guys he worked with starting about November first each year. It’s really that good.

If you haven’t made a fruitcake for the holidays yet, I highly recommend this one.

About the Ingredients

  • Candied Pineapple, Cherries, and Orange Peel (You may notice that there is no candied citron in this recipe. That’s one of the reasons why it has a lighter taste than dark fruitcakes where citron plays a major role. There are two major suppliers of candied fruits in the U.S. – Sunripe and Paradise – and both have excellent products.)
  • Pecans (In my opinion, they’re essential to this cake. I couldn’t recommend substituting with anything else.)
  • The remaining ingredients are standard pantry items.

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Candied Holiday Fruitcake

Let’s Go Step-by-Step

I always like to show you the photos and step-by-step instructions for my recipes to help you picture how to make them in your own kitchen. If you just want to print out a copy, you can skip to the bottom of the post where you’ll find the recipe card.

Prepare the Pan and Fruits

Position an oven rack in the lowest third of your oven and preheat to 250°. Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan and set it aside.

Chopped candied pineapple in a measuring cup.

Chop the candied pineapple into about 1/3 inch pieces. Cut the cherries in half.

Large mixing bowl holding all the prepared fruit and nuts for the recipe.

In a large bowl, mix the pecans and fruit with 3 tablespoons of flour.

COOK’S TIP 
Mixing the fruit and nuts with flour helps them stay suspended in the batter. Otherwise, they all sink to the bottom of the cake while baking.

Mix the Batter

Photo collage showing the bowl of a stand mixer with the process for mixing the eggs, sugar, and butter.

In another large bowl, cream the butter with sugar with a hand or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Flour in a sifter held over a mixing bowl.

Sift 1 ¾ cups flour with baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and stir until blended.

Mixing bowl containing the batter mixed with the fruits and nuts.

Stir the fruit and nut mixture into the batter.

COOK’S TIP 
At this point the batter becomes heavy weightwise. It gets pretty hard to turn it all around and mix it well, but just keep pulling the wet batter up from the bottom of your bowl and mixing until everything is well combined.

Finished fruitcake batter in the prepared pan.

Put the batter into your prepared pan. This is not really a pourable batter. I use a wooden spoon to put big blobs of batter into the pan. When all of the batter is in the pan, smooth the top.

Bake Until Golden Brown

Cooked fruitcake in the baking pan sitting on a cooling rack.

Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted halfway between the outside and tube of the pan comes out clean, about 2 ½ hours. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes.

Baked fruitcake removed from the pan sitting on a rack to cool.

Turn out onto a rack and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar (optional).

Storage

Store: Cool the fruitcake completely. Store in a plastic cake container at room temperature. Keeps for about 10 days.

Freeze: Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. Freeze for up to three months.

Frequently Asked Questions

I don’t like that candied fruit. Can I substitute something else?

I’m just going to be honest and say that if you don’t like candied fruit, then this is probably not the recipe for you. The purpose of a recipe for “fruitcake” is kinda to highlight the “fruit.” Might be better to look for another sort of cake recipe.

Aren’t fruitcakes supposed to have alcohol in them or on them?

It’s really common for people to douse fruitcakes (especially the dark ones) with rum or bourbon and let them sit for weeks to really mellow. However, my opinion is that this particular recipe is better without any added liquor.

How can I keep my fruitcake moist?

To keep the fruitcake nice and moist, be sure to store it in an airtight container and only open the container when you’re cutting and serving the cake. Mine usually stays moist for at least a week.

Have you tried this recipe? I’d really appreciate you giving it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card or in the comments section.
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Recipe

A slice of candied holiday fruitcake on a plate with remaining cake in background.

Candied Holiday Fruitcake

This light, golden, and buttery Candied Holiday Fruitcake filled with fruits and nuts is delicious from the first bite to the last.
4.91 from 10 votes
Print It Rate It Save
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 15 servings
Calories: 559kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped pecans
  • 16 ounces candied pineapple chopped
  • 8 ounces candied cherries halved
  • 4 ounces candied orange peel
  • 1 ¾ cups plus 3 tblsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar optional

Instructions

  • Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 250°.
  • Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix pecans and fruit with 3 tblsp of flour.
  • In another large bowl, cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in vanilla extract.
  • Sift 1 ¾ cups flour with baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to batter and stir until blended. Mix fruit and nuts into batter.
  • Put batter into prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 2 ½ hours.
  • Cool in pan on rack for 15 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.

Notes

Ingredients:
  • You may notice that there is no candied citron in this recipe. That’s one of the reasons why it has a lighter taste than dark fruitcakes where citron plays a major role. There are two major suppliers of candied fruits in the U.S. – Sunripe and Paradise – and both have excellent products.
  • In my opinion, pecans are essential to this cake. I couldn’t recommend substituting with anything else.
Tips:
  • Mixing the fruit and nuts with flour helps them stay suspended in the batter. Otherwise, they all sink to the bottom of the cake while baking.
  • When mixing the batter, it becomes quite heavy weightwise. It gets pretty hard to turn it all around and mix it well, but just keep pulling the wet batter up from the bottom of your bowl and mixing until everything is well combined.
  • It’s really common for people to douse fruitcakes (especially the dark ones) with rum or bourbon and let them sit for weeks to really mellow. However, my opinion is that this particular recipe is better without any added liquor.
  • To keep the fruitcake nice and moist, be sure to store it in an airtight container and only open the container when you’re cutting and serving the cake. Mine usually stays moist for at least a week.
Storage:
  • Store: Cool the fruitcake completely. Store in a plastic cake container at room temperature. Keeps for about 10 days.
  • Freeze: Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. Freeze for up to three months.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1 | Calories: 559kcal | Carbohydrates: 71g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 153mg | Potassium: 133mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 51g | Vitamin A: 470IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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Recipe Rating




24 Comments

  1. I made this yesterday, it really looks pretty. My question is…how do we keep it? I know my mom soaked hers in alcohol.

    1. I’ve never soaked this cake as you would do with the dark fruitcakes. I keep it in a regular cake carrier/storage container for about a week. You can wrap it well and store in the refrigerator to extend it for about two weeks. This cake also freezes very well. To freeze, wrap the completely cooled cake in plastic wrap followed by a layer of heavy aluminum foil. Freeze for up to two months.

  2. This was my Daddy’s favorite fruit cake. Mama baked a dark fruit cake for herself, but he always wanted the light. I am going to try this. Wish I had Lana here to help me make it.

  3. 5 stars
    My mom used to make a fruitcake almost exactly like this and the whole family loved it. I would like to make it in smaller pans to send to relatives around the country; any suggestions on temp and time to bake mini cakes?

  4. 5 stars
    I made this on 11 Oct 2020, substituting chopped mix fruit for the orange peel. I cooked it for exactly 2 1/2 hours, and it turned out beyond all expectations! I served this after a family get together dinner, and all said this is excellent! My Dad had the best comment, he stated “I could eat this every day instead of regular cake.” Thank you Lana for the wonderful recipe, and it will be a regular.

    1. Honestly, I believe that amount of candied cherries would be overwhelming. I’d suggest substituting candied citron instead.

  5. When’s the best time to likker it up? My Aunt SadiePearl used to make her secret fruitcake every year. She had tons of orders for it. It was heavy, moist & rich… After making it she’d wrap it in cloth, probably cheesecloth and brown paper & store in a dark cupboard. I remember her opening them every few days & splashing them with more bourbon. This went on for several weeks before she gave it to the person who ordered it, so it must have been good & pickled!
    One day she gave me the recipe but when I went out for the day, she’d gone & taken it back! It was HER secret

    1. Amy, sorry I can’t help you because I don’t put liquor on mine. If I did, I’d probably use a very good bourbon and start several weeks in advance of when I wanted to serve it.

  6. Your recipe looks very light and tempting. I intend to make it this Christmas. Could you give NE storing instructions and shelf life if this cake.
    Pumla from Cape Town South Africa

  7. This is as close as I’ve ever found to a recipe that was in Woman’s Day or Family Circle in the 60’s. It was part of my cookbook for ages and disappeared. When you make the fruitcake it seems there isn’t going to be enough “cake” to hold it together! Thank you.

  8. Wow, I’m so happy to find this recipe! We made the dark fruitcake from Joy of Cooking this Christmas. It was good, not great. Have you heard of Collin Street Bakery in Texas?

  9. This DOES look like a wonderful recipe but being a Georgia girl, I can’t read a post about fruitcake without mentioning Claxton fruitcake made right here in Claxton, Georgia. Definitely one of my own Christmas indulgences — I always seek it out. A small square with a glass of eggnog is the best holiday dessert ever!

    1. I agree about Claxton Fruitcake.. none compare. At the Christmas grab bag that’s what I would want.. I’m trying this recipe with the container of chopped candied fruit..I hope that works. I have raisins, cranberries and apricots to add if needed. I like this recipe because I have butter on hand, not shortening..Everything baked is better with butter!’

      1. Glad you’re trying the recipe, Polly. Just be aware that that container of mixed candied fruit is mostly citron and this recipe calls for only pineapple, cherries, and orange peel, so your cake will be an entirely different taste.

  10. I’ll bet this is wonderful! You reminded me about a bread I usually make at Christmas, I call it Christmas Bread (original I know:@). Carrots, cherries, coconut and cloves! Gotta get my apron on and get busy-Merry Christmas!

  11. I have never gotten brave enough to attempt this, you just gave me inspiration, its simply elegant. Everyone loves this cake, all that I bake this is one I have never tried, amazing! I love yours going to book mark thanks for posting this one! Merry Christmas and have a blessed and healthy New Year!