Features
Fruitcake Is Amazing
Good fruitcake is a vessel for fruit, cake, and booze. What's not to like?
12-20-2021
Kelsey Bartlett

Fruitcake makes me think of holidays spent with my grandma. Her recipe for buttery, sweet no-bake fruitcake has always been near the top of my Christmas must-have list.  

But not everyone shares my enthusiasm for this holiday tradition. For many, uttering the word “fruitcake” conjures fear. Perhaps it’s the neon-dyed fruit often associated with the dessert that is particularly unsettling. Maybe it’s the brick-like appearance of the mass-produced loaves found on supermarket shelves. Or maybe it’s hearing the cake maligned for so long by so many—and having that bias our opinions.

Even Johnny Carson joked: “The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”

I, for one, don’t share that opinion. And there are many others who share this, even if they don’t publicly express those sentiments. There’s a lot to love when it comes to fruitcake, with endless room for creativity. For instance, Red Truck Rural Bakery, located in Marshall, Virginia, offers a tropical-inspired version of the dessert that sells out almost immediately during the month of December. 

Visiting Cuba was a game changer for Brian Noyes, the bakery’s owner and dessert mastermind. The shop’s “Havana Fruitcake” is a tweaked version of a fruitcake he learned to make on his trip.

“I think what turns people off is the candied fruit and fake, brightly colored oranges or cherries,” Noyes said of the stereotypical fruitcake. “It’s pretty sweet and gelatinous.” 

His version is packed with raisins, coconut, pineapple, dates, currants, pecans, almonds, and orange peel, then soaked in rum for three months.

RECIPE

White Fruitcake

Our White Fruitcake is citrusy, vibrant, and light—plus it doesn’t require months of advance planning for the traditional brandy soak. Get the recipe now.

 

Fruitcake’s unfair reputation precedes itself, making it a hard sell to newcomers who would rather give it as a gag gift than actually try it. Late night and pop culture jokes may be partially to blame for the dessert’s disdain, along with the misconstrued idea that it is a relic of the past. 

But the long-maligned dessert has the potential to be amazing. The trick is incorporating high-quality ingredients into the batter, and fruit that you actually want to eat. A good fruitcake is neither dense or sickly sweet—it’s packed with flavors and textures, elevated by a hefty dose of liquor.

America’s Test Kitchen is also giving the divisive holiday treat an update with a recipe for Apricot and Cherry Modern Fruitcake. The recipe nixes the neon fruit in favor of dried apricots and cherries, making for a more refined cake that is less dense, packed to the brim with flavor, and balanced with rum. Or, for more inspiration, try Cook’s Country’s recipes for White Fruitcake or Easy Mincemeat Fruitcake.

It’s far past time to retire the fruitcake jokes. At the end of the day, the dessert is a vessel for fruit, cake, and booze. And who doesn’t like that?

Photo: CSA-Printstock, Getty Images