Mini Fruitcakes: for the 3 dozen fruitcake lovers in your life.

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If you’re one of the legions of professed fruitcake haters out there, stop reading this right now.

Step…away…from…the…computer.

Those of us in what is, after all, a rather elite band of fruitcake lovers don’t need your scorn around this much-maligned Christmas cake; your tales of fruitcake-tossing contests; or your “This fruitcake was SO bad…” stories.

We don’t want to hear the joke starting “How many fruitcakes are there in the world?” – we’ve heard it. And we’re not laughing.

Fruitcake lovers unite! This post is for you.

Truthfully, I never liked fruitcake, growing up. The occasional leaden cake, soaked in bad liquor, would arrive in the mail (or come home with my dad from an office party), and be surreptitiously placed under the tree.

And no matter how enticing the colorful tin, the red ribbon, the pictures of sleigh-riding bon vivants on the label – once you actually tasted the cake, with its bitter candied peel and rubbery citron, you’d know you’d been had.

It wasn’t until I made my own fruitcake – forced into the process by my fruitcake-loving husband and mail-order fruitcakes way beyond my budget – that I discovered an important secret:

Fruitcake doesn’t have to be made with icky dried fruits. It can be made with whatever fruits you like.

Dried cranberries and mango? Yes. 100% candied cherries? Go for it.

Whatever your heart’s desire, it’s perfectly fine. No Fruitcake Police.

And you know one of the best things about fruitcake? Giving fruitcake gifts puts you WAY ahead of the curve during the potentially frenzied holiday baking season.

I made the following gift fruitcakes in early October; now, six weeks later, they’re just as moist and tasty as they were the day they were baked. I’ll be giving them out, as part of my Christmas cookie gifts, four weeks from now – and I know they’ll STILL be delicious.

The only issue with giving fruitcakes as gifts is getting the giftees to think of them as a welcome confection, rather than a doorstop or potential weapon.

My advice? Include a disclaimer with each gift: “You may THINK you don’t like fruitcake, but I challenge you to let go of your prejudices and give this little cake the chance to change your mind. You’ll be glad you did.”

The following recipe makes a typical deep-dark, moist fruitcake, using the fruits of your choice. The recipe includes plenty of options for size – anything from 3 dozen mini cakes (as I show here) to 2 large, 3-pound loaves.

Let the fruit and flour fly! It’s fruitcake season, the best time of the year.

Let’s talk fruit first. After all, this is a FRUITCAKE. But that doesn’t mean you have to use traditional fruitcake ingredients: citron, candied peel, or one of those scary-looking tubs of brownish/greenish sticky stuff you might see in the “gourmet” section of the grocery store this time of year.

Instead, use a mixture of dried fruits you like. Mango. Apricot. Pineapple. Tart cherries. Whatever you choose, you’ll need 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of dried fruit.

Here’s a mixture I like:

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) dried pineapple
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) golden raisins
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) diced dried apricots
1 1/2 cups (7 7/8 ounces) chopped dates
6 ounces candied red cherries (plus more for decorating the tops of the cakes)
1/3 cup (2 1/4 ounces) diced crystallized ginger

Now that all adds up to just about 2 pounds, 5 ounces of fruit; don’t worry if you use a bit more or a bit less. For easy slicing of the finished cake, make sure all the fruit is in fairly small (chickpea-sized, max) pieces. BTW, our Favorite Fruit Blend is a tasty combination, if you don’t want to “shop and chop.”

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Add 3/4 cup dark rum or brandy. Avoiding alcohol? Substitute apple juice or cranberry juice.

Stir everything together (above left), cover tightly, and let rest at room temperature overnight. Next day, the fruit will have absorbed nearly all the liquid, and become a bit plump and quite sticky (above right).

Too impatient to wait until tomorrow? Microwave for 1 minute (or until it’s very hot), cover, and let rest 1 hour.

Next, preheat the oven to 300°F. This recipe makes enough batter for ONE (not all!) of the following:

•3 dozen individual (muffin pan) cakes;
•16 mini loaves (about 3 3/4″ x 2 1/2″);
•6 to 8 medium loaves (about 3” x 5”); or
•2 standard 9” x 5” loaves.

Grease the bottom and sides of the pans of your choice; in the case of the individual cakes, line a standard muffin pan with papers, and grease the papers.

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Put the following in a large bowl (at least 6-quart):

1 cup (16 tablespoons, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups (15 ounces) dark brown sugar

If you don’t keep brown sugar on hand and are using it just for this recipe, feel free to use an entire 16-ounce box.

Beat the butter and sugar until well combined, then beat in the following:

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder

Beat in 4 large eggs, one at a time.

Whisk together 3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, black cocoa preferred. The cocoa is strictly for color, so skip it if you like. Add this mixture to the batter, along with 1/2 cup golden syrup, boiled cider, or dark corn syrup; and 1/2 cup apple juice, cranberry juice, or water. Stir until combined.

Fold in the fruits, any remaining liquid, and 2 cups chopped, toasted nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts).

Right about now you’re either A) suddenly understanding why you needed to use a BIG bowl, or B) wondering how to stir everything together without it spilling over the sides of the not-quite-large-enough bowl you chose. Am I right? This is a LOT of batter. The theory being, if you’re making fruitcake, you might as well make a lot.

scoop

Spoon the batter into the pans, filling them about 3/4 full.

If desired, decorate the tops of the cakes with candied cherries, and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar.

baked

Bake the cakes as follows: about 60 minutes for the individual cakes; 65 to 70 minutes for the small loaves; 75 minutes for the medium loaves, and 2 hours + 10 to 15 minutes for the 9″ x 5″ loaves. The cakes are done when a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few damp crumbs clinging to it.

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Remove the cakes from the oven, and brush them with rum or brandy. Or simple syrup, or flavored simple syrup (vanilla, rum-flavored, etc.). If you like just a hint of rum or brandy flavor, add 1 tablespoon of liquor to 3/4 cup vanilla syrup or simple syrup, and brush this mixture on the cakes.

Do you HAVE to brush the cakes with alcohol or syrup? Well, it keeps them moist for weeks; in fact, I just unwrapped one of these cakes I made six weeks ago (and brushed with simple syrup just once, then wrapped in plastic); it’s just as moist and tasty as it was the day it was baked. But if you want to leave them “un-brushed,” understanding they won’t stay moist long-term, that’s just fine.

When the cakes are completely cool, wrap them individually in plastic wrap, then foil, and store at room temperature.

If you’ve made the small, muffin-sized cakes like I did here, wrap each one in plastic (but not foil), and store them in a large plastic container with a snap-on lid; or a sealed plastic bag. This will help keep them moist, and facilitate moving 3 dozen cakes around without a fuss.

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Yes, this is fruitcake – classic, dark, moist, loaded with fruit and nuts. You either like it or you don’t; if you don’t you’re probably not reading this. If you do – bet you’re inspired to start selecting this year’s dried fruits, eh?

done

All I need now is 3 dozen fruitcake lovers…

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…or a couple of people who’d LOVE to find a 3-pound fruitcake under the tree this season!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Fruitcake Even Fruitcake Non-Lovers Will Love.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Candace

    Oh, OJ….my heart just skipped a beat! I had to call Mr. Squash in to see this! We are fruitcake lovers to the core. We’ll even put up with all the jokes. I am off to the store at this moment to pick up the ingredients!
    Cheers!

    Reply
  2. Janice

    This is a variation of Alton Brown’s free-range fruitcake recipe that turned me from a hater to a lover 4 years ago. Trusted him enough to try it & never looked back. His is my go-to recipe every year. PJ is right, this is not your Grandmother’s fruitcake. Just don’t skip the booze, it’s a great flavor enhancer & preservative.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I agree Janice, if you can have alcohol it really makes fruitcakes (and any cake for that matter), a bit better. Jon@KAF

  3. bpaz

    I love fruitcake and over the years making everything from old English fruitcake to Swedish fruitcake to my grandmothers who made an applesauce cake with fruit which was wonderful. However I ended up modifying the Swedish fruitcake which was fairly simple and adopting it as my favorite. I like the fact you can taste the cake as well as the fruit which some are overwhelmed by. However this sounds wonderful especially with the idea of using various dried fruit and intend to try it next year because I too always like to bake my fruit cakes in Oct. After baking I would brush the cakes with brandy and wrap them in cheesecloth that was soaked in brandy and then wrap in foil and place in a big pickle crock with a heavy lid and every few weeks check them to see the cheesecloth was not to dry and needed more brandy…by Christmas they were moist and wonderful. Makes me wish I had made one this year. It might sound like it would be overwhelmed by the brandy, but it just added to the moisture of the cake and brought out the flavored.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Interestingly, I brushed it once with rum-spiked sugar syrup; wrapped it in plastic, then foil; and let it sit for 52 days, just like that. Never opened it. Opened it today, and it was wonderfully moist without being at all soggy; just perfect, my husband says. I sliced him off a few thin slices, but have rewrapped it so he can enjoy little bits of it now till Christmas. I also sliced a few 3/4″ pieces, cut them in thirds, and dipped them to cover in dark chocolate. A local volunteer trail-clearing crew liked those VERY much this morning! Be sure to bookmark this for next year – you’ll be glad you did. Happy holidays! PJH

    2. Sally

      Oh man I remember my Mother making or buying a fruit cake every year and I’d dread it, she would also soak it and wrap it up and put it in a pretty tin. When I grew up I tried it on my kids with no luck but someone gave me a recipe for fruit cake using fruit shaped gum drops. I figured what the heck and tried them, but not the licorice, sounds awful but the kids loved it. no alcohol though, the gum drops are pain to cut up. You have to use a knife with some flour on it or scissors. It doesn’t taste like gum drops but like fruit cake without the bitter stuff. Most people curl their lip up when I mention what it’s made out of but then it uncurls when they taste it. Try it sometime, you’ll like it. Honest

    3. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sally, that actually sounds pretty good to me – and I’m betting my husband the fruitcake fiend would like it, too – since he’s a fan of gum drops. I wonder how jelly beans would do? :) PJH

  4. Audrey Carlson

    I love fruitcake, but I have Celiac’s Disease. If I decide to try just a half a batch gluten-free, how much xanthan gum do you think I should add?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I would suggest to add about 1/4 tsp per cup of GF flour! Good luck and happy baking. Jon@KAF

  5. Barbara

    These look delicious! I think I will add some figs, love figs in fruitcake! My brother is a fruitcake lover and I used to make him one every Christmas, when I realized that I was spending over $40 for candied fruit for one fruitcake I stopped making them! I like the idea of dried fruits, there is such a great assortment of dried fruits available now a days plus many that I dried myself……maybe a few of those dried yellow transparent apples I made this summer will find their way in the fruitcake!
    So glad I found this site, your recipes are always top notch!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks Barbara! I bet your dried fruit will work great in a fruit cake. Give it a try and see how it works. Jon@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, though I would suggest to use 1 part cider to 3 parts water as the boiled cider is very potent and could overpower your fruit. Jon@KAF

  6. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies

    PJ, you just made my husband’s Christmas! Seriously, he is a fruit cake *fanatic*. I like it okay, but I can only have so much of it before I’m over it. I just showed him the recipe and promised him freezer space for individual cupcake sized fruit cakes so he can enjoy them throughout the year. You and I are now his two favorite people!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Well, I feel privileged to join you in that elite group of “husband favorites!” My hub is pretty much a fanatic, too, which is why I continue to make it year after year – it just makes him so darned happy… Enjoy! PJH

  7. sandra Alicante

    Looks lovely! I’m not fond of heavy fruit cakes either. The link below is to my much lighter cheat version, which can also be made as cup cakes but is a last minute cake rather than one to keep. There is a tip in there on how to line a cake tin the easy way too!
    It uses mincemeat (don’t know if you get that Stateside) but all the expat Brits will remember it. It’s handy if you don’t want to buy lots of different dried fruits and have them hanging around.

    http://www.sandrascookbook.com/recipe.php?id=55

    Seasons Greetings to all at KAF, you do a great job!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sandra, we do have mincemeat over here; and that’s a good tip for using it, too. Thanks for the link – I’ll try your recipe sometime. And thanks as always, for connecting here. PJH

  8. RG

    I LOVE fruitcake and had to go gluten free 9 years ago. I have been afraid to try fruitcake since. How could it possibly be good. Is there anything I need to do differently if I am using King Arthur’s gf baking mix, or is a straight substitution sufficient?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We have not yet developed a gluten free fruitcake recipe. We do love cheering on pioneers!~Jaydl@KAF

  9. George LeGault

    You lost me once you added HFCS, Why take a good cake and make it bad. Do you realize that HFCS or corn syrup is what is causing this countries obesity epidemic? Plus it all made out of Hybridized corn, so when you eat it your body doesn’t even see it as sugar or corn. You body treats it like a toxin and then puts a fat cell around it. The more times you do that the more weight your body gains. I haven’t even addressed the fact that HFCS addicts you to the food as well causing your brain to think that the food tastes better than it really does and makes you crave more of it! Corn Syrup in food not in my house!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Nutter

      Perhaps you would feel better just using honey. It will add it’s own flavor but I’ve used it and like the flavor.
      That’s the wonderful thing about making your own fruitcake. Not only can you choose the fruit you can choose the sweetener. The syrup or honey is important to maintain moisture though so is best not skipped. Perhaps you have a jar of homemade current or raspberry jelly. In the very similar recipe that I have which was given me by my grandmother has no syrup, but calls for 1 cup ( jelly jar) of tart jelly. Perhaps the antioxidant properties in the fruit will help even out the evil toxins added by the other ingredients. Hope you can find a fun and exciting solution to avoid HFCS in your Holidays!!

  10. Elva Y. Derby

    Sounds wonderful-I’m the only one in my family (I think) that likes fruitcake-I have had it since I was a child and I have always loved it-

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Elva, treat yourself to a nice cake this year – maybe you can persuade someone else in the family to at least take a taste. It’s often the “odd” fruits that put people off; try making it with dried cranberries, apricots, etc. and see what people think. Enjoy – PJH

  11. Mary Pat

    This is absolutely genius! Already I can say I’ve gotten lots of holiday joy from fruitcake and that’s only from reading your blog! What a writer, already you’ve cracked the facade and shone some light onto that dark hatful place in my mind where I store all of my food prejudices. I think the White House may have a place for you on a National Committee for Non-Descrimintation!
    And with that said I can’t wait to make this recipe. I’m already dreaming of the different combinations of fruits I can put together.
    Off to the store! Have a wonderful holiday season!!

    Reply
  12. Susan Searcy

    I discovered this recipe on the KA website several years ago and since then have stuck to this recipe. I love the dried fruits and preserved ginger – especially tangy fruits like dried apricots and sour cherries. When I’ve persuaded non-fruitcake lovers to try it they are always converted to fruitcake lovers. If they still don’t like it, there’s just that much more for me. Thanks so much

    Reply
  13. Pam W

    If you skip the alcohol, will the cakes still last for weeks? I am not a fruitcake lover, but I have a friend who absolutely loves them and I would like to make one for him for Christmas.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      I believe so, but since I haven’t tried them without alcohol in the batter (though I’ve done them without alcohol in the brushing syrup), not 100% guaranteed sure. I’d say wrap VERY securely, double layer of plastic/foil, and store in the fridge, if you’re worried, OK? Good luck – PJH

  14. Cathy Gwozdz

    I loved reading your commentary on fruit cake! I have my soaked fruit. I uh, have put it to soaking about 5 days ago after surgery when I thought I would be up to making it….SO I will make it today and see what happens! Oh and I used the good stuff B & B! I will let you know how it comes out. I am thinking of putting in 1/2 cup of maple syrup instead of the golden syrup as I am not sure what it is!
    How long does a fruit cake with the brandy last?
    Cathy

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Cathy, hope you’re feeling better now… Fruitcake with brandy should last a couple of months at least, well-wrapped, so if this is for Christmas you’re all set. Enjoy – PJH

  15. Cathleen

    Oh. My. Goodness! I am the only fruitcake lover in my family. This recipe is fabulous! I even got my family to try it. Success! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      We frutitcake lovers have to support one another however we can, right, Cathleen? Glad you could coax them into trying it. Enjoy! PJH

  16. Helen

    Could I use molasses instead of the boiled cider/dark corn syrup? I’m not sure if it’s the same kind of thing but I have some from my molasses cookies.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, you could use molasses. Your cakes may lean toward “gingerbread” in flavor. ~Jaydl@KAF

  17. Mary

    I want to try making a fruitcake without the nuts, due to family allergies. Should I substitute anything or just leave them out?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Either way, Mary – leave them out, or substitute your favorite dried fruit, your choice. Enjoy – PJH

  18. Sally

    I’m disappointed in the outcome of the fruitcake I made today. After spending a lot of money on fruit and a couple of hours last night cutting fruit and soaking it, i finally got to make what I thought was going to be a great neighbor gift. It is really bad and I don’t know what I did wrong. This isn’t my first fruit cake for sure but this is the first dry fruit cake. It all looked good going in but man this is the dryest fruit cake I’ve ever tasted. I have two neighbors that won’t get a fruit cake this year. I used a lot of simple syrup I made with coconut flavored rum and it’s still dry. There are so many good reviews on here I know it must be something I did or didn’t do but I don’t know what it was or if I can save the three loaves and a dozen cupcakes or not. It may have baked to long but I checked it often and took it all out when is tested done. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hmmmm. How was the flour measured? By volume (cups that you stir first, sprinkle into the cup, then level?) or by weight? This could be one cause for dry baked goods. The cupcakes probably baked quicker than the loaves. If these problem solving tips don’t resonate, it may be a good time to call our Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-2253. Irene@KAF

  19. Aunt LoLo

    Oh. My. Goodness! I made this today – I will leave a review on the recipe. It is absolutely delicious! I had to make a few changes (there was a toddler pulling on my knees, and I cut a few corners), but I’m lucky the whole batch is wrapped up, or I’d still be nibbling!

    Reply
  20. James

    Thank you for this. I’ve never had fruitcake (because I’m allergic to nuts), but my (german) husband wanted to try it (since it doesn’t really exist in germany). I made it, with alterations of course, and I. Can’t. Stop. Eating. It.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      James, I’m still nibbling on the one I made over 2 months ago – and I have to say, it’s the best fruitcake I’ve ever made. Moist, dense, the fruits taste wonderful, the spices are perfect. Really a good recipe, isn’t it? Glad you’ve become a convert! :) PJH

  21. Jill Myers

    Our family cookbook mom made of our favorites had a recipe made with applesauce. We used to make it and wrap up the loaves to freeze for a month in advance before enjoying them. The freezer allowed a balancing of moisture and we never experienced a dry crust forming. We didn’t brush the tops of the loaves with alcohol. Mom’s applesauce fruitcake is the only one I actually like. I made the glazed fruits and stored in the freezer up to Halloween. Thank you for bringing back those fond memories here, decades later. I’ll have to find mom’s recipe book and see about posting for you to enjoy too. Thanks again! JM

    Reply
  22. Jolene Walters

    I have a beautiful fruitcake recipe that I love. It’s a chocolate tropical fruit, fruitcake, using cocoa, chocolate syrup, currents, dried mango, papaya, pineapple and bananas. It is good, but I wanted to make the muffin size and didn’t know how long to bake those, so I started searching and found this site. I can use it, and even make some additions to my recipe. I top it with shredded coconut. I am going to use a lot of the ideas you have. Our family has always loved fruitcake, from ourgrandmother’s to our neighbor’s special fruitcake.
    Jolene

    Reply
  23. Karin

    I have to admit, I’m a “traditional” fruitcake hater. My dad loved it, and always got one for Christmas, so we had plenty to joke about. But one year I decided out of love for my Papa; to make fruitcake-a daunting prospect-but I liked your products very much and had faith. I used your fruitcake fruits and the Fruitcake Even Fruitcake Non-Lovers Will Love recipe. The title had caught my eye. Oh my; it was wonderful………Most years I think of it too late, but I’m going to make it again this year in memory of my dad. I’ve thought about it every year, it is so good. Thank you for the recipe, everybody should try this.

    Reply
  24. Nanci

    I’m wondering…could you use this recipe and bake them in the mini muffin tins? About 25 years ago I made some like that and have lost the recipe. They were perfect on the dessert table at a holiday party.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Sure, Nanci, no reason not to. Just cut the baking time and check at 18 minutes, and every few after that until you figure out the bake time. Susan

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