Very Simple Fruit Cake Recipe

Mary and Brenda Maher

By Brenda & Mary

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Fruit cake often gets a bad rap. But let’s set the record straight. Not all are created equal, and with the right recipe, you can transform it into a flavorful delight that defies all stereotypes.

Fruit Cake

In fact, my grandma’s fruit cake recipe used to be the star of the show at our holiday gatherings. Everyone would clamor for a slice, and it never lasted past dessert. Ready to create your own fruit cake tradition? Keep reading for the best fruit cake recipe and all my tips for making a show-stopping cake!

Why This Moist Fruit Cake Recipe Stands Out

This recipe is a winner for a few reasons, and I’m willing to bet it’ll become your new holiday go-to:

  • Rich, Fruity Flavor: This isn’t your average, forgettable cake. The combination of spices, dried fruits, and a hint of booze (if you’re so inclined) means every bite is a burst of flavor. Craving chocolate but want a burst of fruit too? My chocolate raspberry cakes are calling your name. Love that pucker-up flavor? Surprise yourself with my pineapple coconut cakes, lemon blueberry cheesecake bars, or raspberry cake filling!
  • Easy to Customize: What I love about this recipe is its flexibility. You can swap out pretty much anything you don’t like. Want to experiment with different dried fruits? Go ahead. It’s a breeze to adjust to your (or your family’s) tastes.
  • Holiday Vibes: There’s something about a good fruit cake that embodies holiday tradition. In my bakeries, I can’t recall a single holiday season without this fruit cake gracing the display case. It’s downright iconic for ringing in Christmas cheer.
  • A Perfect Gift: Ever stressed about what to bring as a gift? A cake made of fruit like this is your answer. It travels well, and you can keep it for weeks.

How to Make Fruit Cake


Here’s the ingredients list you’ll need for this rich and flavorful fruit cake.

For the Boiled Fruit Mixture:

  • Unsalted Butter: Used to add flavor without the salt and create a rich and tender cake texture.
  • Soft Brown Sugar: Provides moisture and a deep, caramel-like sweetness.
  • A Mix of Dried Fruits: The star of the show with their unmistakable chewy texture and varied taste.
  • Chopped Dates: Dates add a touch of caramel-like sweetness and chewiness. Make sure to pit and chop them into bite-sized pieces before using.
  • Sweetened Orange Juice:  Freshly squeezed orange juice adds a touch of brightness and acidity to the fruit mixture.
  • Orange Zest:  The zest adds a burst of citrusy fragrance and flavor.
  • Molasses: A key ingredient that contributes to the characteristic fruit cake flavor and moist texture.

For the Cake Batter:

  • All-Purpose Flour:  The base for the cake structure.
  • Baking Powder: A leavening agent that ensures the cake rises perfectly.
  • Cinnamon Powder: Adds warmth and spice to echo the cake’s complex flavors.
  • Ground Ginger:  Adds a subtle touch of warmth and complexity.
  • Nutmeg:  Warm and slightly sweet spice that rounds out the flavor profile.
  • Allspice: Aromatic and warm, it brings a depth of spice that ties the flavors together.
  • Unflavored Vegetable Oil:  Keeps the cake moist and provides a tender crumb. I use canola oil for a neutral flavor.
  • Eggs: Room-temperature eggs contribute to structure, lift, and richness.
  • Walnuts:  Walnuts add a delightful textural contrast and a nutty flavor. You can substitute with other chopped nuts like pecans or almonds if you prefer.

For the Orange Syrup/Glaze:

  • White Granulated Sugar:  Sweetens the glaze and helps it adhere to the cake.
  • Orange Juice Adds a fresh, citrusy brightness to the glaze, complementing the cake’s flavors.

Prepping the Fruit Mixture

Step 1. Combine Ingredients

In a saucepan, toss together the dried fruits, dates, butter, and brown sugar. If you’re using those tougher dates, make sure they’re chopped up nicely before you throw them in. Then, pour in the orange juice, sprinkle in the zest, and add a good squeeze of molasses.

Step 2. Simmer

Heat everything over a medium flame until the mixture begins to simmer. Let it bubble gently for a few minutes.

Once done, spread the mixture into a shallow dish. Here’s a pro tip from my bakery days to speed up the cooling: shove it into your freezer for at least 45 minutes. You’re looking for it to thicken a bit, but make sure it comes back to room temperature before we bake the cake.

Fruit Cake step 1 2

Baking the Cake

Step 3. Preheat Oven

Fire up your oven to 285°F (140°C) (turn up the fan on if you have that option). Grease a 6×2 cake pan with a bit of homemade cake release or butter, and cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

Step 4. Sift Dry Ingredients

In a bowl, sift together your flour, baking powder, salt, and all the spices. Give them a quick whisk to mix, and then set aside.

Fruit Cake step 3 4 5 6

Step 5. Mix Oil and Eggs

In a separate smaller bowl, beat together the eggs and vegetable oil. Just a light whisking is enough, then put it aside too.

Step 6. Combine Everything

Take your now room-temperature fruit mixture and add it to a mixing bowl. Stir in the egg and oil mixture with a spatula. It might take some effort to combine them smoothly due to the thickness.

If you didn’t add the dates to your boiled mix, now’s the time. Toss in the dates and walnuts, folding them into the mixture until evenly distributed.

Now, gently fold in your previously dry ingredients. Mix until they’re just combined. Don’t overmix; stop as soon as you can no longer see any dry flour.

Step 7. Bake

Gently pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin and level off the top. A gentle tap on the tin will help remove any air pockets. Slide it into the oven for 80 minutes or until the knife inserted in the center comes out with no crumbs clinging to it.

Let the cake cool for half an hour. After that, use a knife to loosen the sides and move it upright onto a rack to allow cooling.

Finishing with Orange Syrup

Step 8. Make and Apply the Syrup

In a bowl, mix orange juice with sugar. Heat this mixture just until the sugar dissolves completely.

Coat the warm cake with the orange syrup. You’ll want to use up all the syrup to ensure it soaks through.

Step 9. Wrap and Wait

Wrap the cake using two foil sheets and place it within an air-tight container. Keep it stored in a dry, cool area for 48 hours before serving.

A properly wrapped fruit cake can chill out at room temp for about a month or take a longer nap in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Fruit Cake final

Tips on Making Fruit Cake

Waiting Time

The hardest part of this recipe might be the extended waiting time before you can finally devour the cake. Drawing from my hands-on experience, skipping this step is a rookie mistake. Those couple of days may seem like an eternity, but they allow the moisture to soak in fully and the flavors to beautifully meld.

Choosing Your Fruit Mix

Use what you love. I usually grab a pre-mixed blend from the grocery store with sultanas, raisins, currants, cherries, and citrus peel. But you can totally customize with more of your faves and ditch anything you’re not a fan of. Just keep the total amount to around 175g.


You can use either the juicy fresh kind or the packaged ones. If they’re on the tougher side, toss them into the boil to soften up. If you’ve got those soft, squishy dates, mix them in with the walnuts later on. They’re sweet enough as is.

Adjust the Ingredients

Not a fan of certain fruits or nuts? No problem. Swap them out or skip them altogether. Just remember, this can change the cake’s final texture and taste, but it’s all about making it your own.

Want to cut back on sugar? You can reduce it slightly. But be warned – this may affect the super moist texture. Try bumping up the oil a tad to compensate.

As for the molasses, it’s a key flavor maker so I really recommend keeping it. If you must avoid it, golden syrup or brown sugar works but the taste won’t be the same.

If you’re up for adding a bit of booze to the mix, replace the syrup coating and the orange juice with your alcohol of choice. But don’t go overboard. The orange juice adds a nice zestiness that complements the cake’s flavors. A little swap here and there is all you need.

Oven Settings

My oven instructions are for a fan-forced mode. If yours is conventional, crank the heat up to 310°F instead so the baking rate matches.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Swap Orange for Lemon in This Recipe?

Absolutely, you can switch out orange zest and juice for lemon in both the cake and syrup. Lemon’s a bit more on the tart side, so you might want to sweeten the syrup a tad more to balance that zing.

What Alcohol Works Best in Fruit Cake?

Brandy or whiskey are top picks for fruit cakes, thanks to their sweet and sometimes spicy undertones. Depending on the barrels used, they can add hints of vanilla or citrus. And hey, no need to use the fancy stuff-you won’t know the difference.

Why Is My Fruit Cake Bitter?

The culprit might be too much baking powder, or you accidentally used baking soda instead.

Consider drizzling a sweet glaze or syrup over the cooled cake to dial down the bitterness. This adds a layer of sweetness to offset any bitter notes. Whip up a quick simple syrup by melting sugar in hot water and gently brush it across the cake’s surface.

What to Do If Fruit Cake Is Dry?

A bit of alcohol, simple sugar syrup, or fruit juice can bring it back to life. Just remember not to soak it through unless you’re aiming for cake soup.

Well, there you have it. Happy baking, friends!

Discover More Unique Cake Recipes:

Fruit Cake

Fruit Cake

A rich and flavorful cake filled with dried fruits, nuts, and spices, soaked in a sweet orange syrup. Perfect for holidays, as a gift, or any special occasion.
3.20 from 26 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 420kcal
Author: Brenda Maher


For Fruit Cake

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup (175g) mixed dried fruits
  • ¼ cup chopped dates
  • ¾ tablespoon orange zest
  • cup sweetened orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • cup unflavored vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup walnuts halved

For Orange Syrup

  • 1 ½ tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar


  • In a saucepan, make the fruit mixture by combining butter, dates, dried fruits, brown sugar, molasses, orange juice, and zest. Simmer the mixture, then let it cool to room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven to 285°F (140°C) with the fan on. Grease a 6×2 cake pan.
  • Sift together baking powder, flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with vegetable oil.
  • Stir the fruit mixture into the oil and egg mixture.
  • Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until they are combined.
  • Add the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 80 minutes. Cool it in a pan, then on a rack.
  • For syrup, heat sugar and orange juice until the sugar dissolves. Brush the syrup over the warm cake.
  • Use foil to wrap the cake and store it for at least 48 hours before serving.


  • Fruit cake can be stored at room temperature for 1 month or in the fridge for up to 6 months.
  • Don’t skip the waiting time before serving. It helps with the flavor and moisture.
  • Customize the dried fruit and nuts as preferred, but keep the total weight consistent.
  • For alcoholic versions, swap the orange juice with a spirit like rum or brandy.
  • Adjust oven temperature to 310°F if your oven doesn’t have a fan.


Calories: 420kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 180mg | Potassium: 281mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 2mg
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Mary and Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher, are the founders of Cake Girls, a Chicago-based online baking shop specializing in cake supplies, party decor, and DIY cake tutorials. They are known for their elaborate and artistic cake creations, which have been featured on the Food Network Challenge and in a reality show, Amazing Wedding Cakes.

2 thoughts on “Very Simple Fruit Cake Recipe”

  1. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    I would love to taste your cake – it looks so delicious … mmm

    From Heather, Pretoria, South Africa

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