Shockingly Tasty Fruitcakes

Shockingly Tasty Fruitcakes

Start now, finish aging by Christmas

Fruitcake plays a role in plenty of yuletide jokes. No surprise: The scary green cherries and dense, leaden consistency are pure holiday hilarity. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Determined to create fruitcakes that would actually get eaten—and be enjoyed—we tested three varieties. We also perfected the aging methods (these recipes were in development for a year and a half!). These fruitcakes are straightforward and delicious. Get started now to have yours ready for the holidays.

Types of Fruitcakes

All variations on fruitcake contain sweetened dried fruit and alcohol, and can generally be categorized as dark, black, or white. Here are our versions.

Spiced Dark Fruitcake

This iconic fruitcake is made with molasses, dried fruit, and warm
spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, plus a kick of citrus.

Caribbean Black Fruitcake

This one’s made with burnt sugar and rum, giving it a rich, chocolaty flavor.

White “Groom’s” Fruitcake

Buttery and citrusy, this fruitcake is more akin to a candied-fruit-laden
pound cake, and is the perfect vehicle for converting fruitcake-haters.

Notes from the Test Kitchen


Bad fruitcakes are generally bad because they use poor-quality candied fruit or way too much booze. Buy good candied fruit from high-end grocers like Whole Foods or Dean & DeLuca. Or make your own.


Though all of our fruitcakes were tasty enough to eat freshly baked, their flavors became more balanced and nuanced as time went on. When testing, we stored batches in different ways and for different lengths of time. After enclosing the cakes in resealable plastic bags, resealable plastic containers, and cheesecloth, and even burying them under pounds of powdered sugar both in and out of the refrigerator, we learned that each of the three came out best with a different method and different amount of aging. If you’re concerned about how these cakes can last as long as they do, see our sidebar to the right addressing fruitcake fears.

Fruitcake Fears Addressed

By Roxanne Webber

Will I get sick if I age fruitcake for a month?
If the water activity (which is a measure of the free water available for organisms to grow) is below 0.85, “harmful microbes should not grow,” says Dr. Michael Doyle, regents professor of food microbiology at the University of Georgia and director of UGA’s Center for Food Safety. “Usually fruitcake is below this water activity,” he says. That means that there’s not enough moisture in the cake to allow harmful microorganisms to grow. Alcohol, especially on the surface of the cake, also helps deter microbial growth, he says.

These cakes have a lot of alcohol; should I be concerned about getting drunk?
If you have dietary or religious concerns surrounding the consumption of alcohol, you’re going to want to pass on these cakes. Though most of the alcohol used in the batters will dissipate during baking, there will be trace amounts left, says Barry Swanson, PhD, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Washington State University. And in the case of our dark and white fruitcakes, which are brushed with additional alcohol after baking, “pretty much anything you soak in afterwards is going to remain,” he says.

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