I’ve never understood the near-universal distaste for fruitcake — how it has become a much-ridiculed physical representation of the gaudiness of the holidays. I blame the candied cherries, particularly those neon green ones — while even syrupy maraschinos and glacé fruit are adored by many, particularly when bits are nestled atop a swirl whipped shortbread, tasting of sweet, chewy nostalgia, their cloying sweetness can be over the top.

Cakes packed with raisins, figs and apricots in their natural state tend to be more appealing these days, and though traditional British fruitcakes, both light and dark, tend to be the first to come to mind, there are cakes and rich yeasted breads around the world with batters and doughs designed to bind large quantities of dried fruits and nuts. Historically, these were special, celebratory ingredients, and ones that kept and travelled well. Honey and spices were added throughout the Middle Ages, as fruitcakes gained popularity across Europe — and then people began soaking them with booze; the fruit itself, to plump it up, and then the finished cakes.

Whether or not you’re a fruitcake fan — or perhaps you want to stray from your usual — here are a few versions you may not have tried yet, that are worth stirring up this holiday season.

In Julie’s Fruitcakes of the world series she makes this cake, Stollen and Jamaican-style Dark Fruitcake.

Karen and Noorbanu's Rich Fruitcake

From A Spicy Touch, Karen Anderson and Noorbanu Nimji’s best-selling cookbook, this is an example of what they call India’s“butler cuisine”— many traditional British foods were adopted and became part of their cuisine. This is adapted slightly from one Noorbanu’s family enjoyed. I added some spice — chef Aman Dosanj’s chai/baking blend, made with cardamom, fennel and cinnamon*. If you like, instead of juice or alcohol, soak the fruit in a cup of strong chai.
Servings 16


  • 10 oz currants
  • 5 oz raisins
  • 5 oz dried cherries or cranberries (or candied cherries)
  • 5 oz mixed peel
  • 1/2 cup fruit juice, brandy or strong spiced chai tea
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon or warm spice blend*
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp treacle or molasses
  • 8 oz chopped walnuts, cashews and almonds (1/2 lb)


  • In a large bowl, combine the dried fruit and citrus peel; pour the juice, brandy or tea over top and let sit for several hours, until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Preheat the oven to 250˚F. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time, beating well after each, and scraping down the side of the bowl.
  • In another bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon or spice, baking powder and salt; add it to the egg mixture along with the treacle or molasses and blend just until combined.
  • Add the batter to the fruit mixture along with the nuts and stir until combined.
  • Line a 9-inch spring form or other high-sided cake pan with a round of parchment in the bottom and spray the bottom and sides with nonstick spray.
  • Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 2½ hours, or until golden and a cake tester or bamboo skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.