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.

Stollen can be made with or without marzipan. Here’s how you make homemade marzipan.

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


The classic German yeasted cake is a dense and sweet loaf, not as fruit-heavy as other fruitcakes, and easier to shape than other fancy loaves. It’s also more affordable to make than other fruitcakes, particularly if you omit the log of marzipan in the middle. Makes 1 loaf.
Author Julie Van Rosendaal


  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3-3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup butter, grated (if it's cold) or cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • grated zest of half a lemon or orange (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds or coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 log log marzipan, rolled out to the length of the loaf (optional)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • icing sugar, for dusting


  • Put the milk into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let stand for 5 minutes, until it’s foamy.
  • Add 3 cups of the flour along with the butter, sugar, egg, lemon or orange zest and vanilla. Stir until the dough comes together, and continue to knead, or mix with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer, until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed (you’ll likely need 3½ cups).
  • It should be tacky, but not sticky — add more flour if it’s sticking to your hands. It will smooth out and become less tacky as it sits. If you have time, cover and let it rise for 1-2 hours before adding the fruit.
  • Add the dried fruit and nuts by patting out the dough, piling on the fruit and folding the dough over itself a few times to incorporate them. Shape into a ball and place it back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place for another hour.
  • On a parchment-lined sheet, pat the dough into a rough circle about 8 inches in diameter and fold about half of the dough over itself, as if you were starting to fold a letter. (Put a log of marzipan inside the fold, if you like.)
  • Cover with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place until the dough looks a bit puffy but not doubled, about 30 minutes. As it rises, preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the loaf with beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes, or until deep golden.
  • Dust with a generous amount of icing sugar while the bread is still warm.