Fruit cake Bundt: Year of the Bundt's festive holiday finish

Fruitcake: noun. 1. a rich cake containing dried or candied fruit and nuts.  

You may not be a dedicated word nerd like me, but I ask you to pay attention to the following subtle difference in these two words/phrases: fruitcake, fruit cake.

Fruitcake, as the dictionary describes it, is a rich cake (think extremely heavy and dense) containing candied fruit and nuts (think all manner of potentially disagreeable ingredients, e.g., candied citron and brazil nuts).

Notice I said “potentially.” I know, I know, there are those of you out there who love candied citron and Brazil nuts. More power to you! Marketers of candied citron and Brazil nuts appreciate your enthusiasm; I just don’t happen to share it.

Fruit cake, on the other hand, is moist, golden cake enhanced with yummy dried fruits like cranberries and apricots, as well as tempting nuts: think pecans. Each delicious slice is an engaging combination of moist cake and tangy fruit and toasty nuts. What’s not to like?

Honestly, I’m not ragging on you fruitcake lovers; I happen to be one myself. Every year I make Everyone’s Favorite Fruitcake, aging mini-loaves in rum syrup-soaked cheesecloth for several weeks before gifting them to fellow fruitcake-loving friends and family members.

Break the fruitcake mold! This fruit-studded Bundt cake is light, tender, golden — and utterly delicious. Click To Tweet

But for those of you who think fruitcake is for the birds (literally), I give you Orange-Cranberry-Nut Fruit Cake, a confection that’ll be applauded by even the most fanatic fruitcake haters — and might just prove a nice change for devotees of the traditional heavy loaf as well.

First, prepare the dried fruit

We’re going to use a lot of it, so make sure you choose dried fruits you like. You’ll want about 4 cups of dried fruit, which translates to about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds or so, depending on what fruits you choose. I’ve decided on 2 cups of dried cranberries and 2 cups of chopped dried apricots.

Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

Combine the dried fruit with 1/2 cup water (or fruit juice, brandy, or rum) in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes (until hot but not simmering), stir, then set aside to cool.

Don’t have a microwave? Combine the fruit and liquid in a saucepan, heat until hot but not simmering, and remove from the heat. Stir; set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-center position.

Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

Prepare some toasted nuts, if desired

I like to add 2 cups of nuts (I prefer pecans or walnuts) to this cake as well. Don’t like nuts? Leave ’em out.

Toasted nuts have wonderful, rich flavor; about 8 to 10 minutes in your preheating 325°F oven should do it. (If your oven preheats by blasting heat from the top element, be sure to position the nuts on a lower rack to avoid burning.)

Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

If you’re starting with whole shelled nuts, let them cool before you dice them. Warm nuts are “bendy,” and aren’t as easy to chop as cooled nuts.

Speaking of chopping, you know on those food shows how the chefs chop-chop-chop REALLY fast? Not my skill set. I know it’s lame, but I prefer to break up my nuts with a cast iron frying pan. (To avoid skittering and scattering, put the nuts in a large zip-top plastic bag before whacking them.)

Stir together the orange glaze

This “soaker” glaze will be brushed onto the warm cake, giving it an extra hit of flavor and a crunchy/moist outer crumb. Making it ahead gives the sugar a chance to dissolve.

Stir together 1/3 cup orange juice and 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Warm briefly in the microwave; about 45 seconds should do it. Stir and set aside to rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally if necessary to dissolve the sugar completely.

Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

Make the fruit cake batter

Gather your ingredients:

16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon orange oil, 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
4 large eggs
3 3/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup orange juice

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light-colored and fluffy. Beat in the baking powder, salt, and flavor.

Beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat again briefly to incorporate any sticky residue. 

Stir in the flour alternately with the orange juice. Scrape the bowl, and beat briefly.

Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

Stir in the fruit and nuts

Fold in the dried fruit, along with any liquid it hasn’t absorbed. Stir in the 2 cups of nuts. Finally, stir in 1 3/4 cups (10 ounces) candied red cherries.

If you don’t like candied cherries (even your own homemade ones), feel free to replace them with about 2 cups of another dried fruit. If you go this route, increase the initial soaking liquid to 3/4 cup; and soak all 6 cups of dried fruit at once.

OK, time out for a teaching moment: Have you ever wanted to add fruit, nuts, or chips to Bundt cake batter, but weren’t sure if everything would end up at the bottom of the pan in a big gloppy mess?

Successfully using add-ins in Bundt cake is all about how thick the batter is: the thicker the batter, the better able it is to support any fruit and nuts as the cake bakes.

Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

See how thick this batter is? Its stiffness pretty much guarantees the fruit and nuts won’t sink to the bottom of the baked cake. For more on this topic, see Bundt cake mix-ins.

Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

Prepare your Bundt pan

What’s the worst thing that can happen to a Bundt cake? Sticking in the pan, breaking apart, and falling onto the cooling rack in ragged chunks, right?

There’re actually a lot of things you can do to pretty much prevent that particular disaster.

First, grease your pan thoroughly with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Also, grease it just before adding the cake batter. And once the cake’s out of the oven… Well, read how to prevent Bundt cakes from sticking for lots more handy tips.

Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

Spoon the batter into your prepared pan. This is a large recipe, and you’ll need a large Bundt pan — a pan labeled 12-cup (which is about 9 cups bakeable capacity) should do it.

What’s bakeable capacity? And what’s the easiest way to measure it? All is revealed in our post on Bundt pan size.

Don’t have a large Bundt pan? You can use two 6-cup Bundt pans; or two 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pans; or various sizes of mini-loaf pans. See the recipe page for complete instructions.

Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

Bake the fruit cake

Bake the cake for about 90 minutes, starting to test it for doneness at 80 minutes. When done, the cake will be a light golden brown all over, and a long toothpick or skewer inserted into the center will come out clean.

Notice this cake isn’t an aggressively high riser; that’s as it should be. Loaded with fruit and nuts, it’s quite dense — in a compelling way. Let’s call it hearty; substantial. Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

Take the cake out of the oven, and set it on a rack. Carefully loosen its edges with a table knife or thin spatula. Let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto the rack, holding your breath and saying a few magic words so it doesn’t stick.

I never have trouble with this cake sticking, thankfully; but if you do, help is on the way: read Stuck Bundt: when a Bundt cake doesn’t budge.

Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

Glaze the warm cake

Set the cake over a piece of parchment or wax paper to catch any drips. Brush the orange glaze all over the warm cake.Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

Keep brushing until you’ve used up all the glaze. Be sure to brush on the extra glaze that’s collected on the paper underneath.

The cake will look totally saturated; that’s a good thing. Let the cake cool completely on the rack.

Let the fruit cake age

Now comes the hard part: wrap the thoroughly cooled cake securely in plastic, and let it sit overnight until slicing into it. Better yet, let it sit for two days. Or three days, or a week; this cake just continues to get better and better as it ages.

A slice of this fruit cake will be pretty good the same day it’s baked. But days later it’ll be even better: its texture moister, its flavors mellow and balanced. In this one respect, Orange-Cranberry-Nut Fruit Cake is similar to standard fruitcake (or good wine); it improves with age. Fruit Cake Bundt via @kingarthurflour

You can dress the cake up just before serving; after all, it’s the holidays and we all need to put on our best bib and tucker. Drizzle the fruit cake with this icing: 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and enough water, milk, or cream to create something pourable.

But frankly, this icing is strictly for looks; I think 6 cups of cranberries, apricots, and cherries make this fruit cake perfectly sweet.

So there you have it: fruit [space] cake. Are you already a fruitcake lover? Or do you dislike this Dickensian staple, and take every opportunity to hurl lame fruitcake jokes at your more affable friends?

Either way, we hope you give this fruit cake a try. Let us know which camp you’re in — and whether this cake will be on your holiday dessert table — by posting your comments below.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Irene in T.O.

    LOVE LOVE LOVE fruitcake made from good quality fruit. That means that I skip the candied cherries.
    .
    I shop for the really good fresh candied citron. I make my own candied peel. I get candied ginger and pineapple from bulk store and soak them in booze for a few days. My local source of candied apricots has gone kaput so next fall I will do my own.

    And my recipe has a tablespoon of flavouring/extracts per cup of butter. I mix them up, including some of the LorAnn candy flavours.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      All good tips, Irene. I can’t resist the candied cherries (homemade from maraschino), but your candied apricots sound absolutely divine… PJH

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Toni, you can easily substitute our Measure for Measure gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour in this recipe, no further changes needed. But if you’re talking about our standard gluten-free flour, check out this blog post — it’ll show you how it’s done. Enjoy — PJH@KAF

  2. Tiara Koo

    I grew up eating really good fruitcake. Not soaked with alcohol but just plain good tasting cake. Then we had to go nondairy and the last few years, no nuts also. Came across this recipe and everyone in my family loved it as I make it without nuts and use vegan butter. I usually soak the fruit in cranberry juice and it is sweet enough, that we don’t use glaze afterwards. The only thing is I wish I could make it in 9×5 loaf pans. I tried it one year and they fell pretty flat. Bundt form comes out beautifully

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks for the testimonial, Tiara — this is fast becoming my favorite fruit cake AND fruitcake recipe! Thanks for the info. about the 9″ x 5″ pans, too; I was thinking mini loaf pans, they might fare better. Happy holidays! PJH@KAF

  3. Joyce

    Could you substitute fresh, chopped apple for the candied cherries?

    Also wondered about baking in the bundlette pans, what do you think? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You might be better off leaving out the cherries all together instead of using apples, Joyce, which may get soggy and make the rest of the fruit cake not hold up quite as well. This cake is best if it ages for a few days at least, and if you use fresh apples, the cake will have a much shorter shelf life. Don’t worry, the cake will still be chock-full of yummyness without the candied cherries. Baking the batter in a bundtlette pan should be just fine; check for doneness around 30 minutes, knowing that they may take upwards of 45 minutes to test clean with a toothpick, depending on size. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You are fully endorsed to make that swap, Lois. We recommended using brandy in this case because of the flavor and the classic element it brings to the fruit cake, but rum is another delicious option, especially if that’s what your taste buds are calling for. Enjoy! Kye@KAF

  4. MC

    What a lovely fruitcake! I don’t much care for store-bought candied cherries (and it is too late to make my own!). Do you think candied ginger will work in this recipe? I know it won’t look as festive but it sure tastes good.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you like candied ginger, then definitely include it MC! It will add a lovely element of spice and heat to this sweet, fruit-studded cake. Chop it into small chunks if it’s not already diced, and add 1/2 to 1 cup to the batter, adjusting to taste. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Good question! We actually wrote a full article on our blog about the best way to reduce sugar in cakes. We found that reducing the sugar by 25% is a safe bet for almost any creamed cake recipe, so we recommend using that approach with this recipe here. (You can also skip the optional icing to reduce the overall sugar content slightly.) Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Yes, Mary, you just leave your oven at 325°F for both nuts and fruit cake. Sorry if this wasn’t clear — PJH@KAF

  5. Kay

    I’d like to know if I can increase the amount of fruit and nuts. I like a fruitcake with the least amount of batter holding the fruit together. Also, would brown sugar or maple sugar work?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Kay, you could certainly use brown sugar and yes, you can increase the fruit and nuts; I’d say just keep adding more until the batter looks like the kind of chock-full-of-fruit fruit cake batter you typically make. Good luck — PJH

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Yes, Vicki, just melt it first and then brush it into the pan; melted shortening does a good job getting into any of the smaller crevices in a Bundt pan. PJH@KAF

  6. Linda Morgan

    My Mother made fruitcakes for the Ladies Aide at Church every year and people waited for them. I hated them.I don’t like Citron and pick it out of Hot Cross Buns! But this receipt sounds really good! Will be trying this. Thank you!!

    Reply
  7. Ceecy Nucker

    What about using fresh cherries? I froze quite a lot (potter first) at the height of the season, and would love to use them here. Could I candy them instead of marachino, and what weight or volume would it be?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’d never say no to fresh cherries, Ceecy! You can either leave them as is or candy them yourself. PJ supplied a link in that section of the blog post bringing you to a recipe for homemade candied cherries. The recipe calls for 10 oz total. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  8. Wendy H.

    This looks so good! I love the combination of Cranberry Orange. I’d like to try with just those two fruits but I am a little scared that I would overdo it on the candied orange peel. Do you think it would work? I’m wondering what the ratio would be between the candied cranberries and candied orange – 50:50?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      50/50 sounds perfect! It will be wonderfully tangy and flavorful, Wendy. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for asking, Heddy. We do! DIY Candied Cherries is available in the recipe section of our website. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  9. Y.V

    Can I brush and let the cake soak in brandy like regular fruit cake instead of using orange glaze? or maybe add brandy to the orange glaze?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Either would be delicious technique. Maybe an orange liquor would kill two birds with one stone! Annabelle@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      While we haven’t tried the steaming method with this recipe, we think it could work with a few adjustments. You might want to consider dividing the recipe in half and making two smaller cakes so they don’t take too long to steam. You’ll want to test for doneness repeatedly to ensure the cake has finished baking all the way through, and expect the cakes to take as long as two hours or more to bake all the way through. You can use this recipe for Steamed Harvest Bread to help guide you. The texture will be more moist and tender than it otherwise would be. Kye@KAF

  10. Kat Becnel

    When you say wrap the cake and let it sit – where do you let it sit? In the fridge, out of sight and hiding from the temptation of cutting into it – or on the counter where it is there in plain view with all it’s lovely tempt-ability shining through? My mother made the typical English fruit cake and we never put it in the fridge.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Like your mother, Kat, we mean for it to sit at room temperature, ideally “out of sight and hiding from the temptation of cutting into it”, but depend on how strong your willpower is. Enjoy! Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Peggy, we used candied cherries in this batter, which are slightly different than maraschino cherries. (They hold up better in baking and have slightly more sweetness and chew.) Regardless, you’ll want to drain the cherries before adding them to the batter. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  11. Tommy

    If I use fresh cranberries should I leave them whole or cut in half? I was thinking of using cranberries and green candied cherries. I don’t care for roasted pecans , so will just use raw. This recipe sounds delicious because I don’t care for raisins or citron. Thoughts on using peach schnapps either in or as a glaze?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Give your cranberries a rough chop (or pulse them in the food processor) before adding them to the batter. (You can take the time to cut each in half if you’ve got the patience!) Consider rolling the berries in a tablespoon or two of sugar to offset any potential bitter sweetness. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  12. Valerie

    Hi! How long can you “age” this cake? On the counter, in the fridge? Thank you! Really enjoy your blogs, recipes and all around website.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Valerie, you can let this fruit cake rest at room temperature for a week or longer. We have one aging right now in the test kitchen that’s going on two weeks. We tasted it after 9 days and thought it was just a tad dry, so if you want to age it for longer, you might consider giving your cake another round of glaze before letting it sit for a few more days. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  13. Irene in T.O.

    These are the kinds of liquor that go well with fruitcake: Rum (any kind even flavoured or spiced), brandy including slivovitz or other distilled fruit based, vodka including fruit flavoured, sherry, liqueurs. I had some local spiced whisky (it had vanilla and nutmeg)–super good. Any maple syrup liqueur is nice mixed with plain brandy to cut the sugar down. Crème de cacao is good in cake that has chocolate.
    .
    If you want to finish boozed cake with a glaze, then boil some sieved fruit jam for 2 minutes and just brush with that. I have not tried all fruit preserves.
    I have never tried the cream based booze. I do not think it would keep for a month.

    Reply
  14. Mary Maher

    I actually made this exact recipe for Christmas. It’s delicious. Mine came out a bit dry because it was tough to tell if the inside was fully baked because it’s so dense. Should have pulled it out a few minutes earlier. I brushed the orange glaze on and wrapped it for two days but it was still a touch dry on the day of. I then eventually ended up dousing the entire thing in bourbon to up the alcohol flavor and moisture and now it’s great.
    This recipe is highly tweakable and customizable. Will probably make again next year and skip candying my own cherries, which was a lot more work for little effect in the cake.

    Reply

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