Fruitcake has a bad rap, but it’s not really its fault.
Think about it. As a dessert, it sort of has everything you could want: a caramelized cake, tart dried fruit, nuts for texture and a healthy glug of holiday spirit (that’s booze, if you didn’t catch my drift). However, more often than not, it’s a dense, dry loaf that pales in comparison with any other festive tidings.
That’s why I’m so excited to present you with a fruitcake that is actually delicious. After soaking myriad chopped dried fruits in rum, the mixture is folded into a spiced honey cake that’s laced with brown butter. The result is a super moist cake with a crumb that’s way more tender than your average version. It’s the ideal balance of sweetness and booziness to bring peak levels of holiday cheer.
So while you may be skeptical that this cake will be just like its lackluster ancestors, I’m here to explain how I’m going to help you reach your full fruitcake potential.
Born to rum. While many use brandy, I’m a strict believer in using rum (preferably spiced) for fruitcake. On my first trip to Barbados, I ate my first Christmas cake, their iteration of the dessert. The main difference is that starting in January, they begin soaking their dried fruit in dark rum, adding more as needed. By the time you get to December, you have a concentrated tincture of fruit and booze that permeates every bite of the cake.
While you don’t have to start that early, letting the fruit soak at least a day is crucial for letting the caramel tones of a barrel-aged rum infuse with the floral sweetness of the dried fruit.
If you’re looking for something a little more “kid-friendly,” try following the same recipe but replace the spiced rum with apple cider. All you have to do is refrigerate your soaking dried fruit overnight and continue as planned. The cider adds the same acidity while fortifying the mix with more fruity flavor.
Variety is the spice of life. The best part about this recipe is that you can adjust it to whatever you have in your pantry. That means you can finally give new life to those dried cherries you bought when you were convinced you were going to start making your own trail mix or use up the last of the pecans you still have after Thanksgiving. I love getting a good mix of sweet and tart fruit, as well as throwing in candied ginger for a kick of spice.
Brush up on your syrup. If you want to give this creation a little more longevity (and flavor), brushing it with syrup is an easy step to ensure it can last through the season. Not only does it soak through the surface to add moisture, but it creates a glossy seal to keep that moisture trapped in the cake. I simply dissolve some sugar in more spiced rum and vanilla to make a vibrant solution that will do just that. If you’re feeling extra naughty, dust with powdered sugar on top for a snowy finish.
Holiday baking has never been easier, so gather with your loved ones and let them truly admire the fruit(cake) of your loins.
Spiced Rum-Soaked Fruitcake
Yield: One large 9-inch cake
Prep Time: 25 minutes, plus cooling time and overnight soaking
Cook Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 55 minutes, plus cooling time and overnight soaking
For the Dried Fruit
4 cups chopped dried fruit, including golden raisins, dried apricots, dried pineapple, dried cherries, dried cranberries and crystallized ginger
1 cup spiced rum
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
For the Batter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso
1 cup chopped almonds
For the Syrup
1/4 cup spiced rum
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt
1. Prepare the dried fruit: In a non-reactive bowl, toss the dried fruit with the rum and orange zest. Cover and let soak overnight.
2. The next day, make the batter: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a parchment-lined, 9-inch, deep cake pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda to incorporate, then set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking constantly until brown and nutty in aroma, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
4. To the cooled brown butter, whisk in the brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, instant espresso and eggs. Fold in the soaked fruit and any liquid from the bowl, followed by the flour mixture and the chopped almonds.
5. Pour into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake until golden and the center has reached an internal temperature of 190 degrees F, 1 hour and 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, make the syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the rum, sugar and vanilla over medium-high heat. Cook until the sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes, then let cool.
7. Once the cake comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over top and let cool completely. Remove from the pan, then slice and serve.