Classic Fruitcake

  • Serves

    makes 4 Cakes

Planning ahead is required for this fruitcake, which we've borrowed from Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts (Knopf, 1982). Both its flavor and its shelf life are increased by a weeklong marination of the fruits and crystallized ginger, and then by infusing the cake with alcohol for another week. Heatter likes the cake unadorned, but for seasonal festivity, we've cloaked it with Rolled Fondant.


  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • 2 cups candied lemon rind
  • 2 cups candied orange rind
  • 1½ cups dried apricots
  • 1½ cups dried calymyrna figs
  • 1½ cups candied cherries
  • 1½ cups candied pineapple
  • 1½ cups candied citron
  • 1 cup crystallized ginger
  • 3 cups raisins
  • 3 cups dried currants
  • 2½ cups orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
  • 3 cups cognac
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground mace
  • 2 tsp. powdered instant espresso
  • 1 lb. butter
  • 2¼ cups dark brown sugar
  • 9 eggs
  • 1¼ cups molasses
  • 7 cups pecan halves
  • 7 cups walnut halves


Step 1

Coarsely chop dates, lemon rind, orange rind, apricots, figs, cherries, pineapple, citron, and ginger; place in a bowl. Stir in raisins, currants, 1⁄2 cup orange liqueur, and 1 cup cognac. Refrigerate for 7 days to allow flavors to develop.

Step 2

Preheat oven to 225°. Grease 4 10-cup pudding basins (4 1⁄2" × 5 1⁄2"). Line bottom of each with greased parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder, cocoa, cloves, cinnamon, mace, and espresso into a medium bowl.

Step 3

Beat butter with an electric mixer, then gradually add brown sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then alternately beat in dry ingredients and molasses, a little at a time. (Mixture may look slightly curdled.) Transfer batter to a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir in pecans, walnuts, and fruit and marinade.

Step 4

Spoon batter into basins, pressing with a spoon to eliminate air pockets. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of each cake comes out clean, about 5 hours. Remove cakes from oven, cool for 30 minutes, then carefully turn onto wire racks and cool completely.

Step 5

Brush cakes with 1 tbsp. each of orange liqueur and cognac. Wrap in plastic wrap and "ripen" for at least a week, brushing every day with 1 tbsp. each of remaining orange liqueur and cognac (alcohol helps to preserve cake). Serve cake as is, or ice with Rolled Fondant. (Store, wrapped in plastic wrap, in refrigerator for up to 1 month.)

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