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Christmas fruitcake

Updated: Mon, 4 December, 2023

Traditional Christmas fruitcake, keks, recipe going back three generations in my family! It’s lighter than the classic English Christmas cake, more sober and less fussy to make.

christmas fruitcake

Lighter fruitcake – still fruitcake

To be honest, it isn’t really light. A pound of dried fruit, five eggs, a whole pack of butter – I think we’d better not even start counting the calories. But compared to the traditional English Christmas cake it’s positively diet food.

I think the classic Christmas cake is a bit too much: you can’t see the cake for the fruit, it’s soaked in booze, and it’s iced to death on top of a marzipan layer. To call it overkill is an understatement. No wonder you must serve sharp cheese with it, to balance the sickly sweetness.

My fruitcake is still rich, as admitted, but it’s sober: a spoonful of rum barely counts as booze. It has plenty of dried fruit for sure, but you can actually see cake batter amongst them, lighter in colour as well. It requires no marzipan or royal icing, let alone both.

polish keks christmas fruitcake

Third generation fruitcake

It’s the traditional Christmas cake recipe in my family, going back at least three generations but probably further. My grandmother made ‘keks’ as it’s called in Polish, every Christmas, though I can hardly say I remember it since I wouldn’t touch it back then, the awkward kid that I was.

My mum took over from babcia and I learned how to make it by assisting her.

Its Polish name is interesting, as it clearly comes from the English language (‘keks’ sounds like ‘cakes’) and I dare suspect it has something to do with the particular English cake – the Christmas one. Small world, eh?

Polish style fruitcake

What fruit combination?

I use raisins, sultanas, cranberries, dried cherries, glace cherries, candied mixed peel, apricots, figs, plus blanched chopped almonds. But it’s totally up to you what combination you fancy and what you have in your baking cupboard.

Traditionally, my mum would only add almonds to the mix and no other nuts, so I follow suit. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t use chopped walnuts, hazelnuts or other nuts as well as more exotic, tropical dried fruit like mango or pineapple.

Change the proportions, too: if you’re not keen on citrus peel, omit it altogether. If you’re fanatical about dried cranberries, make it all about those though I’d say using just one type of fruit will be a bit tedious.

The only rule to follow is to chop larger fruit and the nuts to the size of raisins/sultanas.

Polish christmas cake

How to prepare dried fruit for the fruitcake?

Good news: it doesn’t need to soak for months, like fruit for the Caribbean cake. That’s because, as I already said, it’s an almost completely sober cake.

The preparation involves chopping the chunkier ingredients and tossing the mix with a tablespoon of flour, out of the quantity measured out for the batter. That stops the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the cake.

dried fruit mix

How to make the batter?

It is quite a grown-up kind of batter: there’s egg separation. Unfortunately you can’t skip it and use whole eggs, or the cake won’t rise as well. But it’s worth it – and it’s Christmas cake after all.

Prepare the fruit first, then the flour with the baking powder in another bowl. Separate the eggs: place the whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a smaller one. Lots of bowls, still worth it.

The butter needs to be very soft so you can cream it until really fluffy and feathery with the icing sugar.

My grandma used to do it by hand with a kind of wooden bat, like a ball on a stick, which worked amazingly well (and gave her toned triceps). Mum used a handheld mixer – much easier and less effort. I do it in a standing mixer – lazier by the generation, clearly.

Once the butter mix is fluffy, egg yolks are added one after the other, while beating constantly and if it all curdles slightly, don’t lose heart. When the flour is folded in, it will turn into smooth, albeit very thick batter.

fruitcake batter

Egg whites should now be beaten to stiff peaks but make sure not to overbeat them, lest the cake is dry. Add a little of the meringue to the stiff batter to loosen it up – it will still seem thick – then gently fold in the rest trying not to deflate the meringue, which is tricky, I admit. Last not least, fold it the fruit mix.

making fruitcake batter

This amount makes two standard small loaf tins (23 x 12cm, or 9 x 5 inch) or one large, deeper tin (35 x 13cm, or 14 x 5 inch)). Make sure you butter and flour the tins thoroughly.

fruitcake in small loaf tins

The fruitcake bakes for nearly and hour, with the oven temperature turned up a little halfway through, until a cake tester comes out clean.

fruitcake in large loaf tin

Icing the cake

I prefer it simply dusted with icing sugar but if you like, make a simple lemon icing by heating up 30g butter, 30g caster sugar and 30g lemon juice until the boiling point. Pour it straight into 110g of icing sugar, beat with a whisk until smooth and drizzle over cooled cake.

This fruitcake keeps very well but it shouldn’t be made weeks ahead of Christmas. It tastes best when it had been standing for a couple of days and will last for two weeks easily. Keep it wrapped in foil, in a cool place.

And like the English fruitcake, it tastes delicious with a wedge of sharp cheese.

fruitcake before icing

More Christmas cake recipes

Ginger cake with marmalade or jam filling and maple syrup glaze. This is an easy recipe for traditional ginger cake, sticky and spicy. My ginger cake with stem or crystallised ginger pieces and maple syrup icing is a perfect holiday or pre-holiday cake and it’s stupidly easy to bake.

Caribbean Christmas black cake with rum soaked fruit and burnt sugar flavour. It is the Jamaican or Trinidad cousin of British Christmas cake and it stands tall in comparison!

Butter Stollen, German Christmas bread, at its most indulgent. Two kinds of Stollen in one recipe: packed with fruit and almonds, and swirled with smooth nut filling.

More dried fruit baking recipes

Spongata di natale, Italian honey and nut Christmas cake is like an oversized mince pie, with shortcrust pastry case and filling of dried or candied fruit, and mixed nuts.

The best mince pies, easy shortcrust pastry and delicious mincemeat. Homemade mincemeat is very easy to make and much nicer than anything you could buy. And thankfully eating them on Christmas Day is not illegal any longer! Follow link to find out.

Julekake is a traditional Norwegian Christmas bread, with Sukat (candied citrus peel) and raisins. Julekake is flavoured with cardamom and it’s best toasted, in Norway served with gjetost (brown cheese).

alternative christmas fruitcake

Christmas fruitcake

Servings: makes 2 loaf cakesTime: 2 hours
Rating: (1 reviews)


  • 500g (1 pound) mixed dried fruit
  • 250g (2 cups) plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 5 large eggs
  • 250g (1 cup) unsalted, softened butter
  • 150g (1 cup plus 1 tbsp) icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp white rum
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • more icing sugar, for dusting


1. First prepare the mixed fruit (see above for type of fruit mix): chop the apricots, figs etc. so that everything is the size of the raisins. Place in a bowl with a tablespoon of flour out of the measured quantity and toss to coat evenly.

2. Preheat the oven to 170C no fan/325F/gas 3. Butter and flour 2 small or 1 large loaf tin.

3. Separate the eggs: place the whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a smaller one.

4. Beat the butter with the icing sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one by one, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and the rum. Sift the flour with the baking powder over the buttery mixture and fold in with a spatula.

5. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites then beat to stiff peaks. Stir a little of the meringue into the batter to loosen it up, then add in the rest and fold in gently trying not to deflate it too much. Fold in the dried fruit mix.

6. Divide the batter between two small (2lb) loaf tins or spoon it into a large one. It will be still rather thick but don’t try to press it down, it will even out while baking.

7. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the heat up to 180C/350F/gas 4 and bake for another 20-30 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and the sides of the cake are starting to pull away from the tin.

8. Cool in the tins, then turn out and dust with icing sugar.

Originally published: Tue, 16 December, 2014

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Larry - thank you, but this cake has eggs in it. No liquor though!
4 years ago
Larry Sclafani
Fantastic Eggless Christmas Cake recipe. I always love to make cakes which are eggless and liquor free for Christmas. And this recipe is a perfect delight. Thanks for the same. Larry Sclafani
4 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
No, this fruitcake is for life :) Hope you enjoy it!
5 years ago
Pamela Cooper
Thanks for getting back to me Anna,I'm going to have a go at making it tomorrow,It looks like an all year round fruit cake not just for Christmas(hehe).Will let you know how it comes out
5 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Pamela - it freezes extremely well! Defrost overnight in room temperature and it's as good as freshly baked.
5 years ago
Pamela Cooper
Do you think the cake would freeze ok
5 years ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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