Christmas Cake (South African Fruit Cake)

I grew up anticipating fruit cake at Christmas time. In South Africa it is popular as a wedding cake as well, topped with Marzipan. Unfortunately, here in North America it is the butt of most jokes. A good fruit cake is hard to find, and as I struggle with a bit of a nut intolerance (not an allergy), the ones you can find are loaded with nuts. And yucky fruit peels. And heaven knows what else. Two months ago while in London, my husband and I delighted in the offerings of fruit cake at Marks & Spencer’s, and enjoyed it while we could. When we returned home, I vowed to work on my fruit cake recipes, and recreate that taste we love so much. If you are someone who does love nuts, feel free to add some to the filling or decorate your cake with it.

This recipe gets broken down over a few days, spreading the work out. So start it a few days before you serve – fruitcakes age well, so you can enjoy it all month long.

Day 1

In a large glass dish with a lid, mix together the following ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped pitted dates (I buy mine in the bulk section)
  • 1 1/2 cups of red glazed cherries, halved (they come in plastic tubs in the baking aisle)
  • 1 1/3 cups of currants
  • 1 1/3 cups of raisins (use your favourite kind)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped prunes (I actually picked them out of the bag of mixed dried fruit I have in the pantry for snacking on)
  • 1/2 cup EACH Brandy (South African please! KWV brand, or made in Paarl) and Sherry (instead of sherry I use a South African fortified wine – KWV brand)

P.S. I was born in Paarl. So bonus points if you use a brandy from there.

Let sit at room temperature

Day 2

Give the above mixture another good stir

Day 3

Bake day! Line a large springform pan (9 inch with high sides) with multiple layers of parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325.

Cake ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup softened butter
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of warmed Apricot Jam
  • Grated lemon zest from one large lemon (you can add/substitute with orange zest as well)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 TB cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg – I grate in fresh
  • 1/4 tsp cloves – I omitted this and instead grated in some tonka beans with my microplane – my not so secret ingredient

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add in eggs one at a time. Add jam and lemon zest.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add to wet mixture in 2 additions, mixing well. Add in fruit mixture (and nuts if using). Stir well.


Spread evenly in pan. Make an arrangement of cherries (red/green) and nuts on top if you like.

Bake for 2 1/2 hours.


Put on wire rack for cooling – immediately pour over as much sherry/brandy as you like. I poured about 1/2 cup of brandy over.


Let stand until cooled. Remove parchment paper. Wrap with plastic wrap completely. Now wrap with foil.

Hide it in the back of your fridge for 3 days.

Day 4

Don’t eat it

Day 5

Don’t eat it (we cracked and sliced off a sliver and rewrapped it)

Day 6

Don’t eat it

Day 7 – remove from fridge, slice thinly, serve at room temperature.


This can be store in the fridge for weeks. Absolutely delicious!





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