This recipe for gluten free fruit cake is packed with colorful, delicious, fruits—and actually tastes good. Douse it in spirits or simple syrup, or serve it fresh.
Why we make fun of fruit cake/why this recipe is no joke
I think we Americans are at fault for making fruit cake into a joke. I think we didn’t necessarily have the palate for it, but started buying it and then making it—and made it bad.
Bad fruit cake is too dense, has fruit that is cloyingly sweet, or simply isn’t to your individual tastes. Make it yourself, and you can eliminate every one of those concerns.
This is a recipe for white fruit cake, which just means that it’s blond in color, not deep brown, like dark fruit cake. I became optimistic about making a really good gluten free fruit cake only when I learned of the idea of white fruit cake.
The cake is incredibly moist and flavorful, and of course the fruit is plentiful. But you choose the type of fruit, and you don’t use anything that is covered in jelly.
The best fruit for fruit cake
The original fruit cakes were undoubtedly not made with the sort of candied fruit we use today. I’m sure they were made with lovely dried plums, and apricots, soaked in spirits.
Instead of less beautiful, but perhaps more flavorful, dried fruits, I used candied fruits made by Paradise brand. I bought them on amazon.com, but they’re available during the holiday season in most U.S. grocery stores.
You can use their “fancy” mix, or buy individual containers of different varieties. The containers don’t say whether you can store any of the fruit for later use after the container is opened. But with all that sugar I can’t see why not!
I almost always add some golden raisins to the mix. They’re still beautiful, and I prefer to have a bit of dried fruit for texture.
Please be sure to rinse all of the candied fruit first, or at least most of it, or your fruit cake will simply be too dense and it will be much more fragile. Plus, the taste will go from delicious to intensely sweet in an artificial way. But mostly, rinse the jelly off because of the chemistry ? of it all.
How to cure your fruit cake (optional)
Many people douse their fruit cake after baking with rum, brandy, or dry sherry. This fruit cake recipe can be “cured” in that way, and there are full instructions in the recipe below.
You’ll simply pour about one tablespoon onto the top of the just-baked cake, and one tablespoon on the bottom. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and let it absorb the liquid as it sits.
You’ll add more liquid just about every other day, wrapping it tightly in between and storing in a cool, dark place, for the first week. Then, douse it again once or even twice a week until you’re ready to serve it.
You can also soak a large piece of cheesecloth in the spirits, then wrap that around the cake. I find that to be a much messier option, but if that is your fruit cake practice, do as you usually do.
If you want to slice it thinly after curing, refrigerate it for 8 hours (still wrapped tightly) before serving.
What spirits to use
Never cook or bake with any wine or spirit you would not like to drink. You will be concentrating the flavors, so you should really like it.
Brandy is a common spirit to use for curing fruit cake. Made from grapes and/or other fruits, brandy without flavoring should be naturally gluten free (but check labels and with manufacturers).
Rum, made from sugar cane, is also a nice spirit for curing. Like brandy, without additives, it should be naturally gluten free.
Dry sherry is also nice for cooking, but it tends to be a bit extra sweet. It’s really a matter of taste.
How to make a simple syrup to use instead
To keep my fruit cake (mostly) alcohol free (aside from the little bit of dry sherry in the cake batter), I prefer to douse my fruit cake in a simple syrup. It moistens and preserves the cake, creating a denser texture that lends itself to thin slices.
It’s so easy to make the rich simple syrup that you can use in place of alcohol for curing. To make any quantity of rich simple syrup, you’ll need 2 parts granulated sugar and 1 part water.
Cook the sugar and water mixture in a small, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture just begins to thicken. For example, you could use 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water.
To flavor the syrup, add some citrus rind to the mixture while it cooks. Allow the mixture to cool completely and store in a container at room temperature. I like to keep the rind I used in the bottle with the cooled syrup, to continue to flavor it.
Ingredients and substitutions
You should be able to replace the butter in the cake with vegan butter. My favorite brands are Miyoko’s Kitchen and Melt brands. I wouldn’t use Earth Balance buttery sticks, since the cake is already so moist and that has extra moisture.
Since the only lift in the whole recipe comes from eggs, and there are 4 of them in one loaf, I do not recommend trying to make this fruit cake with an egg replacer. I wish I had better news!
Please see the discussion above about the fruit in this fruit cake.
Please see the discussion above about how to make simple syrup, and what spirits you can use to cure this white fruit cake.
White Gluten Free Fruit Cake
1 pound 2 ounces candied fruit/golden raisins (See Recipe Notes)
16 tablespoons (224 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
4 eggs (200 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature
1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons (228 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1 1/2 tablespoon dry sherry, plus more for curing (See Recipe Notes)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of 1 lemon
8 ounces chopped nuts (See Recipe Notes)
About the fruit
I like to use 1 pound candied fruits, and 2 ounces golden raisins. I used Paradise brand candied fruits, and found them on Amazon.
About the nuts
In place of nuts, you can use more fruit. If I do use nuts, I alternate between chopped raw almonds and chopped pecans. Walnuts are also good. Soft nuts like pecans and walnuts will soften further over time. Almonds generally won’t.
About the spirits
Dry sherry really gives a nice fruity flavor. If you must avoid alcohol, you can use alcohol-free vanilla extract (imitation vanilla extract is probably your best bet).
Instructions for curing the baked fruit cake with dry sherry, brandy, rum, or your favorite gluten free spirit are in the recipe below.
To make simple syrup
Cook 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1/2 cup of water (or another amount in that proportion) over medium-low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture just begins to thicken.
To flavor the syrup, add some citrus rind to the mixture while it cooks. Allow the mixture to cool completely and store in a container at room temperature.
Grease a standard 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan, and line in with parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 300°F.
First prepare the fruit. If you’re using any larger fruit, like pineapple pieces or cherries, cut them into smaller pieces. Slice the cherries in half and chop the pineapple pieces into a 1/4-inch dice. Place all of the fruits (including dried fruits, like raisins) in a colander and rinse with cold water, and set them aside to drain.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a very large bowl with a hand mixer and beat it until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the granulated sugar, and beat again until fluffy.
With the mixer on low speed, beating continuously to combine, add 2 of the eggs, then half the flour, the remaining eggs and the sherry, then the remaining flour, the salt, and the lemon zest. Continue to beat the batter on medium speed until well-combined.
Add the prepared fruit and chopped nuts, and mix until the pieces are evenly distributed throughout the batter. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, and smooth the top with a moistened spatula.
Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180° and continue to bake until the cake is firm to the touch all the way to the center, about another 30 minutes. The cake will be very moist, and since you’re baking at such a low temperature, the outside is very unlikely to burn. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack, still in the pan, for about 10 minutes.
If you plan to douse the cake in spirits or simple syrup, pour about 1 tablespoon of the liquid on the top, another tablespoon on the bottom, and wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap. Return it to the pan, and allow it to cool completely as is. Once cool, store the cake in a cool, dry, dark location (not in the sun), removing it from the plastic every other day for a week, and then once a week and dousing it with more spirits or simple syrup, then wrapping it tightly again and storing it in the pan until ready to serve.
If you don’t plan to cure the cake, remove it from the pan and place it directly on the wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. Even if you’re not planning to cure the cake, you can wrap it tightly once it’s cool and refrigerate it for up to 2 weeks before serving.
Adapted heavily from Jeffrey Steingarten’s The Smith Family White Fruitcake from The Man Who Ate Everything (Vintage Books 1998).