Old English Fruitcake

Posted on Dec 9 2013 - 11:30am by Barry C. Parsons

This Old English Fruitcake is dark and moist with plenty of spices and packed with plenty of sweet glacé fruit. It’s been a Christmas tradition in my family for decades.

Old English Fruitcake

Old English Fruitcake

Old English Fruitcake – It’s still weeks away, I know, but I’ve got a head start on a dark old English fruitcake for Spouse. It’s a real old English style, dense, dark fruitcake. I think this one weighs in at between 7 and 8 pounds. It’s her absolute favorite. Tomorrow she goes to the rum spa for a soak and a wrap. The cake, that is, not Spouse!

Old English Fruitcake

Old English Fruitcake

Old English Fruitcake

Old English Fruitcake

Inspired by my Newfoundland upbringing, this dark English fruitcake with roots in the UK is one of my favourite things to look forward to at Christmas. This is a large cake meant to be served in small pieces.

There are easily 40 portions or more which means there’s plenty to share with friends and family whenever they pop by during the Holidays.

For other fruitcake ideas from Rock Recipes click here.

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4.7 from 11 reviews
Old English Dark Fruit Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Old English Fruitcake - A dark, rich, well spiced old fashioned English style fruitcake that can be made weeks in advance of Christmas.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: This is a large cake meant to be served in small pieces. There are easily 40 portions or more.
  • 6 oz dried prunes, chopped
  • 6 oz dates, chopped
  • 8 oz dark raisins
  • 6 oz golden raisins
  • 6 oz currents
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • ½ cup coffee liqueur (or ½ cup strong black coffee)
  • Zest and juice of 2 oranges
  • 8 oz glace cherries
  • 8 oz candied citrus peel
  • 8 oz toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 3 eggs
  • 1⅓ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup ground hazelnuts or almonds
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  1. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat and add the raisins, dates, prunes, currents, brown sugar, molasses, spices, coffee liqueur (or coffee) and the orange zest and juice.
  2. Bring to a gentle boil and very slowly simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 30-45 minutes.
  4. When cool stir in the beaten eggs.
  5. Sift together, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda.
  6. Add the ground nuts and fold through the boiled mixture. Fold in cherries, citrus peel and pecans. Pour into prepared baking pan. You can decorate the top with additional pecan halves, cherries etc., if you like.
  7. Bake at 300 degrees F for 1 ½ to 2 hours depending upon the size of your pan. Mine took the full two hours in a 10 inch spring form pan.The cake should feel firm to the touch at the center and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. The cake should be cooled completely in the pan on a wire rack before removing.
  8. At this point you can poke small holes in the top and bottom of the cake with a fork and pour on 4 ounces of dark rum or your favorite whiskey, half on the top, wait ten minutes, then flip it over and pour the remaining half on the bottom.
  9. Soak several layers of cheesecloth in additional rum if you like and wrap completely around the cake, then cover with several layers of plastic wrap and store in a COOL place.
  10. When serving, you can add a layer of marzipan or if you have decorated the top with fruit and nuts, brush with a simple glaze of equal parts water and sugar boiled together for about 10-15 minutes.

Originally published on November 7, 2007.

78 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Anonymous November 11, 2007 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Going to make this cake today.Will let you know how it turns out for me.

  2. Zap November 19, 2007 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    How long can this cake be kept in a cool place before serving? I’m going to give this a whirl, it’s reminiscent of fruitcake that my nan used to make.

    • Dan Daniels September 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      My mother use to make these and it was always 3 or 4 months before Christmas .She would make two or three at a time. She would freeze them and you only got a piece of one at Christmas and when ever she felt like cutting into another one did you get another slice. They were excellent cakes worth waiting for. But you never touched them with out her consent,

  3. Le Chef Secret November 19, 2007 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    I usually make mine about a month before Xmas but there is no real minimum time. I’ve served it after a couple of days on occasion. Good luck with it.

  4. Annie January 10, 2010 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    I took a giant leap of faith,and made this fruit cake for the Christmas season. As you know, fruit cakes are not cheap to make, and are somewhat labor-intensive. This cake was far superior to the one I have made for the past several years. It was moist, dense, and packed with lots of fruit. Everyone loved it.A big thank-you for the post.

  5. Sara Connolly December 11, 2013 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    This fruitcake looks just like the one my dad bakes every year. He can only bake one single thing, fruitcake, and he does it every Christmas without fail. It makes the whole house smell heavenly!

  6. mercedes tobin September 6, 2014 at 1:06 am - Reply

    i am going to try to bake the oldenglish fruit cake. i am also new to baking. maby i should practice on something’s easier for some time first?

    • Barry C. Parsons September 17, 2014 at 2:19 pm - Reply

      It’s not a difficult recipe I don’t think. Determining when to take it out of the oven is where experience is most beneficial.

  7. kim September 21, 2014 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    This recipe is very similar to the one i use. It keeps very well! I let it sit in rum soaked cheesecloth for about 4 weeks before eating. If the fruitcake is not eaten at Christmas time I freeze it.

  8. Diane November 16, 2014 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Just put this cake in the oven and it smells delicious! Can’t wait to eat it during Christmas.

  9. Linda November 28, 2014 at 12:14 am - Reply

    I’ve been making this recipe since 2009. I use a an old funnel type aluminum cake pan 9.5″ diam. and bake it at 300 F Convection for 2 hours and it comes out perfect each time. Absolutely delicious and so fragrant all through our home…..puts you in the X-Mas spirit.

    • Barry C. Parsons December 2, 2014 at 8:55 am - Reply

      That’s fantastic, Linda. Glad to be a small part of your family’s Christmas celebrations.

  10. Kim December 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Why do you use ounces to measure ingredients like raisins? Ounces is a measurement of volume!

    • Barry C. Parsons December 24, 2014 at 9:21 am - Reply

      Fluid ounces is a measurement of volume. Ounces, of course, can also be a weight measurement, as in 16 ounces to a pound.

  11. Allison December 23, 2014 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    I’m baking this cake for christmas, and I wanted to know what dimensions is the cake pan that you usually bake this into. Please.

  12. Adriane December 23, 2014 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    I baked it here in BRAZIL and it´s fabulous , the best English cake I have ever eaten, the whole house is with a wonderful smell … thank you for share it wiht us ….

  13. Ana Luisa Luque M. October 30, 2015 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    So I need to work right away. One question: what ale pan I have to use, 9″ or 10″?

    • Barry C. Parsons November 4, 2015 at 10:21 am - Reply

      Either should work but I’d choose the 10 inch if it were me. The nine inch will probably take longer to bake because the cake will be taller.

  14. Shari November 3, 2015 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    I made this fruitcake yesterday and it is now in rum spa for Christmas., I can’t wait, as I already know it will be outstanding! Love you’re recipes Barry. All the best to you and yours…

  15. nurul November 16, 2015 at 6:34 am - Reply

    i just try baking this beautiful cake, and its really delish. but i have to subs the molases with honey. do you use liquid molasses? just can find dry molasses here..

    • Barry C. Parsons November 16, 2015 at 12:48 pm - Reply

      I’ve never heard of dry molasses. We only use liquid here.

  16. Des November 29, 2015 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    I can’t wait to make this, what method of pan preparation do you use. I’ve always wrapped in paper but now I see some just butter a cake pan or aluminum pan

    • Barry C. Parsons December 3, 2015 at 5:27 pm - Reply

      In a spring form it doesn’t really matter, but if making in a tube pan for example, I would at least line the bottom with parchment paper for easier release.

  17. Jennie November 30, 2015 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    This is my Father’s favorite at Christmas! My grandma used to make one just like this for him every year. I am planning to make this Fruitcake recipe this week so it can soak until Christmas.

    One question- could this be made in 1 or 2 bread pans? If so, how much would the baking time change?

    Thank you!

    • Barry C. Parsons December 3, 2015 at 5:25 pm - Reply

      Totally depends on the size of the pans. They will take about 2/3 to 3/4 full of cake batter.

      • Amanda December 4, 2015 at 7:23 am - Reply

        Can I omit eggs from this? If so, I need suggestions as to how. My husband loves fruitcake but can’t eat eggs.

        • Barry C. Parsons December 10, 2015 at 9:05 am - Reply

          I’ve never done that I’m afraid, so I have no experience to relay. If omitting eggs I’d add the volume back in milk or another liquid to the cake will likely be dry.

          • Faye January 30, 2017 at 7:15 pm -

            Actually, it’s the end of January and I am making both my white and dark fruitcakes now for next Christmas. I will wrap them in muslin soaked with rum for the dark and apricot brandy for the white cakes and set them in stone crocks in the basement cold room until I want to use them.

          • Barry C. Parsons February 1, 2017 at 10:29 am -

            Wow. I have never heard of anyone making fruitcake that early!

          • Faye February 1, 2017 at 12:01 pm -

            My grandmother always made them at “haying time” which in Nova Scotia would be June. This is the time of year when I have time to devote to it and I am using my wood cook stove to bake them. It’s far too hot come June to even have the gas stove going 4 or 5 hours. I’m still using their old fruitcake pans which make very large cakes and take a long time to bake at about 250 or 275 F. And in the fall I’m busy making mincemeat etc., and later on, plum puddings.

  18. Sandra December 8, 2015 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    I have just taken this cake out of the oven, and it looks gorgeous!!!! Now I need to be patient and wait until Christmas Day to cut into it! Thank you so much for this recipe!

    • Sandra December 27, 2015 at 1:57 am - Reply

      I am overjoyed with how wonderful this cake is. The taste is fantastic, the moisture level is superb, and everyone who had a slice on Christmas Day was oohing and ahhing! This recipe is well and truly a keeper!!!!

  19. Ritu gupta December 17, 2015 at 9:40 am - Reply


    Thanks for such a great recipe. The cake looks scrumptious. One question though, are the number of eggs correct? All other fruit cake recipes with the same amount of other ingredients ask for 5 eggs atleast.
    Baking a fruit cake for the first time so have no idea.

    Another question, in India we have a different version of the fruit cake which doesnt use molasses so wanted to understand how does molasses alter its taste and texture.

    Thanks once again,


    • Barry C. Parsons February 14, 2016 at 12:00 pm - Reply

      The eggs number is correct. The molasses is what gives dark fruitcake its characteristic flavour. It also add to the moistness of the cake.

      • Michelle November 14, 2016 at 3:19 pm - Reply

        Hello M. Parsons, I wanted to know if I can make this cake nut free, and add more candied fruits instead. Thank you in advance for your response.

        • Barry C. Parsons November 14, 2016 at 3:48 pm - Reply

          Yes but I might add a few tbsp more flour to replace the ground nuts.

  20. Shelly December 20, 2015 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    I’m going to try making this for my father-in-law. He’s from England and LOVES fruitcake. I personally don’t really enjoy it, but maybe this will be the one that changes that! I’ve never attempted fruitcake before, but the recipe seems easy enough to follow; wish me luck!

  21. Michelle November 13, 2016 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    I want to do this cake, but can we omit the toasted pecans and ground hazelnuts , for allergy reasons. Can I just add more dried fruits instead. Thank you in advance. Can’t wait to taste it. Looks delicious.

    • Barry C. Parsons November 14, 2016 at 3:55 pm - Reply

      Yes but I might add a few tbsp more flour to replace the ground nuts.

  22. Dawn November 14, 2016 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    I want to make small cakes in tiny loaf pans. How long should they be cooked?
    Can I substitute different fruits as long as amounts match?

    • Barry C. Parsons November 14, 2016 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      That totally depends on the pan size. Rely on the toothpick test to be sure they are fully baked.

  23. Dawn November 14, 2016 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Can I leave out the cocoa and the prunes?

    • Barry C. Parsons November 14, 2016 at 3:49 pm - Reply

      The prunes can be replaced by additional dates but why omit the cocoa?

      • Faye February 1, 2017 at 11:06 am - Reply

        This is the first time I’ve ever heard of anyone putting cocoa in a fruitcake. Mine is an old receipe (200-ish years anyway) so maybe they didn’t have access to chocolate at the time. In any event that is a non-starter for me as I dislike anything chocolate. Never put prunes in either. Just dates, seeded raisins and figs plus all the fruits. I omit any nuts too as I find them “flabby” in baked goods and they make cakes dryer. This is the first time I ever added molasses. Let’s see what it’s like next Christmas. I do like molasses. I bet prunes add a lot to the moisture of the cake but the dark cakes turn out very moist anyway.

        • Faye February 1, 2017 at 12:04 pm - Reply

          Will be adding ground almonds to my white fruitcakes. Think it will be good.

  24. Phil November 20, 2016 at 6:56 am - Reply

    Help – I am deeply fascinated by the looks of this cake, and I plan on making it as soon as possible (since Xmas is about 4 weeks away). One question though: Are the ounce measurements by volume or by weight? Huge difference. Thank you for clarifying.

    • Barry C. Parsons November 20, 2016 at 9:56 am - Reply

      All of the fruits and nuts are weighed. The ingredients for the cake batter are in cups.

  25. Brenda November 21, 2016 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    I made this and it’s very good and moist. The coffee, cocoa, and molasses is such a nice combination. If I changed anything about the flavor, I would just like it a little sweeter. I did have one problem though. I’m sure I measured right, but this was such a thin batter, very liquid. Is this how it should be? I panicked and added another cup of flour. It was still thinner than any fruitcake batter I have ever seen. No harm seems done except the fruit mostly settled the bottom 2/3 of the cake. Most fruitcake recipes have so little thick batter, the fruit cannot settle. Did I do something wrong?

    • Barry C. Parsons November 21, 2016 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      You definitely went wrong somewhere. There is no way this batter should be thin. That’s never happened to me and I’ve made it for years. I’ve also never heard anyone say a fruitcake should be sweeter!! That is a new one! Hope you figure out the error. I’d be curious to know if you discover where you went wrong.

  26. Brenda November 22, 2016 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    Thanks. I will try it again for sure nextra year. What I ended up with is a very dense moist cake with wonderful flavor, and about the consistency of a dense cake brownie I guess. So no loss here 🙂

  27. Donna Gale November 22, 2016 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    Made this cake last christmas. Hadnt baked for many years. I added citrus peel and used a tube pan.It turned out great. Tasty, full of fruits and enjoyed over the holidays. Will be baking another this year

  28. Pam November 25, 2016 at 1:30 am - Reply

    I’m making fruit cakes for the first time this year, and have a question. Do I put the cherries and pecan halves to decorate the top before or after baking?

  29. Pat November 29, 2016 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    I hope order doesn’t matter too much. The cocoa and mixed peel went in the pot! Here’s hoping it works out anyway!!

  30. Kathie December 3, 2016 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    How glad I am to find this recipe. Since I cannot find Mom’s recipe, this will be perfect. One question…how will it turn out with some brandy or rum? Can I soak the fruit in the liquer before baking and add some to soak in afterwards or will the cake become soggy? Thanks for the recipe.

    • Barry C. Parsons December 4, 2016 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      This is quite a dense moist cake so you don’t want to overdo it. A rum or brandy soak when it’s baked should be fine.

  31. Susan December 6, 2016 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    I am making this now and having a blast ! I feel like
    Mrs. Patmore ! It smells fantastic. My husband loves fruitcake and he is so excited to try this one !

    • Natalie December 17, 2016 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      HAHA! That thought went through my mind as well – Ms. Patmore! I’m so excited about this cake. I’m making it and taking it with me on the airplane to visit family…CHEERS to a lovely and beautiful cake. I can’t wait to taste it. (A lick of the spatula told me it tastes amazing.)

  32. Marilyn D December 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    So looking forward to making this fruitcake. Looks very much like the ones my grandmother used to make every Christmas. The comments i’ve read give me confidence that the cake will be delicious!

  33. Diane December 8, 2016 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    My husband loves fruit cake but is a recovering alcoholic, is there something I can use in place of the rum? I so want to make this as it sounds like what I grew up to love.

    • Barry C. Parsons December 14, 2016 at 4:01 pm - Reply

      The rum soak is completely optional. It’s still great.

    • Faye January 30, 2017 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      When I made one that needed to be spirit-free, I melted apricot jam and added enough white grape juice to render it a liquid which I brushed over the top. Of course you could use a simple syrup and add vanilla (which can be purchased alcohol-free).

  34. Nas December 11, 2016 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    This recipe looks great! I was just curious as to how many ml there are in a cup. Where I live a cup is 250ml but I believe that can vary in different countries.

  35. Meeti December 13, 2016 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    I would love to bake this cake and I have one question? I have 2 young kids and was wondering if the Rum soak is not advisable. I have baked other fruit cakes before where the rum or whisky is added before its baked and it is supposed to have killed the alcohol content when its cooked.
    thanks and the cake looks great!

    • Barry C. Parsons December 14, 2016 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      Most of the rum will evaporate off anyway, leaving the flavour. Regardless this cake is delicious without the rum anyway.

  36. June December 18, 2016 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Hi. I have been making fruit cakes for years for friends although I don’t eat them I like making them. I used another recipe but couldn’t find the recipe. I searched the internet and found yours which has similar ingredients. I did double the recipe. One is in the oven now. Smells great. Tell me, have I left it too late as Christmas is only a week away? Well less.

    • Barry C. Parsons December 19, 2016 at 11:47 am - Reply

      This fruitcake recipe does not necessarily need to age because it already has a nice dense texture. I wouldn’t worry. I’d even give it a rum soak for a few days. Merry Christmas!

  37. Susan December 22, 2016 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Is 300 degrees for convection or regular temp?

    Thanks and Merry Christmas!

    • Barry C. Parsons December 22, 2016 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Regular. When I use convection, mine will automatically step down to 275 degrees.

      • Susan December 22, 2016 at 6:44 pm - Reply

        Great, thank you.

  38. Marlene Drewes December 26, 2016 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    Barry, this was so good! Hubby made 11 small loaves. I did post a picture when they came out of the oven. Getting rave reviews on them, what a great recipe. We cut to sample about 2 days after baking and that is way too soon. Will make earlier next year so they can age a bit. Thank you for sharing such wonderful recipes with us! Happy New Year to you and yours.

  39. Patricia Allen January 9, 2017 at 3:14 am - Reply

    Wonderful cake. Thank you fir the recipe

  40. Daina January 26, 2017 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    This is just simply the most delicious fruit cake. I am making another one today. Flavour, taste and texture superb! Thanks for the recipe!
    Wait a month for flavours to develop??? Not sure if we can wait!!!!

  41. Mackenzie b January 29, 2017 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    I made this cake last night. I’m going to use honey next time instead of molasses. Also the edges came out burnt. How can I keep this from happening next time?

    • Barry C. Parsons February 4, 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      I’ve made this for many years and I’ve never had an issue with burning edges.Try a lower heat, your oven temp may be off. An aluminum foil collar is useful too if you have a fast oven.

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