Fruitcake is a Christmas tradition for many people including my family. This Danish Fruitcake is an alcohol free version and it’s loaded with maraschino cherries, pecans and dates. It’s also soaked in an orange sauce resulting in an ultra moist and flavorful cake.
Fruitcake really does get a bad rap, due to those nasty little store bought fruitcakes with the bitter citrus rind. This Danish Fruitcake doesn’t contain any citrus rind. It’s simply loaded with good stuff!
When I was growing up my mother made a pecan fruitcake every year the day after Thanksgiving. It wasn’t simply a tradition…we loved the cake. Decades later my sister Nancy makes a White Fruitcake, which is very similar to the fruitcake my mother made. Both of these cakes get made the day after Thanksgiving and soaked in a wine cloth until Christmas.
This Danish Fruitcake is slightly different. It doesn’t contain alcohol but gets soaked in an orange glaze instead, and it doesn’t have to be made weeks before Christmas. You can opt to make this cake the week of Christmas or you can make it up to three months before Christmas and freeze it. You can also make it into mini loaves to give as gifts.
Ingredients & tips for making this recipe
Cake flour: Measure the cake flour correctly. Too much cake flour will make for a dry cake. Spoon the cake flour into your measuring cup and level it off with a knife. Whisk it together thoroughly with the baking soda and salt.
Baking soda: Make sure your baking soda is not expired. This gets mixed with the acid (buttermilk) to activate and work as the leavening agent to make the cake rise.
Salt: Salt adds flavor to all baked goods. Don’t omit.
Unsalted butter: Always use unsalted butter and add the salt separate in baking recipes to ensure you’re getting the correct amount. Make sure to bring the butter to room temperature before using it. You should be able to leave a dent in the butter when you press on the butter.
Granulated sugar: Adds sweetness and helps browning. Don’t cut back on the sugar too much or you’ll change the structure of the cake.
Full-fat buttermilk: Buttermilk adds moistness and flavor to the cake. Don’t take a shortcut with the flavor here. Use full-fat buttermilk. Buttermilk also produces a soft & tender crumb.
Large eggs: Make sure your eggs are at room temperature. They incorporate into the batter mixture much easier when they aren’t cold.
Pure Vanilla extract: I always recommend using “pure” vanilla extract for the best flavor in any cake.
Dates: This is one of the star ingredients in this cake. Sweet and slightly chewy, they are a great addition to this cake.
Pecans: Another star ingredient, these crunchy nuts combined with the sweet and chewy dates are the best combo ever.
Maraschino cherries: Another star ingredient, these little gems are both tasty and pretty and a MUST in any fruitcake. You can also use candied cherries instead if you’d like. Both are great!
Orange Juice: Orange juice adds a great tangy flavor to this cake and adds to the moistness of the cake.
Prepping the cake batter
- Mix together the pecans, dates, and maraschino cherries and set aside.
- Mix the cake batter per recipe instructions.
- Fold the fruit/nut mixture into the cake batter.
Baking the cake – do as I say…not as I do!
Can you see anything wrong with the pictures below? The picture on the left shows pecans and candied cherries on top before baking the cake. Once the cake has become two-thirds baked, in the second picture, do you see the nuts and fruit? Nope!
I prepped this cake like I prep the white fruitcake and placed my nuts and fruit on top. What I didn’t realize, was that the cake batter for this cake was a thinner batter. Therefore, by the time the cake was two-thirds finished baking, my fruit and pecans had sunk into the batter and disappeared. Say what!!! Needless to say, once the cake was baked I had to decorate the top with even more pecans and fruit.
So here’s my tip for arranging the nuts and fruit on top! Bake the cake first. Then make the orange glaze and pour it over the cake. Lastly, place the nuts and fruit on top. The sticky orange glaze will help them to adhere to the top of the cake.
The orange glaze
The orange glaze is made by simply bringing sugar, orange juice and orange zest to a boil and removing from the heat. Poke several holes all over the cake and slowly pour the glaze evenly over the top.Print
This Danish Fruit Cake is a perfect cake for the holidays! It’s super moist, packed full of nuts and Maraschino cherries and it also freezes beautifully. Oh…and don’t worry…there’s no bitter citrus rind in this cake.
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 1 cup full-fat buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 boxes chopped dates, 7 1/2 ounces each, or a scant one pound
- 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
- 1 large jar Maraschino cherries, (16 ounces)*
- Red and green candied cherries to decorate top (optional)
- Pecan halves to decorate top (optional)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup orange juice
- Grated peel from one orange
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Move the top oven rack down to one spot below the middle.
- Grease and lightly flour a tube or angel food cake pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
- Add the butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Mix on high with an electric mixer until the mixture is light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla, orange peel, and orange juice. Mix well to incorporate.
- Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately in 3 additions, starting with the buttermilk and ending with the dry ingredients. Stop and scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as necessary.
- Using a spatula or spoon, fold in the dates, pecans, and Maraschino cherries. Make sure they are evenly distributed throughout the batter, but don’t over mix. Gently fold!
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Use the back of a spoon or small spatula to spread the batter out evenly. Gently shake the cake pan back and forth also.
- Bake the cake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick test comes out clean. Don’t under bake the cake or it will be soggy. You will be pouring 1 cup of sauce over the finished cake. Meantime, while the cake is baking make the sauce below.
- Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake and the center tube. Gently shake the cake up and down until you feel it letting go of the bottom of the pan. Gently invert the cake onto a plate. Then place a cake plate on the bottom and flip the cake over onto the cake plate. Using a skewer or something similar, poke holes all over the hot cake.
- Pour the orange sauce slowly and evenly over the top of the cake, covering all of the holes.
- Add the sugar, orange juice, and orange peel to a medium pan. Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat and remove. Pour over the cake as directed above.
DECORATING THE TOP
- Arrange candied cherries and pecan halves on the top right after pouring the syrup over the cake. See pictures above. I placed red & green cherries alternately with pecan halves. I don’t recommend placing the nuts and fruit on top of this cake before baking it. They will sink into the batter.
- Store cake in an air tight container refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
- *If you prefer, you can use candied cherries in the cake instead of Maraschino cherries.
- Prep time includes chopping pecans and chopping the dates if you buy whole ones.
- The original recipe calls for 2 boxes 7/1/2 ounces each of chopped dates. I don’t see this size in the stores anymore.
Keywords: cake, fruit cake, danish fruit cake, Christmas cake, Christmas cakes, Christmas recipes, Christmas desserts,