Grandma Harris’ Fruitcake Recipe

Okay, many of us have memories of ghastly holiday fruitcakes that nobody wants to eat–although they make fine doorstops–but this fruitcake is different!

Based on an old Yankee recipe handed down from generation to generation in the author‘s family, this version is so tender, light, and flavorful that it is one of his favorite holiday pleasures. Happily, Mr. Malouf shares the treasured family secret with us.

Maybe it’s the brandy, or the dried cherries and cranberries, or the lightly-toasted hazelnuts that make it so divine. Whatever it is, this fruitcake makes a splendid and very special gift. It will change the way you think about fruitcake forever.


You will need a 9-inch spring form pan or an angel food cake pan.

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup dried pitted cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup good-quality brandy
Soft butter and flour for the cake pan
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar plus 3 tablespoons sugar to sprinkle on top
2 extra-large eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1 cup candied lemon and orange rind, chopped coarse

3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted in the oven for 10 minutes and chopped coarse

1. Preheat oven to 325F.

2. Put the baking soda in a 2-cup measure and add the buttermilk. Stir well with a fork and set aside. (The soda will make the buttermilk foam and rise.)

3. Combine the dried cherries, cranberries, and raisins with the brandy in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, cover the pan, and let the fruit steep.

4. Butter and flour a 9-inch sprig form pan or angel food cake pan. Tap out any excess flour.

5. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy and beat in the eggs. Combine the flour with the salt and nutmeg and sift the dry ingredients together. Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk mixture. Scrape the bowl as necessary. Fold in the fruit, the candied rind, and the nuts, making sure they are evenly distributed thought the batter. Spoon the mixture into the cake pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle it evenly with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar.

6. Bake 1 hour and 40 minutes. Let the cake cool on a rack for an hour. Carefully turn it out of the pan and invert it onto a cake plate, sugared side up. Serve right away or wrap tightly in several layers of plastic wrap and store in an airtight container 2 weeks at room temperature, or 1 month in the refrigerator.

Adapted from The Hudson River Valley Cookbook, by Waldy Malouf (Harvard Common Press, 1998. Copyright (c) 1998 by Waldy Malouf. Reprinted by permission of Harvard Common Press.
Adapted from The Hudson River Valley Cookbook, by Waldy Malouf (Harvard Common Press, 1998.

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Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Yummy! Great recipe. Thanks.