How to Make Store-Bought Fruitcake Taste Delicious in 5 Easy Steps

9 Dec

Fruitcake alcohol cheesecloth

I love Christmas. I love the traditions, and the fact it involves hanging out with family. And, of course, I love the food – with one exception: fruitcake. I know I’m not the only person who shares a hatred of fruitcake. There are many of us fruitcake haters. And yet, there it is every year at Christmas, sitting there, taunting us. Dry, mealy doorstops, or moist, overly sweet doorstops, filled with little gross bits of candied who-knows-what.

I’m sure that, somewhere, there is a 12-step program for fruitcake haters. But I’ve looked, and I can’t find it. And until I do I know I’m going to be faced with Christmas after Christmas of bad fruitcake being offered to me by good people. I could continually refuse every offered piece of fruitcake and risk offending some of the people I love most. Or, I could take matters into my own hands. I’ve decided to try doing the latter this year.

My problem with fruitcake isn’t so much fruitcake itself. I have actually enjoyed a few homemade fruitcakes. But mostly, the omnipresent fruitcake at Christmas is the store-bought type. Most of these are terrible, but this year I thought ‘what if I could take a terrible product and actually make it taste reasonably delicious?’ This got me thinking of the fruitcakes I’ve enjoyed, and what made them taste so good. The answer, I’m convinced, is alcohol. And so, last weekend I decided to take two store-bought fruitcakes and, using alcohol and some tips and tricks picked up through various online sites, turn them into tasty, alcohol-soaked treats.

Here are my 5 easy steps for making store-bought fruitcake taste delicious:

Fruitcake brushed alcohol

    1. Brush: Unwrap your store-bought fruitcake. Place it on a work surface and, using a toothpick or another thin, sharp tool, poke small holes all over the surface of the cake – top, bottom and sides. The holes, apparently, will help the fruitcake absorb all the delicious alcohol you’re about to douse it with. After you’ve covered your cake in holes, pour a small amount of alcohol into a bowl; I used about 1/3 of a cup for a small cake. As for what alcohol, rum or brandy is pretty traditional for soaking fruitcake, but almost anything will work. I had two cakes, and used madeira on one and marsala on the other. Dip a pastry brush into the bowl of booze, and brush alcohol across all surfaces of the cake. You’re glazing it more than soaking it at this phase.

Cheesecloth soaked in alcohol

    1. Soak: Measure a length of cheesecloth long enough so it can be wrapped around your fruitcake two or three times, then immerse the cheesecloth into the bowl of alcohol. Soak the cheesecloth thoroughly in the alcohol.

Trying to tame the cheesecloth…

    1. Wrap: Pick up the soaked cheesecloth and gently squeeze out some of the alcohol so that the cloth is wet, but not dripping. Lay soaked cheesecloth out on a work surface, then wrap the fruitcake in the cheesecloth, folding the cloth around the cake as many times as you can (two or three times). Wrap the cheesecloth-covered cake tightly in aluminum foil. If you’re doing several fruitcakes in different kinds of alcohol, make sure to label them by alcohol type. Store the fruitcake in a cool, dry place.

Fruitcake wrapped in cheesecloth

    1. Reapply: Every week or so, unwrap the foil and sprinkle the cheesecloth-covered cake on all sides with more alcohol. Any of the websites and recipes I’ve looked at have said you can repeat this step weekly for up to several months – the longer you age the fruitcake, the deeper the flavour. I started my fruitcake experiment on December 4 and I want to eat them by Christmas, so I’ve decided to apply more alcohol every 5 days or so until then.

Fruitcake labelled Madeira

  1. Wait: From everything I’ve read, this seems to be the key step. As mentioned in step 4, the fruitcake apparently tastes better the longer you wait. Makes sense: more alcohol applied, more alcohol soaking-in time, more delicious alcohol infused cake.

I’ve just hit step 4 for the first time today. When I went to apply more alcohol to my fruitcakes they already felt fairly moist, which makes me think that the alcohol is soaking in nicely. It also makes me worry that after two or three more alcohol applications, I could end up with logs of alcoholic mush. Time will tell, I suppose.
I’ll follow up this post in a couple of weeks with the end results of my fruitcake experiment. Until then, if you have a good method for making store-bought fruitcake taste better, let me know in the comments section below. Or, if you have a good homemade fruitcake recipe, feel free to leave it here. I’m not much of a baker, but given the right recipe I might be persuaded to make my own fruitcake next winter.

12 Responses to “How to Make Store-Bought Fruitcake Taste Delicious in 5 Easy Steps”

  1. Heather Next Door January 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    I don’t usually make (or like) fruitcake but this year I saw this recipe in River Cottage Every Day and decided to try it (apologies for the ugly link):

    And it was really delicious (I substituted dates for the figs). I made it three times in a month. It keeps for about a week, sealed up, so it has some of the advantages of Christmas fruitcake: something on hand to offer to a steady stream of guests. (None of the boozy advantages, though.)

    • Crewmax42 November 29, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

      My Mom used to make her fruit cake in a Bundt pan and would place a shot glass filled with bourbon in the middle to flavor the cake. Recently, I was given a cake that was soaked with a fifth of vodka that was wonderful!

  2. Nancy Myers November 15, 2016 at 11:43 pm #

    I made some fruitcakes. small loaf – great warm – like hocky pucks now. will try soaking as indicated. look forward to eating rather that using them as door stops

  3. Greg December 23, 2016 at 6:14 pm #

    Did you end up with logs of alcoholic mush?

  4. Cathy January 3, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    So I’m also wondering how it turned out …

  5. Ji4roger March 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

    What was the final outcome?

  6. Portista December 22, 2017 at 4:44 am #

    Well? What did you get?

    I just tried a similar experiment, only without bothering to look it up first on the internet. [I know— “Pride goeth before a fall, and a haughty spirit before destruction.” The Psalmist has my number on speed dial.]

    Anyway, I took a couple of cheapo fruitcakes from Amazon and laid them on aluminum foil, then took a syringe and a 1 1/2 inch 22 gauge needle and injected dark rum all through ‘em, until they bled rum. Next I wrapped them tightly in the silver foil and put them aside in a cool dark corner. I marked the date on them, and for three weeks turned them over every three days to ensure equal saturation.

    This evening I checked them for the first time. They are, if there is such a thing, too moist, so if I do this again I’ll halve the amount of booze. They are also, I suspect, a fire hazard… but a tasty fire hazard. I wrapped back up to age in the silver foil, not having a barrel for them to cure in, and one of them will make its debut at a Dominican Epiphany Party.


  7. Jane Grametbaur December 11, 2019 at 6:25 pm #

    I did this last year. I did not soak the cheesecloth
    first. I poked holes in the cake and sprayed it with a
    large amount of dark rum. I wrapped the alcohol treated cake in cheesecloth and then sprayed the cheesecloth until it was saturated. I wrapped the cake in tinfoil. I unwrapped it once a week and sprayed the cheesecloth until saturated. I did this for about 3 weeks. It was fabulous!

  8. Tania January 16, 2020 at 4:32 pm #

    How do I soak my Xmas cake and freeze it? How much alcohol should I use and what are the steps to follow?

  9. Syd September 20, 2020 at 11:42 pm #

    Grandma’s Traditional Fruitcakes from Red Deer, Alberta is one of the best fruitcakes I have ever eaten!

  10. Trent A Brown December 13, 2020 at 6:04 pm #

    I have been looking for this method since my aunt did it when I was in 8th grade in 1980! My wife of 27 years thinks I just remember it fondly and it would be terrible. I am getting a fruitcake this week and trying it!!!

  11. John V. Bond January 13, 2022 at 9:32 pm #

    I use either Applejack Brandy or Spiced Rum as a soak. Both add a very unique flavor without being too harsh.

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