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Cranberry Apricot Christmas Fruit Cake

Close shot of a nut and cherry topped fruit cake with slice about to be removed.
Cranberry Apricot Christmas Fruit Cake is my quicker fruit cake for a less stressful Christmas. Love fruit cake, not keen on marzipan or fondant? Or looking for a quicker cake to make for Christmas?  Then try this fruit cake that is easy to make & uses dried cranberries and apricots. Can be made ahead or as late as Christmas eve, and lasts at least 14 days so perfect for the busy festive period. 

Cranberry Apricot Christmas Fruit Cake

Last Minute Christmas Fruit Cake


What Kind Of Cake Is This?

This is based on traditional British fruit cakes we have here in the UK. Another name it can be known as, is a Boiled Fruit Cake.

With a very high proportion of dried fruits, these kinds of cakes are more dense than say a Victoria Sandwich Cake, or even a Madeira Cake.

This one is also alcohol free, and so saves you some money too.


Why Make This Christmas Cake?

  • Easy to make
  • Minimal decorating
  • Quick to make
  • Non-alcoholic
  • Alternative to sultanas, raisins & currants
  • Lasts at least 14 days
  • Tastes better as it ages
  • No special techniques involved
  • No marzipan, fondant or Royal icing

Quicker To Make

If you like Christmas fruit cakes but aren’t keen on marzipan, fondant icing or Royal icing, then this is a great alternative.

It is also is quicker to make as you can bake as late as Christmas eve or the day before it will be sliced or gifted. No need to pre-soak the fruit or start feeding in October. It will be drier in texture to alcohol or fruit juice fed cakes, but as it ages the taste improves as does the texture. Ground almonds also provides some moisture to the cake.


Ingredient Notes & Alternatives

Here are the ingredients for this fruit cake:

  • Butter, unsalted
  • Light Brown Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Spices
  • Flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Dried Apricots
  • Orange Juice

For Decoration (optional):

  • Almonds (skin on or off)
  • Walnuts
  • Glaze Cherries

Spices

I use UK Mixed Spice (equivalent being Pumpkin Spice), Cinnamon, Ginger and a little ground Anise. This is optional but if you like it you know why it is added.

Alternative Ingredients

Other dried fruits like Mixed Dried Fruit, raisin, currants, sultanas all work well. (See my other boiled fruit cake recipe with those).

Dark brown sugar or even coconut sugar can be substituted for the light brown sugar. These give more flavour than granulated or caster sugar.

Don’t like apricots? Then increase the cranberry amount or another dried fruit that takes on the liquid well. But in my opinion the apricots really make this cake.

Nuts like almonds & glaze cherries are common to decorate our British fruit cakes. You can use any nuts you have. US best substitute for the glaze cherries is candied red cherries. If you want to use maraschino cherries, be sure to drain them. You can also use the syrup to brush on the cake.


Equipment

I used a deep 6″ (15.25cm) loose based tin. These Wham brand ones were inexpensive in B&M for £2 and worked well. The tins are 9cm (3.5″) deep and the cake once baked is about this height too. If you want a bit smaller, & use say a 2.75″ (7cm) deep tin, reduce the recipe by about 25% and multiply ingredients by 0.75.

If you want to increase or decrease the recipe for a different sized diameter of tin – see my articles for Increasing a recipe, or the decreasing a recipe article.


Recipe Yield

This is a deep cake as mentioned above, so although a 6″ (15.25cm) wide cake, you will get a lot of slices from it. If you slice about 1″ (2.5cm) wide, the recipe will yield about 16 slices.

Storing The Cake

This fruit cake, if wrapped with some cling film/plastic wrap and then either under a cake dome or airtight container (such as a metal cake or cookie tin), will last at least 14 days. The flavour and moisture does increase with time and the cake is best cut day after baking for it not to crumble.


Step-By-Step Instructions

1. Begin by adding the butter, sugar, spices, orange juice, cranberries and apricots to a saucepan, and heating on low to medium heat until the butter and sugar have melted. (See Photo 1).

2. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes. The liquid will reduce, become syrupy, sticking to the sides of the pan and the fruit will be plump. (**note in the photos & subsequent testing, when cooking the apricots whole they take on more liquid than if chopped beforehand. But you are free to chop before if you like).


3. Remove from the heat and drain the liquid over a sieve. Reserve the liquid and if using whole apricots, separate them out as best you can so you can roughly chop them.

4. Place the cranberries in the fridge to cool and leave the syrup to the side to cool down. Once the apricots are chopped, chill these too for about 30 minutes.

5. Add the chopped apricots, cranberries, eggs and half of the reserved syrup mixture to a large mixing bowl or stand-mixer bowl.


6. Sieve over the flour, baking powder and spices and mix by hand briefly. Then move onto using a hand or stand-mixing to incorporate the dry ingredients, adding a little more of the syrup liquid when needed. **Please note however, the batter will be very thick and you will not need all the syrup. (See Photo 3).

*Some of the syrup is reserved for glazing the cake.

7. Heat the oven to: 170°c/150°c Fan Oven/325°f/Gas Mark 3.


8. Prepare the cake tin by greasing well and paper lining the bottom and up the sides of the tin. See in Photo 4 below where I make paper circles to fit the bottom of the cake tin. (Or see my video above).

9. Grease the baking/parchment paper in place with lining paste (cake goop), cake release spray, softened butter, or as I have used here – Frylight cooking spray.

10. Paper line the sides with strips (tip – make little tears and the paper will sit better inside the tin.


11. Add a triple layer of paper to the outside of the tin too. Hold in place with some butchers’ string. You want the paper to be 1″ (2.cm) or so taller than the height of the tin.

12. Once the chilling time is up, carefully add the fruit cake batter to the tin.

13. Level off the top, and give the tin a few taps on the counter/worktop to expel any trapped air.

14. Place in the centre of the preheated oven on another tray, and bake for 40 minutes initially.


15. After 40 minutes check the cake that should be risen and domed and coloured on top.

16. Add a disc of paper on top of the cake (does not need to be exact as the outer paper will hold it in place). (See Photo 6). Note if the cake is not fully set on top of coloured enough, check again after 5 minutes.

17. Reduce the heat slightly to 160°c/140°c Fan Oven/310°f/Gas Mark 2.5. Continue baking for another 1 hour 20 minutes (80 minutes). A total bake time of about 2 hours, but you want to check the cake is cooked with a wooden bbq stick or using a food thermometer, with an internal temperature of between 90.5 – 96°c (195-205°f).


18. Place the cake on a rack to cool down before removing from the tin. You can leave overnight to do this, as slicing the cake is best day after baking to reduce crumbling.

19. Remove from the tin and peel off the papers before brushing some of the left-over syrup mixture onto the top of the cake. This will give the cake a lovely shine as seen in Photo 7.

20. Next decide on the pattern for your nut and cherry decoration. Play about with the pattern and how many nuts you have and the sizes to fit nicely on the cake.


21. Once happy with the pattern, remove the nuts and brush on some more of the syrup. If short on syrup, syrup used from maraschiello cherries, could be used, or even a little thinned down jam.

22. Add the nuts and cherries and for any difficult nuts, brush on some more syrup under the nut to help hold in place.

23. Leave the cake a little, for the nuts to set in place before trying to cut. (Remember cutting is best day after baking).


Ribbon Ideas

Here are some ideas in Photo 9 for different ribbon to use on the fruit cake. I used a pink thick velour ribbon in the first pic with gold stars, but not quite the pink shade for my branding!

You can use thin or thicker ribbon and wrap around more than once. For a rustic look use even some brown paper (or parchment) and some string or hessian string.

In the end I went with the tartan thick red ribbon I had. (See Photo 10 below).


Serving & Storing

Serve the cake in slices with your favourite hot drink or serve alongside some favourite tipples at Christmas or New Year celebrations.

Other Recipes

Check out my other cakes, in the Cake recipes page, or take a look at the other Chrismas recipes. Want to cover in marzipan & fondant or Royal icing? See my Quicker British Christmas Fruit cake. Other classic British bakes include Scottish shortbread, my take on Chocolate Digestives, or how about a Madeira cake? (Photos below).


White royal iced deep Christmas cake with bottle green ribbon on sides, homemade trees and tree to the back in a white setting - cropped..

Recipe Card

Cranberry Apricot Christmas Fruit Cake

Close square shot of front angled shot of a red tartin ribbon wrapped fruit and nut topped fruit cake, with pink napkins, crockery and Christmas decoration surrounding it.
Love fruit cake, not keen on marzipan or fondant? Then why not try this quicker fruit cake that is easy to make & uses dried cranberries and apricots. Can be made ahead and lasts at least 14 days so perfect for the busy festive period. (**print with/without process pics or notes)
Caro @ Caroline’s Easy Baking Lessons
Prep Time 50 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Cooling/Inactive Time** 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Serving Size 16 Slices*

Equipment

  • Scales or measuring cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Wooden spoon
  • Saucepan
  • Hand/stand mixer (optional)
  • Baking/parchment paper
  • 6" (15¼ cm) Cake Tin (3½" (9cm) deep tin. For different sizes see notes)
  • Medium to large sized mixing bowl
  • Sieve
  • Wooden BBQ stick
  • Cooling rack
  • Cling Film (plastic wrap)
  • Thick ribbon (for decoration, optional)

Ingredients

For The Cake

  • 300 grams Dried Cranberries (10½ oz, 2 rounded Cups)
  • 188 grams Dried Apricots (6⅔ oz, level 1½ cups)
  • 163 grams Light Brown Sugar (5¾ oz, 1¼ cups, *see notes)
  • 163 grams Butter, unsalted & cubed (5¾ oz, ¾ cup)
  • 200 ml Orange Juice (6¾ fl oz, ⅘ cup, or other pure fruit juice)
  • 2 Eggs (Medium to large, or 3 small) (US Large or Extra Large)
  • ¾ tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp (rounded) Ground Anise (optional)
  • ¾ tsp Ginger
  • ¾ tsp Mixed spice, optional (Pumpkin Spice alternative)
  • 325 grams Plain Flour (11½ oz, 2⅔ cups All Purpose Flour)
  • tbsp Baking Powder

For Decorating

  • Nuts – such as almond, walnuts, pecans (optional, see recipe)
  • Glaze cherries (optional – alternative candied cherries or maraschino cherries)

Instructions

Cook/Hydrate The Fruit

  • Add butter, sugar, spices, orange juice, cranberries and apricots to a saucepan and gently cook on low to medium heat until the sugar & butter has melted. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, till fruits are plum, liquid reduced and syrup formed.
  • Remove from the heat, and strain the fruit into a bowl, reserving the syrup liquid. Remove the whole apricots as best you can, if not chopped and roughly chop. Chill the fruit in the fridge for 20 minutes & leave the syrup to the side.

Prepare The Batter

  • Pre-heat your oven 170°c/150°c Fan Oven/325°f/Gas Mark 3.
  • Add the cooled fruit mixture to a large mixing bowl, half of the syrup, beat in the eggs & sieve over the flour, baking powder & spices. Mix till incorporated and a very thick batter is produced (add small amounts of the remaining syrup but leave few tbsp for glazing).

Prepare Cake Tin

  • Well grease the 6" (15¼cm) wide, deep cake tin on the bottom and up the sides, before adding baking/parchment paper. I used Frylight cooking/baking spray. You can also use cake release spray, homemade lining paste/Cake Goop, or butter. Fold a strip of the paper twice to make a triple layer of paper to go around the outsides of the tin, making sure the paper goes about 1" (2½ cm) above the height of the tin. Hold in place with string.

Bake The Cake

  • Carefully spoon the cake batter into the prepared cake tin, smooth and level off best you can, before tapping the tin a few times on the counter/worktop and then baking in the centre of the oven for about 40 minutes.
  • After 40 minutes the cake should be set on top and browned, so add a circle of paper to cover & pop back in the oven. Reduce the heat slightly to 160°c/140°c Fan Oven/310°f/Gas Mark 2½ and continue to bake for about another 1 hour 20 minutes (80 minutes). The cake will have baked in about 2 hours, but ready when a wooden bbq stick comes out clean of crumbs or has internal temperature of 90.5 – 96°c (195-205°f).
  • Leave to cool as is on a cooling rack or leave overnight. (Note cutting the cake is advised on the day after baking for less crumbly slices).
  • Once cooled, remove the paper & tin, before peeling off the paper lining. Leave to cool more on the rack and brush on some of the reserved sugar syrup to the top of the cake to give a nice shine,

Decorating

  • When the cake is cooling you can decide on the pattern for your nuts and cherries. (See Photo collage 8 before this Recipe Card). Once happy with the pattern, remove, then apply more syrup before adding the nuts back on.
  • Add a ribbon of choice (see examples in photo collage 9) around the cake and your British fruit cake is complete.

Serving & Storing

  • Remember best served day after baking and this also allows the flavours to develop. Use a large sharp knife to slice and enjoy with a hot drink.
    Close square shot of a nut and cherry topped fruit cake with slice about to be removed.
  • Store covered with cling film/plastic wrap and then a cake dome or airtight container such as a cake or cookie tin. The cake will last at least 14 days if stored like this and taste even better as the days pass.

Notes

Sugar – Our British Christmas cakes and fruit cakes, are usually made using brown sugar (light or dark).  White sugar can also be used, but the cake will be a paler colour. 
Slicing –  after baking, leave overnight before slicing or at least 12 hours, to make slicing easier. 
Recipe Yield -16 slices approximately.   See more on serving section.
Alternative Sizes/shapes of Tins – see my article on How To Reduce A Recipe, or How To Increase A Recipe, with calculations for various sizes of cake tins.  British Christmas Cake Recipe.
More sweet & savoury Christmas Bakes
More Cake recipes or Penguin fondant tutorial
Baking ingredient measurement conversion table.
White royal iced deep Christmas cake with bottle green ribbon on sides, homemade trees and tree to the back in a white setting.Quicker Christmas Fruit Cake recipe (above)
 
Nutrition Facts
Cranberry Apricot Christmas Fruit Cake
Serving Size
 
1 slice
Amount per Serving
Calories
291
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
5
g
8
%
Monounsaturated Fat
 
2
g
Cholesterol
 
45
mg
15
%
Sodium
 
216
mg
9
%
Potassium
 
204
mg
6
%
Carbohydrates
 
48
g
16
%
Fiber
 
12
g
50
%
Sugar
 
17
g
19
%
Protein
 
3
g
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Caro x

Cranberry Apricot Christmas Fruit Cake

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