The Washington Post

Brown Butter Fruitcake

Brown Butter Fruitcake 10.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Dec 12, 2022

With ample dried fruit, crunchy toasted nuts and warming spices, this moist, crumbly fruitcake might become your new holiday tradition. Add it as a sweet counterpoint on your cheese board. It’s also a great vehicle for using up raisins, dried apricots or pecans. If you abstain from booze, substitute a strong black tea.

Mace can be tricky to find, although it’s lovely here and is worth seeking out. Chef Bronwen Wyatt buys it whole and grinds it fresh. Allspice makes a fine alternative; in fact, feel free to play around with different warming spices.

Active time: 35 mins; Total time: 3 hours 10 mins

Storage Notes: The cake can be well wrapped and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

10 - 12

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 10-12 servings; makes one 9-by-5-inch fruitcake

  • Nonstick baking spray
  • 2 cups (180 grams) walnuts halves
  • 1 cup (140 grams) dried figs, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup (140 grams) pitted dates, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup (140 grams) dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup (170 grams) honey, cane syrup or golden syrup, such as Lyle’s brand
  • 1/2 cup (118 grams) brandy (may substitute with black tea brewed at double strength)
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace (may substitute with ground allspice)
  • 1 cup (220 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick baking spray, then line it with a piece of parchment paper long enough to have a generous overhang on each of the long sides (see NOTES). Grease the parchment as well.

Arrange the walnuts on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast for 12 to 15 minutes, or until fragrant and golden brown. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool slightly, then roughly chop and place in a small bowl.

While the nuts are toasting, in a medium bowl, toss together the figs, dates and dried cherries until combined.

In a 2-cup (480-milliliter) liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey or syrup, brandy, lemon juice and lemon zest until combined, and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, nutmeg and mace. In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt to combine and aerate; set aside. (You might find that the brown sugar clumps a little; this is fine.)

In a 4- to 5-quart nonreactive pot over medium heat, melt the butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until the solids turn brown, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the spices (this will help bloom the flavor of the spices and suffuse them into the fruitcake). Carefully, add the honey or syrup mixture — the contents of the pot may bubble up — and stir to combine. Add the dried fruit mixture and stir to coat. Turn the heat back to medium-low and bring the mixture just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool until warm, about 20 minutes, or completely.

Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the eggs, one at a time, and mix thoroughly to incorporate. Stir in the dry ingredients until no trace of flour remains, then fold in the walnuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top with an offset spatula or spoon, if needed. Bake for 1 hour 35 minutes, or until the fruitcake is deep, burnished brown and has just begun to pull away from the edges of the pan.

Transfer the fruitcake to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Use the parchment sling to lift the fruitcake from the pan, and let cool completely before serving.

NOTES: Unlike traditional fruitcake, this recipe doesn’t call for aging. If you choose to age the fruitcake, wrap it well in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, place it in a lidded container and store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. You’ll need to dampen the cheesecloth with brandy every few days. Otherwise, place the cake in an airtight container and store on the countertop. It can be made up to 5 days in advance, and freezes beautifully, if you have extra.

The cake also can be made in two 6-inch round cake pans. If using the round pans, cut two parchment paper circles to fit the bottom of the pans, then liberally spray with nonstick baking spray. Proceed with the rest of the recipe, but decrease the baking time to 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes, then run a butter knife around the perimeter of the cake before unmolding. If you let the fruitcake cool completely in the pan, you may find it trickier to unmold — it’s easiest when the fruitcake is still slightly warm.

Recipe Source

Adapted from chef Bronwen Wyatt of Bayou Saint Cake in New Orleans.

Tested by Olga Massov.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (1 slice), based on 12: 403

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 19g 29%

Saturated Fat: 6g 30%

Cholesterol: 51mg 17%

Sodium: 146mg 6%

Total Carbohydrates: 54g 18%

Dietary Fiber: 4g 16%

Sugar: 40g

Protein: 5g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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