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Lighter Christmas Cake with Apple and Fruit

This Christmas Cake is a delicious and moist cake packed with dried fruit, citrus zest, and applesauce. And with every bite, you will taste the holidays.

Side view of unsliced Christmas Cake on a red and white platter.

Plus, it’s an incredibly simple cake to make during a busy season.

If you love fruitcake, this new twist on a vintage classic is for you. If you hate fruitcake, this recipe is definitely for you.

It’s delicious and light but filled with the beautiful flavor of the holidays. Not at all heavy.

Top view of Lighter Glazed Christmas Cake with Whole Pecans

What to Love About This Christmas Cake

  • Soaking the fruit is not required
  • Perfect for gifting
  • Does not need to age for flavor
  • A lighter, paired down version of the classic that’s amazingly yummy
Lighter Christmas Cake Ingredients on a Wood Board

Christmas Cake Ingredients

Ingredient measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post, but here is a list of what you’ll need to make the Christmas Cake.

  • Unsalted butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Large eggs
  • Pitted dates
  • Applesauce
  • Walnuts and pecans
  • Raisins
  • Mixed candied fruit
  • Salt
  • Spices: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg
  • Baking powder and baking soda
  • All-purpose flour
  • Orange zest

GLAZE

  • Apricot preserves
  • Whole pecans for garnishing

Christmas Cake Ingredient Notes

A few thoughts, resources, and substitutions for the ingredients in this fruited cake.

Nuts:

While I used 1 cup of walnuts and 1 cup of pecans in this recipe, you can use all walnuts, all pecans, or your favorite nuts.

Candied Fruit:

There are so many varieties of candied fruit. And any of the flavors you like, work well. Paradise Fruit Company sent me some samples of their product and I chose the Old English Mix.

Orange Zest:

One of my favorite elements of this cake is the orange zest. Unless you really don’t like orange — I wouldn’t skip this ingredient.

Side view of glazed Christmas Cake with evergreens in the background

How to Make the Christmas Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease three 8 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pans.

Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated; stir in vanilla and applesauce.

Step 2: Mix in the fruit and dry ingredients

Add the walnuts, pecans, raisins, candied fruit, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, flour, and orange zest. Mix until just incorporated and no visible signs of flour remain. Transfer batter to prepared loaf pans.

Unbaked Christmas Cake in a baking pan

Step 3: Bake the Cake

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes in the pan. Then invert the cake onto a metal rack to cool completely.

Top view closeup of glazed Lighter Christmas Cake on a red and white plate

Glazing the Christmas Cake

While it’s not necessary to glaze this Christmas Cake, it does give it a beautiful sheen and decorative top for the holidays.

Do not glaze the cake until just before serving.

When you’re ready, make the glaze by combining the apricot preserves and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the glaze has thinned and is shiny.

Brush the tops of the cakes with the glaze and garnish with whole pecans.

Sliced Lighter Christmas Cake

Serving the Christmas Cake

A serrated knife works best for slicing the cake. Serve on its own or spread with salted butter.

And a beautiful Christmas platter makes it extra special. I’m using Poinsettia Toile Oval Serving Dish with teacups to match.

Closeup view of sliced Christmas Cake
Side view of unsliced Christmas Cake on a red and white platter.

Lighter Christmas Cake with Apple and Fruit

Yield: 3 loaves
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

This Christmas Cake is a delicious and moist cake packed with dried fruit, citrus zest, and applesauce. And with every bite, you will taste the holidays.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cup pitted dates, chopped
  • 3 cups applesauce
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 2 cups mixed candied fruit, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 1/4 cup water
  • whole pecans for garnishing

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease three 8 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pans.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated; stir in vanilla and applesauce.
  3. Add the walnuts, pecans, raisins, candied fruit, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, flour, and orange zest. Mix until just incorporated and no visible signs of flour remain. Transfer batter to prepared loaf pans.
  4. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes in the pan. Then invert the cake onto a metal rack to cool completely.
  5. For the Glaze: Just before serving, combine the apricot preserves and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the glaze has thinned and is shiny. Brush the tops of the cakes with the glaze and garnish with whole pecans.

Notes

Storing the Christmas Cake

Once the Christmas Cake is completely cool, wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator.

Serving the Cake

A serrated knife works best for slicing the cake. Serve on its own or spread with salted butter.

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7 Comments

  1. Hi again. They are out of the oven and cooling. I suggest you add vanilla to your ingredient list. I just put about a teaspoon since that is pretty common for cakes. I think I need to put them at a little bit lower temp, maybe 345 since they got a bit overdone on the outside before the inside was done. They smell wonderful!

    1. Hi Julia, thank you for sharing your process. As you know, every oven reacts differently. In my oven, it baked quicker than 75 minutes, so you did, I’m always watching closely. I do like your idea of adding vanilla! Isn’t everything better with it?! Hope you love them.

      1. Thanks for the quick reply. Can I freeze 2 of them for a few days? or refridgrate? I plan to make this on Saturday!

        1. You can absolutely freeze them for later. I have two in my freezer now! I prefer freezing because I always think the refrigerator tends to dry baked goods. Be sure to wrap them securely.

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