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Traditional Canadian Christmas Cake

One the prairies, one was measured by the flavour and texture of their dark fruitcake. Everyone made it. Everyone had an opinion. It is the bourbon that makes all the difference to me, in this exotic dark fruit cake. Makes 2 loaves or 5 small loaves. Must be made a minimum of 4 weeks before the holiday season.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Canadian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 5 loaves
Author Valerie Lugonja


  • ¾ c softened butter
  • 1 ¼ c firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 ½ c all purpose sifter flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ cup dark molasses
  • ½ cup brewed black coffee (or espresso)
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • 1 pound dark raisins
  • ½ pound candied red cherries whole
  • ½ pound candied green cherries whole
  • ¼ pound candied orange peel chopped
  • ¼ pound candied lemon peel chopped
  • ½ pound chopped citron
  • ½ pound dark pitted dates chopped
  • 1 cup pecans toasted whole
  • Bourbon for soaking cheesecloth in and brushing on

If Gifting Cake:

  • ½ cup warmed red currant jelly
  • Pecan halves , and candied cherry halves


Instructions for Fruit

  1. Place all fruit in large bowl; add bourbon and soak for 2-4 hours

Instructions for Fruit Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F and grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans 2 1/2 inches deep or five 5 3/4 x 3 pans 2 inches deep
  2. Line bottoms with parchment paper; butter it (the original recipe was waxed paper)
  3. Cream together butter and brown sugar; beat in the eggs.
  4. Sift all dry ingredients; beat into butter mixture
  5. Add molasses and brewed black coffee or espresso to mixture; combine well

  6. Fold in the nuts and bourbon soaked in fruit

  7. Carefully pack the batter into the prepared pans almost to the top (I used an offset spatula to finish the tops of each cake)
  8. Place pans on centre rack of oven in a bain marie (place pans in a larger pan and pour hot water halfway up the sides); bake for 2 to 2 ½ hours, or until toothpick comes out clean (the small cakes took 50 minutes, so watch carefully after 45 minutes)
  9. If the tops brown too quickly, place foil over the top
  10. Cool 30 minutes, then remove and set on wire rack
  11. Wrap carefully in a triple layer of cheesecloth that has been soaked in bourbon
  12. Seal tightly in aluminum foil and store in a cool dry place until the holiday season
  13. Once a week, remove foil, and brush additional bourbon onto the cheese cloth
  14. The longer it is stored, the more times it is dowsed, the more pungent and flavourful it becomes.

Recipe Notes

To Gift the Fruitcake:
Brush top of cake with warmed currant jelly; arrange pecan and cherry halves decoratively
Brush again with jelly; allow jelly to set completely
I have made this cake without nuts and had good results; this year I added an extra cup of toasted crushed nuts for extra nuttiness, and may regret it due to the lack of clarity in the slice (which remains to be seen)