How to Make Candied Fruit for Fruit Cake: A Step-by-Step Guide for Perfect Results

Fruit cake often gets a bad rap, but I believe it’s all about the quality of the ingredients, especially the candied fruit. Making your own candied fruit not only elevates the taste but also fills your kitchen with delightful aromas. Plus, it’s surprisingly easy and satisfying to do yourself.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the simple steps to create vibrant, flavorful candied fruit that will transform your fruit cake from ordinary to extraordinary. Whether you’re prepping for the holidays or just indulging in some baking therapy, homemade candied fruit is a game-changer.

Key Takeaways

  • Importance of High-Quality Ingredients: Using homemade candied fruit can significantly elevate the flavor and aroma of your fruit cake, turning it from ordinary to extraordinary.
  • Understanding Candied Fruit: Candied fruit is made by preserving fruit in sugar syrup, resulting in extended shelf life and enhanced sweetness. Common fruits include cherries, citrus peels, pineapple, and citron.
  • Selecting and Preparing Fruit: Choose fresh, ripe, and organic fruits where possible. Properly wash, peel, and slice the fruit to ensure it cooks evenly. Blanch firmer fruits to soften and preserve color.
  • Cooking Process: Create a syrup with a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water, simmer the fruit until translucent, and stir gently to avoid breaking the pieces.
  • Drying and Storing: Allow the cooked fruit to dry completely to prevent excess moisture. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place to preserve flavor and texture for months.
  • Incorporating Candied Fruit into Cake: Evenly distribute and coat the candied fruit in flour before adding to the batter to prevent clumping and sinking. Adjust the cake’s moisture content accordingly.

What Is Candied Fruit?

The Basics of Candied Fruit

Candied fruit is fruit that undergoes a preservation process involving sugar syrup. By soaking fruit in hot sugar syrup, moisture is replaced with sugar. This method extends shelf life and enhances sweetness. Fruits most commonly used include citrus peels, cherries, and pineapple. First, fruits are peeled and sliced before simmering in sugar solution. Second, they’re dried for several days.

Different Types Used for Fruit Cakes

Various candied fruits create distinctive flavors in fruit cakes. Candied cherries add a burst of color and sweetness. They come in red and green varieties, enhancing both taste and appearance. Citron, made from citrus peel, offers a slightly tangy flavor. It’s less sweet and more aromatic. Pineapple pieces provide tropical sweetness, balancing other ingredients. Candied lemon and orange peels introduce zesty notes. Together, these fruits make a rich, flavorful fruit cake.

Ingredients Needed for Making Candied Fruit

Choosing the Right Fruits

Candied fruit starts with selecting fresh, high-quality fruits. Citrus peels, cherries, pineapple, and citron are ideal choices. I prefer using organic fruits to avoid pesticide residue. Ensure the fruits are ripe but firm, to withstand the candying process. Citrus peels provide zest, cherries add color and sweetness, pineapple offers a tropical note, and citron gives a tangy flavor. Each fruit should be cleaned and prepped, ensuring no bruises or blemishes remain.

Necessary Sugars and Syrups

White granulated sugar is essential for making candied fruit. It dissolves quickly and creates a clear, consistent syrup. Use a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water for the basic syrup. Corn syrup can be added to prevent crystallization, especially for beginners. Ensure all equipment is clean to avoid contaminating the syrup. The sugar syrup should be simmered, not boiled, to maintain a smooth texture without caramelizing.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Make Candied Fruit for Fruit Cake

Preparing the Fruit

Select fresh, high-quality fruits for the best results. Citrus peels (lemon, orange), cherries, pineapple, and citron typically work well. Wash the fruits thoroughly, removing any dirt or residues. Peel the fruits if necessary, removing only the thin outer layer. Cut larger fruits into uniform pieces, about 1/4 inch thick, to ensure they cook evenly. Blanch firmer fruits like citrus peels and pineapples by boiling them for 2 minutes, then transferring them to an ice bath. This process helps soften the fruit and preserves its color.

Cooking Process

Prepare a sugar syrup using a 1:1 ratio of white granulated sugar to water. For example, mix 2 cups of sugar with 2 cups of water in a large saucepan. Add a tablespoon of corn syrup to prevent crystallization. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the prepared fruit pieces to the syrup, ensuring they are fully submerged. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the fruits for about 45 minutes or until they become translucent. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking, but handle the fruit gently to avoid breaking it.

Drying and Storage Tips

Once the fruit becomes translucent, remove it from the syrup with a slotted spoon and place it on a wire rack set over a baking sheet to drain excess syrup. Allow the fruit to dry at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, turning them occasionally for even drying. If you prefer faster drying, use a dehydrator set at 135°F for 4 to 6 hours. Once completely dry, store the candied fruit in an airtight container. Keep it in a cool, dark place to maintain its flavor and texture. Properly stored, candied fruit can last for several months, ready for your next fruit cake baking session.

Adding Candied Fruit to Your Fruit Cake

Tips for Best Incorporation

Use an even distribution of candied fruit pieces. This ensures each slice contains a mixture of flavors and textures. To achieve this, coat the candied fruit in a bit of flour before folding it into the batter. This prevents the fruit from clumping together or sinking to the bottom. Next, chop the candied fruit into uniform pieces for consistent results. Smaller pieces not only mix better but also provide a balanced taste in each bite. Finally, monitor the moisture content in your batter. Candied fruit adds sweetness and moisture, so reduce the sugar and liquids in your recipe accordingly to avoid a soggy cake.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Overloading the batter with candied fruit often leads to an unbalanced cake. Stick to a tested ratio, typically one part fruit to four parts batter, to maintain the cake’s structure. Failing to dry the candied fruit properly before use may also cause issues. Store-bought or homemade candied fruit should be well-dried to prevent excess moisture. Lastly, avoid using low-quality candied fruit as it can compromise flavor. Opt for homemade or premium store-bought options to ensure the best results in your fruit cake.


Making your own candied fruit for fruit cake not only elevates the flavor but also gives you control over the quality of ingredients. By carefully selecting fresh fruits and following the step-by-step guide, you can create a delicious, balanced fruit cake that’s sure to impress. Remember to chop the fruits uniformly and coat them in flour for even distribution. Avoid common pitfalls like overloading the batter or using low-quality fruits. With these tips, your fruit cake will be a standout at any occasion.

Making candied fruit at home involves simmering fruit pieces in a sugar syrup until they become translucent and flavorful. This process enhances the fruit’s sweetness and texture, making it ideal for use in fruit cakes and other desserts. For a comprehensive guide on making candied fruit, visit Serious Eats. Additional tips can be found on Taste of Home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of fruits are best for making candied fruit for fruit cake?

Fresh, high-quality fruits like citrus peels, cherries, pineapple, and citron are ideal for making candied fruit for fruit cakes. These fruits offer vibrant flavors and textures that complement the cake.

Why is it important to use homemade candied fruit in fruit cakes?

Homemade candied fruit ensures better quality and flavor compared to store-bought options. It allows for control over the ingredients and avoids preservatives, enhancing the overall taste of the fruit cake.

How should I incorporate candied fruit into fruit cake batter?

Coat the candied fruit in flour for even distribution, chop them into uniform pieces, and adjust the batter’s moisture content to prevent the cake from becoming too dry or too wet.

What are common mistakes to avoid when making candied fruit for fruit cakes?

Avoid overloading the batter with fruit, ensure the candied fruit is thoroughly dried, and refrain from using low-quality or stale fruits. These mistakes can negatively impact the cake’s texture and flavor.

How does the quality of ingredients affect the flavor of fruit cake?

Using high-quality ingredients, especially well-prepared candied fruits, significantly enhances the flavor, making the fruit cake richer and more enjoyable. Quality ingredients ensure a well-balanced and flavorful outcome.

Can I use store-bought candied fruit for fruit cakes?

Yes, you can use store-bought candied fruit, but for the best flavor and quality, homemade candied fruit is recommended. Store-bought options might contain preservatives and lack the freshness of homemade versions.