Cooking Up a Hooley In the Kitchen: Not Completely Your Mother’s Chocolate Fruit Cake

Cooking Up a Hooley In the Kitchen: Not Completely Your Mother’s Chocolate Fruit Cake
By Katie Gagne

Charles Dickens had it right when he had us reflect on the past, see into the future and do something new with the present. A much-debated Christmas tradition is the likability of fruitcake. The subject of countless jokes, many people have come to dislike and even fear this holiday treat.

I LOVE fruitcake. My mom made small loaves of this every year. My job was to drizzle the brandy over the top of each one weekly in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Fruitcake is one of those things that gets better with age and a little spirit.

Wanting to bring this dessert from Christmas past to the present day, I am sharing with you an updated and unique twist on this cake, in the hope that this will become a favorite in the future. 

“Not Completely Your Mother’s Chocolate Fruit Cake”

This modern, and slightly more sophisticated version of a Christmas staple is easy to make. Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you. You can make it using just a whisk and rubber spatula, you can use any size and shape pan you would like and you can play around with the fruit and nut mix of ingredients.


3 cups AP Flour

½ tsp Baking Powder

1 ½ tsp. Baking Soda

1 ½ tsp. Salt

1 tbsp. Cinnamon

1 tsp. Allspice

1 tsp. Cloves

½ tsp. Ginger

1 tsp. Nutmeg

3 tbsp. Dark Cocoa Powder


4 Eggs 

2 cups Brown Sugar

½ cup (1 stick) melted Unsalted Butter

¼ cup Maple Syrup

¼ cup Cherry Juice

¾ cup Vegetable Oil

½ cup water

1 tbsp. Vanilla

Fruit/Nut Mix
1 cup each of the following:

Dried Apricots — cut in quarters

Dried Cherries

Dried Cranberries

Candied Pineapple

Dried Dates – cut in quarters

Dark Raisins

Chopped Pecans

Chopped Walnuts

Chopped Hazelnuts

¼ cup Candied Orange Peel

¼ cup Candied Lemon Peel

1 cup Irish Whisky – and more for later to baste the fruitcakes.

6 oz.  (1 ½ ) Dark or Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bars – roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 325*   Spray your pan(s) with cooking spray.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

Mix all ingredients in fruit/nut mix together in a bowl and pour whisky on top. Stir well and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and brown sugar together until smooth. Pour in melted butter and mix until smooth.

Whisk in the syrup, cheery juice, oil, water, and vanilla until smooth.

Add dry ingredients to wet and using a rubber spatula, stir until combines.

Drain excess whisky from the fruit/nut mix and add to the batter and stir until fully combined. Add in the chopped chocolate and stir until fully blended. Batter will be very thick.

Spray your pan with cooking spray and fill 2/3 of the way with batter. Bae at 325* for approximately 1 – 1 ½ hours. Cakes are done when toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cooking times will vary. I usually start out checking on them after 40 minutes, depending on my pan size. For these I typically use standard size, disposable foil loaf pans. This recipe made four loaves.  

Once cakes are out of the oven, I use a pastry brush and coat the top with a thin layer of light Karo Syrup to give it a beautiful shine.

Now comes the good part
Poke about a dozen small holes in the top with a toothpick or skewer and then drizzle a small amount of whisky over the top, allowing it to sink in.

Wrap the fruitcakes in their pans tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Once a week up until you serve these, unwrap them and repeat the process of drizzling them with whisky and wrapping back up.

I make mine anywhere from 4-6 weeks before serving them or giving them out.

*Katie Gagne teaches English at Trinity High School in Garfield Heights. She is also the owner of her in-home bakery Sassy’s Sweets and Oh So Much More. You can contact her at (440) 773-4459 or at [email protected], or find her on Facebook at @sassyssweetsandmore.

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