Fruit cake is a traditional Christmas dessert made with dried fruits and is often soaked in alcoholic drinks.
The classic cake has a reputation for being easy to bake thanks to its common ingredients and straightforward instructions.
If you want to bake a fruit cake but you’ve found some of the ingredients missing in your pantry, this guide will come in handy.
Today, we’ll show you how to make fruit cake without the key ingredients using a variety of tried and true alternatives!
Before diving into the details of how to replace fruit cake ingredients, we should first start by having a quick look at the traditional ingredients used to make the cake. These include:
- Plain or all-purpose Flour
- Room temperature eggs
- Melted unsalted butter
- Candied fruits
- Mixed spices
- Chopped Nuts
- Alcoholic spirits for soaking and aging such as Brandy, Rum, or Sherry
You can make fruit cake in a variety of ways. One of the easiest methods is to simply combine all the ingredients (except fruits, nuts, and liquor) in the food processor to mix together and create the cake batter.
After that, you add the alcohol-soaked candied fruits and nuts by hand and pour the whole mix into a loaf tin. You then bake the cake until it’s cooked, then take it out to cool on a rack.
You can also dry age the cake by wrapping it with a cheesecloth soaked with liquor in an airtight container and repeating the soaking process every 3 to 5 days.
Flour is one of the most critical ingredients in cakes, including traditional fruit cakes. It contributes greatly to the cake’s structure by providing the proteins needed to create gluten.
Gluten acts like a natural glue that keeps everything together and helps other ingredients like candied fruits and nuts to stay suspended and not sink to the bottom of the cake.
For that reason, it’s quite challenging to bake a cake without some type of flour in the mix. However, you can still use other types of flour while making little to no adjustments.
Ideally, the traditional recipe calls for plain (whole) or all-purpose flour. The protein percentage in these types is around 14% and 11% respectively. One of the easiest ways to replace it is by using other types of flour.
If you want a healthier fruit cake version, you can replace it with almond flour. This one is made by grinding and sifting skinless boiled almonds until they’re as fine as actual flour.
The main advantage of almond flour is that it’s gluten-free, which is easier on your digestive system along with many other benefits.
Additionally, the higher fat content in almonds makes the cake richer and more buttery, which fixes a major problem with classic fruit cakes.
Another great advantage of using almond flour is that you don’t have to make any adjustments to the original recipe, as they’re substituted with a 1:1 ratio.
If you don’t have plain or all-purpose flour, you can still make fruit cakes with other types of flour. This includes cake flour and pastry flour. In most cases, you’ll replace the flour with a 1:1 substitution ratio.
Note: For every 1 cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 cup of cake flour with 2 extra tablespoons to make up for the difference in protein content.
Eggs help in thickening the cake and adding volume to the batter. They’re also a natural emulsifier that helps in blending all other ingredients together.
However, you can replace eggs in your fruit cake recipe by using a combination of other ingredients.
One of the easiest ways to substitute eggs in fruit cakes is by using baking soda and vinegar with some milk. For a standard-sized fruit cake, you’ll replace the eggs with the following ingredients:
- Milk: You can use 1 cup of whole milk as well as soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk if you want it vegan-friendly
- Vinegar: Add 1 or 2 tablespoons for every cup of milk. It can be white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- Baking Soda: Add one 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of milk
Stir the ingredients together in a small bowl, and don’t worry if it starts to curdle a little bit. Once the mixture is fully combined, pour it into the cake batter mix like you usually do with eggs.
Alternatively, you can use commercial egg replacers if they’re available where you live, such as Bob’s Red Mill Egg Substitute. Make sure that you pick the varieties specifically designed for baking.
Substituting nuts in cakes heavily depends on their purpose in the cake. For example, in regular cake recipes where ground nuts are added, substituting them can be tricky.
This is because ground nuts provide moisture and richness to the batter. In that case, you’ll need to replace them with rolled oats or oatmeal in equal amounts.
However, when it comes to standard fruit cake recipes, the nuts are added as a whole, so they mainly contribute to the flavor, not the texture.
For that reason, if you’re allergic to nuts, you can remove them altogether and replace them with more dried or candied fruits. If you want alternatives that provide a similar crunch factor, you can use:
- Nut-free Chocolate chips
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- Roasted soybeans
- Puffed rice
Many people like to add some whipped cream on top of the fruit cake to add some extra sweetness to it.
However, like nuts, whipped cream is only a flavor additive and doesn’t contribute to the structure of the cake. In other words, you can simply omit it from the recipe if you don’t want it.
If you like the texture of whipped cream, here’s a quick alternative: add 3/4 cup sweetened Half-and-half with 1/4 cup unsalted butter, then whisk them together until they thicken to whipped-cream-like consistency.
If you’re out of whipped cream, you can still replace it with a variety of delicious alternatives that can also be a nice way to mix things up. These alternatives include
- Ice cream
- Greek yogurt (flavored or plain)
- Heavy coconut cream
- Creme Fraiche
A lot of people who don’t like fruit cake often blame candied fruit for being the main reason, especially the heavily processed and artificially colored ones.
Luckily, you’re not limited to a specific choice when it comes to fruit cake filling. For example, if you don’t like a particular type of fruit or peel, you can replace it with another type.
Additionally, you can replace the candied fruits with dried varieties. This includes currants, raisins, peaches, plums, apricots, etc.
Besides dried fruits, you can also use canned fruits as an alternative. This includes mangos, pineapple, papaya, etc.
Keep in mind that these fruits have a higher moisture content, so the cake may not last as long as the original.
Another alternative to fruits is adding more nuts to the cake, such as pecans, walnuts, macadamia, etc.
There are plenty of ways to sweeten your fruit cake without using sugar. For starters, if you don’t have brown sugar, you can simply use any other type of sugar, such as powdered sugar or white sugar.
However, the ideal alternative to sugar is to use molasses and fruit jam. This combination is often used as a secret ingredient to overcome the dryness of the original recipe.
If you’re mainly concerned about the high caloric content of the sweetening agent, you can easily replace it with a healthier alternative, such as:
- Honey: 3/4 cup for every 1 cup of sugar
- Maple syrup: 3/4 to 1 cup for every 1 cup of sugar
- Stevia: 1 tablespoon for every 1 cup of sugar
- Zero-calories commercial sweeteners as directed on the package
The original fruit cake recipe calls for butter because it blends ingredients together and gives the cake a rich flavor.
Yet, you can use a wide range of alternatives if you’re out of butter. Each one of these options has unique properties, so you can choose between them depending on the reason for replacement.
For example, if you want to replace butter with a vegan alternative, you should consider using margarine, which gives very similar results. Additionally, you can use a 1:1 combination of olive and coconut oil softer texture.
Fruit cake is often soaked in different types of alcoholic drinks and spirits, such as rum, sherry, and bourbon.
This is because they give the cake a unique depth of flavor, extend the cake’s shelf life, and improve the overall texture of the cake by making it moist.
However, you can easily make fruit cakes without using alcohol, and there are hundreds of recipes out there that don’t use any alcohol or spirits in the ingredients.
In that case, you’ll need to keep the cake in the fridge to last longer. Additionally, you can replace it with milk or any fruit juice of your choice to make the cake richer and juicier.
Whether you’re a fruit cake lover or a skeptic, it will always remain a special part of the holiday season.
With this guide, you’ll be able to make a homemade fruit cake even if you don’t have any of the key ingredients.
Luckily, some of these alternatives can even improve the final texture and flavor of the cake!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.