Fruit cakes are among the most popular Christmas desserts that have been around for decades or even centuries.
The cake is made with a variety of candied fruits and nuts and is often soaked in spirits and alcoholic drinks like rum and brandy. But is fruit cake healthy?
In today’s article, we’ll help you find out more about the nutritional value of fruit cake and how to make it healthier. So without further ado, let’s dive in!
Fruit cakes are typically made with butter, brown sugar, and candied fruits. All these ingredients contain very high amounts of calories, saturated fats, and sugars.
In fact, according to data from Nutritionix, a slice of fruit cake contains as many as 366 calories, 10 grams of fats, and 31 grams of sugar.
For that reason, if you eat too much fruit cake, you may end up gaining a lot of weight, especially if you don’t exercise frequently.
However, if you only eat one slice on occasion, you don’t have to worry about it, especially if you maintain a balanced diet and workout schedule.
You should also keep in mind that different recipes for fruit cakes will contain different amounts of the previously mentioned ingredients.
You can replace these ingredients with healthier alternatives. They will still be high in calories, but much lower than traditional recipes.
The traditional fruit cake recipe typically contains butter and eggs. Some recipes also contain milk, all of which are all animal products and non-vegan.
However, you can still make a vegan fruit cake by making some modifications to the traditional recipe.
For example, you can replace the butter with a 1:1 mixture of coconut oil and olive oil. You can also use commercial vegan butter.
Additionally, you can replace dairy milk with vegan alternatives like almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, etc.
As for the eggs, you can replace them with commercial egg replacer, aquafaba (chickpea can liquid), or use the following combination:
- 1 cup of vegan milk of your choice
- 1 or 2 tablespoons of vinegar (white or apple cider) for every cup of milk
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup of milk
Whisk all the ingredients together and don’t worry if the milk starts to curdle, then pour the mix instead of eggs used in traditional fruit cake recipes.
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in different types of grains, including wheat, rye, and barley.
The protein’s main job in baking is to provide stretchy quality to the batter/dough and act as a binder or a glue that keeps everything together.
Many fruit cake recipes, including traditional ones, contain flour. Flour provides volume in fruit cakes and prevents other ingredients from sinking to the bottom of the batter.
Despite being essential for fruit cakes, you can easily use alternative types of flour that don’t contain gluten.
One of the easiest methods to enjoy gluten-free fruit cake is to bake it with gluten-free flour. One of the best substitutes to gluten-rich flour is almond flour. This one is easier on your digestive system and makes the cake rich and buttery.
As you can see, the traditional fruit cake recipe contains a variety of unhealthy and high-calorie ingredients.
However, if you want to enjoy a festive and delicious holiday treat, you can make some adjustments to the ingredients to make them healthier without compromising on the flavor.
Here’s a quick look at some of these alternatives:
Candied fruits are among the primary ingredients of fruit cakes. In addition to adding flavor to the cake, they also contribute significantly to the cake’s aesthetics.
However, candied fruits are extremely rich in sugars. Not only that, but the commercial varieties also contain plenty of artificial additives, such as colors and preservatives.
All these chemicals don’t add any health value to the fruit cake and some of them can be potentially dangerous. Not to mention, artificial flavors don’t always taste good.
Luckily, replacing candied fruits with natural alternatives is a perfect way to make the cake healthier while sticking to the traditional recipe.
While you can use just about any natural fruit for your cake, here are some of the healthiest options to consider:
- Dried figs
- Prunes and Plums
- Dried peaches and apricots
You can also make these dried varieties yourself to control the amount of sugar added to them while drying.
Remember to soak the fruit before adding them to the fruit cake batter to increase its volume and keep the cake moist. This also helps you use fewer fruits, and therefore, add fewer calories.
One of the biggest contributors to the high caloric content of the cake is the sugar added to the cake.
Sweetness in fruit cakes comes from a variety of sources, including dried fruits, juices/liquors added, and directly-added sugar.
Instead of using molasses or brown sugar to sweeten your cake, you should opt for healthier alternatives like natural honey or maple syrup.
As previously established, the flour used in making fruit cakes may contain gluten.
While it’s okay to use regular flour while making fruit cakes, you can make your cake a lot healthier if you go for higher-quality options.
For example, instead of using refined flour, you should use multigrain flour.
This type of flour contains more calories, which helps you feel full faster and for longer. As a result, you’ll end up eating fewer slices of the cake.
If you follow a gluten-free diet, you can opt for almond flour as an alternative.
Although it has higher calories than all-purpose flour, the difference isn’t huge and it still has other excellent advantages, such as reducing cholesterol and helping in diabetes control.
A fruit cake can be complete without dried fruits. However, you don’t have to go overboard while filling the cake with them.
Nuts and seeds can be an excellent addition to fruit cakes for a wide range of reasons, such as:
- They add variety to the cake’s texture and aesthetics
- Nuts and seeds are packed with nutritional value, including vitamins and minerals
- They add a unique crunch factor and flavor to the candy, especially toasted varieties
With that being said, you should keep in mind that nuts and seeds are often high in calories and fats.
That’s why you should sprinkle them with moderation and use low-calorie varieties like pistachios and walnuts more often.
If there’s one ingredient that you need to substitute in a fruit cake for a healthier alternative, it’s butter!
Of course, butter contributes massively to the overall texture, flavor, and consistency of the fruit cake.
However, it’s extremely rich in saturated fats and calories, which can cause many health issues, including weight gain, high cholesterol, and heart problems.
Luckily, you can substitute butter with other healthy ingredients all the while enjoying a flavor and consistency boost!
The secret here is to use a 1:1 mixture of coconut oil and olive oil instead. This combination keeps the cake moist for longer and gives the cake a creamier flavor!
As you can see, fruit cake is rich in fats, sugar, and high-calorie ingredients. For that reason, you should consume the traditional recipe in moderation to avoid its negative health effects.
Since Christmas would be lacking without fruit cake, you can still enjoy the traditional treat by adjusting some of the ingredients used in 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.