Fruit cakes are dense, dark cakes that are packed with dried fruits, nuts, and spices. The cake is known for various aspects, as it has a distinct chewy and crumbly texture, contrary to regular cakes out there.
However, the one aspect that many people wonder about is the cake’s color. Fruit cakes often come in various hues, but it’s often darker than other cakes, so what makes them dark?
In today’s article, I’ll take a closer look at the different reasons that contribute to the cake’s darkness.
What Makes Fruit Cake Dark?
Here’s a quick look at the primary factors that give fruit cakes their unique dark color:
Besides flavor, the type of fruits used in fruit cakes can also affect their color.
For example, dark-colored fruits like currants, raisins, dark-colored jams, and prunes will diffuse their color into the cake mixture while baking.
2 – Alcohol Content
Fruit cakes are often infused with liquors and spirits to give the cake its unique flavor.
Some of these alcoholic beverages are characteristically dark due to their aging process, such as Brandy, Scotch, and Whiskey.
Another ingredient that darkens the shade of various cake types is brown sugar. Unlike confectioner’s sugar, this one is darker due to the amount of molasses in them.
In some cases, molasses itself is used as a sweetening agent in fruit cakes, which makes them even darker in color.
The dark color of molasses is a result of the caramelization of sugar crystals during the extraction process.
Another overlooked reason that can darken fruit cakes is the additives added to the cake mix while baking. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice can contribute to the cake’s dark color
Some commercial fruit cakes will also have coloring agents that darken the cake’s color for better presentation.
While fruit cakes are characteristically dark, they also come in light varieties. The main difference here is in the ingredients used.
Lighter fruit cakes usually include lighter-colored fruits, such as golden raisins, dried pineapple, dried cherries, etc.
Additionally, many lighter fruit cake varieties will use little to no dark alcohols like brandy and whiskey. Instead, they may use rum or fruit juices.
This ends up giving the fruit a unique flavor profile along with a slightly softer texture. The use of fruit juices instead of alcohol can also affect the cake’s shelf life, as juice doesn’t have the preserving properties of alcohol.
However, the choice between the two all comes down to your personal preferences.
Light fruit cakes won’t turn into dark fruit cakes over time, as the color of a fruit cake is determined by the ingredients used.
However, in some cases, fruit cake may develop a slightly darker hue over time. This is because the sugars in the cake can caramelize and the fruits can release their juices, giving the cake a darker color.
This is more evident if you age the fruit cake by wrapping it and storing it in a cool place for several hours to days.
This gives more time for the alcohol to extract the coloring pigments from fruits, and make the cake even darker.
Fruit cakes have a unique dark color, which is often a testament to the cake’s complex flavor and richness.
This dark hue is often a result of various dark ingredients used in the cake, such as fruits, molasses, and alcohol.
Other factors like the aging process also help infuse these ingredients, which darkens the cake even further with time.
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.