Among the cardinal sins: overbaking and not aging your cake.

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If you groan and roll your eyes at the mere mention of the word fruitcake, chances are you just haven't had a good one. A good fruitcake is as magical as the holiday season: a miracle of fruits, nuts, and spices conveniently baked inside a cake for your edible pleasure. Fruitcake gets a bad rap, however, because many people don't know how to make it properly. Their attempts turn out heavy and dry—like something that would be better purposed as a doorstop than dessert. This is a crime! We chatted with Laurent Branlard, pastry chef of Lake Nona Wave Hotel, in Orlando, Florida, and Mary Carillo, pastry chef at The Henderson in Destin, Florida, about the common mistakes people make when they bake fruitcake and how to make sure they're perfect every time. 

fruitcake
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Fruitcake Mistake 1: You OverBaked Your Fruitcake 

If your fruitcake has a tendency to come out too dry, Carillo says it's most likely due to overbaking. It's an easy mistake to make. When you insert a toothpick in the center to test for doneness, it should still be somewhat sticky to the touch, not dry like you'd want with other varieties of cake. Laurent says it's also imperative to remove the fruitcake from the oven as soon as it's done baking. 

Fruitcake Mistake 2: You Didn't Soak Your Fruit 

Dry fruit leads to dry fruitcake. Both Branlard and Carillo say you should soak your fruit for at least 24 hours before you mix it into your batter. Laurent suggests making a light syrup of one part sugar for two parts water or fruit juice. After bringing it to a boil, add a little rum or brandy. Soak all your fruits and strain them before using.

Fruitcake Mistake 3: You Didn't Put Enough Moistener in Your Batter 

A moist fruitcake begins with a moist batter. "An easy way to keep cake batter a little more moist is to replace 20 percent of the butter in the recipe with a good oil. I like hazelnut oil, but grapeseed will work perfectly, too," Laurent suggests. Carillo says you can also add a cup of applesauce to moisten a batch size of one Bundt or two six-inch loaves. 

Fruitcake Mistake 5: You Didn't Coat Your Fruits and Nuts 

To make sure your fruits and nuts mix evenly into your fruitcake batter before you place it in the oven, Carillo suggests coating them in flour. "If the nuts and fruits are not coated in flour they will sink to the bottom of the pan and stick to the pan," she says. "I like to coat them and sift the remaining flour off so I don't get blobs of unincorporated flour in my cake." 

Fruitcake Mistake 6: You Didn't Age Your Fruitcake 

Most baked goods are best fresh from the oven, but this isn't the case with fruitcake. "Truthfully, fruitcake fresh out of the oven and even a couple days old just does not taste very good," Carillo says. "The cake develops as it ages." Aging is the most important factor in a successful fruitcake. Here's how to age a fruitcake:

  1. After you take your the cake out of the oven, poke several holes in the top. Brush it with simple syrup or the alcohol of your choice, and let it cool. 
  2. Once the cake is completely cool, place it on a cheesecloth. Next, wrap the cake in the cheesecloth and brush more alcohol or juice on your cake. 
  3. Wrap the whole cake and cheesecloth in plastic wrap or place it in a resealable plastic bag. Store in a cool, dry place. 
  4. Brush with the liquor or juice of your choosing on the cake once a week. After at least three weeks, it is ready to serve or freeze.