Chocolate-Cherry Fruitcake Recipe

‘Tis the beginning of the season for holiday baking. Years ago I gave the much-maligned fruitcake a makeover, dressing it up with plumped-up sour cherries, an overload of chocolate, and a boozy bath of liquor added at the end.

Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake

You may remember my fruitcake disaster, so I’m not about to give anyone advice on preservation techniques. And you’ll notice my cake dipped a bit in the middle since I was playing around with French flour, which is softer than its American counterpart. But in looking at it afresh, I like the graceful little dip, which I find rather appealing.

Feel free to swap out any other dried fruits that you like. I’m a big, big fan of dried sour cherries, which I find especially appealing with chocolate, but dried pears, cranberries, candied ginger or apricots would be wonderful. Or use a combination of whatever you’d like, although I do recommend it with cherries if you can find them—I make everyone heading this way lug for me as many little packets as they’re willing to from the states, although right now, I can’t shut my kitchen cabinet door (honestly) since the bags keep sliding out.

You can also use another favorite liquor in place of what I recommend. And if you wish to omit the liquor altogether, soak the cherries in boiling water or hibiscus tea until plump. If taking the water route, squeeze any excess eau from the cherries before using them.

Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake

And for those of us in Europe where chocolate chips can be difficult to find, chopped bittersweet chocolate works really well in lieu of those elusive little buggers. (In Paris, G. Detou sells them by the kilo.) But do be sure to grease the pan very well, especially in the corners. The cherries can make the finished cake sticky and if you tear the ends off in the pan, you’ll be forced to eat them.

Chocolate-Cherry Fruitcake
Print Recipe
Makes 2 loaf pan-sized cakes
Adapted from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz
1 1/2 cups (210g) dried cherries, chopped, sweet or sour
1/4 cup (60ml) plus 6 tablespoons (90ml) rum, whiskey, or amaretto
1 1/4 cup (170g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process or natural
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
10 tablespoons (140g) butter, at room temperature, salted or unsalted
2 cups (400g) sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup (180g) buttermilk or plain yogurt, regular or low-fat
1 cup (135g) walnuts, pecans, or almonds, toasted and finely-chopped
3/4 cup (120g) chocolate chips
1. A day or so before you make the cake, toss the cherries in ¼ cup of liquor. Cover and let macerate.
2. To bake the cakes, grease two 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper or dust with cocoa powder. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
3. Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Stir together the eggs and yolk with the vanilla, then dribble them in while beating.
5. Mix in one-third of the flour/cocoa mixture, then half of the yogurt or buttermilk. Then mix in another third of the dry ingredients, then the rest of the yogurt. Finally add the remaining dry ingredients, and gently stir in the nuts, chocolate chips and cherries. (Which should have absorbed all the liquid. If not, add that as well.)
6. Divide and smooth the batter into the two prepared loaf pans and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let stand on the counter top for about 15 minutes.
7. With a skewer, poke 50 holes in the cake and spoon 3 tablespoons of liquor over each cake. Let cool.

Storage: These cakes will last, well-wrapped, for about a week. If you want a really boozy cake, you can brush with additional liquor every few days before serving.

They can also be frozen, although if you choose that route, don’t add liquor to them. You can rewarm them once they’re thawed and add it later.

Related Links and Recipes

For tips on adapting recipes to European ingredients, read my post American Baking in Paris.

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Why you should use aluminum-free baking powder

Holiday Recipes

Cocoa Powder FAQs

Nonfat Gingersnaps

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  • November 20, 2007 4:05am

    Chocolate cherry fruitcake seems almost…delicious! I am not a big fan of the traditional version so the fact you’re calling it fruitcake takes off half a star.

  • November 20, 2007 4:15am

    You sure did dress it up! I think it is not fer that in Europe is so hard to find chocolate chips. They looks soo convenient to me!
    Great recipe!

  • November 20, 2007 6:49am

    Lasts a week? Surely not a real fruitcake then! I just made my Christmas cake last weekend, knowing that it will take *at least* 6 weeks before it gets really good, and I used about 3 pounds of fruit!
    But still – this sounds good, even if we can’t call it a fruitcake. I think a half-and-half mix of cherries and dried apricots, soaked in kirsch could do the trick…

  • November 20, 2007 7:28am

    I think you’ve got the right idea, David. I’ve tried dressing up fruitcake, too, with various alcoholic additives and fruits. I came up with a theme fruitcake a few years back – I think it was dried cranberries and cognac – that wasn’t half bad. But I never considered chocolate. But then, you’re the chocolate guy.

  • Jill
    November 20, 2007 8:45am

    I invented a fruitcake cookie (no booze) last Christmas. I love the dried cherries too. I’d love to share the recipe with you by email if you’d like it.

  • November 20, 2007 9:33am

    This sounds like a fruitcake I might actually be able to eat, instead of leave at the back of my fridge.

  • November 20, 2007 9:57am

    Oh, I’ve been wanting to make this cake for years! Unfortunately I never remember to bring back dried cherries from the US. Arrgh!

  • November 20, 2007 10:30am

    I should remember NEVER coming here after a day of work where i had no time to eat. I could easily bite my table or my screen now !

  • Rowena
    November 20, 2007 11:09am

    This looks delicious, I’ve actually had really good fruitcake so I’d like to try this one, especially because I love chocolate and cherries together (Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia in my fridge right now.) But David, what liquor do you recommend? I can’t seem to find it on your post.

  • November 20, 2007 11:22am

    Ever since my friend made a groom’s cake and enrobed the leftover crumbs in chocolate, I have been hooked on fruitcake. I am always looking to try out new recipes and this looks fabulous! Thanks-

  • November 20, 2007 12:04pm

    What do you all think about using dried cranberries instead of cherries?

  • November 20, 2007 2:01pm

    This almost sounds like (*gasp*) a brownie with booze.

    And fruit. You know, so you can pretend it’s healthy.

    Good on you, David!

  • November 20, 2007 2:03pm

    Good makeover David! That’s a kind of fruitcake I wouldn’t mind receiving!

  • KateC
    November 20, 2007 3:26pm

    I share your love and adoration of dried tart cherries – so much more flavorful than cranberries. I even put dried cherries in brownies and breakfast cereal and, well, anywhere I can. I think I may make this cake this weekend. Thanks for sharing!

  • JEP
    November 20, 2007 5:36pm

    This my kind of fruitcake! It is hard for me to find dried tart cherries, tho. May just go with the sweetened ones as this recipe is so tempting :)

  • sam
    November 21, 2007 1:57am

    oh man, i just this minute got myself a “Perfect Scoop” paper cut and there is blood all over everywhere and how am I going to get my whisky caramel saucce finished in time for thanksgiving now, huh????

  • sampedro
    November 21, 2007 6:58am

    As you comment on your post about “tips on adapting recipes to European ingredients” we have sometiems difficulties when looking for some of the ingredients, but we can usually solve the problem.
    For the “Big One” is how to adapt the measures (cups, tablespoons, etc.. Any hint? I tried some of your recipes and that is the hardest part, even when using the web pages converters. A good thing would be having the equivalences in the recipe itself. Would that be a problem?
    Anyway i ususally get quite good results, not as good as i wanted but good enough. Wonderfull recipes and excellent webpage….

  • November 21, 2007 7:06am

    Hi Sampedro: My recipes on the site and in my last two books are in metric as well as cups-and-spoons.

    In France, they tend to use ‘soup’ and ‘coffee’ spoons as measurements. But I find the US-measures more exact, especially for baking. It’s hard to weigh 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon measurements since they’re so small, though.

    Glad you like the site and thanks!

  • November 21, 2007 8:45am

    Delicious ! I like cherry cakes very much…

  • November 21, 2007 10:29am

    Hi David, I’m afraid I’m not understanding step one – it’s a minor wording issue – do you mean to use half the total amount of liquor called for, to macerate the cherries?

    That said, this recipe looks fantastic, and I’d love to try making it – thank you!

  • November 21, 2007 10:38am

    Jessica: That was an html scripting error. Oops. Use ¼ cup of liquor for macerating the cherries. Hope you like them!

  • November 21, 2007 11:06am

    I just made fruitcake for my husband (who actually likes ) but seeing this recipe I know I’ve found a fruitcake for me. Seriously – chocolate, cherries, and amaretto – I swoon!

  • November 21, 2007 11:16am

    Thanks for being awesome, David. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Kendall
    November 21, 2007 11:47pm

    Oh this looks perfect for my holiday boxes for relatives full of baked goods. I already know I’m giving everyone bags of Spiced Caramel Corn from Heidi Swanson’s book.

    I tried the recipe last night and there is none left to show for it! Thanks for the recommendation, I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried from Super Natural Cooking.

  • Jeffrey Bary
    November 23, 2007 5:08pm

    I just made this cake for dessert tonight. I soaked the cherries in dark rum, used roasted almonds and put kirsch on at the end. I added 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. I took s few photos as I made the cake: Here

    I had a taste when I cut it to photograph the finished cake. The almonds, cherries and kirsch are a delicious combination.

  • Rowena
    November 26, 2007 8:59pm

    I made this cake today and it is delicious. Even before I baked it, I had to stop myself from eating the batter. Thank you David for an excellent recipe. I love reading your blog.

  • Koren
    December 2, 2007 3:40pm

    Despite the fact that I don’t usually like chocolate-cherry combinations, this recipe called to me. I made this recipe into mini-loafs this week for a holiday bake sale, and kept one loaf for me. It is indeed delicious. I froze my loaf and I must say, it is wonderful cold; better than room temperature to my taste. The other winning recipe I have made so far this holiday season is your gingerbread, which was posted on Traveller’s lunchbox recently. It is the gingerbread of my dreams. I have tried all of Laurie Colwin’s gingerbread recipes, and none were quite right. Yours is perfectly moist and spicy – I love it! Thank you!

  • Russell Herman
    December 11, 2008 9:21pm

    You have two versions of the Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake….one uses 10 Tablespoons butter, the other 1 1/2 cups. Of course the other ingredients have different quantities but there are enough discrepencies that I am afraid of making either in case the recipes are wrong.

  • Russell Herman
    December 11, 2008 9:23pm

    You have two versions of the Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake and I don’t know which is correct. The quantities vary tremendously.

  • December 12, 2008 12:54am

    Hi Russell: This is the version of the cake that I made, using this recipe. It’s the recipe I used here. The other recipe that you’re referring to is from the old website. Happy baking!

  • Russell Herman
    December 13, 2008 6:30pm

    Thank you for resolving my dilemma. I want to make the cake tomorrow but was nervous about the very different proportions of ingredients in the two recipes.
    btw did you also make the “old” recipe?

  • Russell Herman
    December 14, 2008 9:10pm

    Made this delicious cake today using dried cherries, dried pineapple, Amaretto, Brazil nuts. Left out the chocolate chips.
    Rose well and didn’t sink.

  • nona
    March 25, 2009 11:25pm

    Hi, There’s something I didn’t understand in the directions. You write:

    “7. With a skewer, poke 50 holes in the cake and spoon 3 tablespoons of liquor over each cake. Let cool.
    Storage: These cakes will last, well-wrapped, for about a week. If you want a really boozy cake, you can brush with additional liquor every few days before serving.
    They can also be frozen, although if you choose that route, don’t add liquor to them. You can rewarm them once they’re thawed and add it later.”

    If I want to freeze the cakes, do I not brush them with liquor when they come out of the oven as in step 7? Or do I brush them with liquor, freeze them, and when defrosting, rewarm and add more liquor? It’s unclear to me whether “if you choose that route, don’t add liquor to them” means any liquor, or additional liquor.

    I had great success with your german chocolate cake. May be the best cake I have ever eaten, let alone made, and it was received well too as a birthday cake. Two questions about it though. 1) I had a lot of syrup (the one for brushing the cake before filling) left. The cake didn’t absorb nearly as much as the recipe made. Did you intend for all of the syrup to be used? 2) I had a little difficulty with the (delicious) ganache. The first time I made it, it was too soft to pipe and I had to add more chocolate to stiffen it, before piping rosettes. The next time I made it, it was too stiff w/ the recommended amount of chocoate to pipe anything but stars and that with difficulty. Both times it took hours to set, once to an overly soft texture even w/ extra chocolate, the next time when it set, it stiffened. It occured to me that this might be due to the percentage cocoa in the chocolate. I can’t remember what chocolate I used the first time, the second time it was something called AlpenRose (a swiss chocolate) which says on the label it is 52% cocoa. Do you have a specific percentage chocolate that you recommend for this recipe? Or tips on how to adjust for chocolate with different percentages cocoa?
    Finally, I had to level the layers a bit the first try – I assume i was supposed to? The second time I used cake strips (magic strips) – Did I do right?
    Anyway, I am very much in your debt for that fantastic cake. Thank you so much for the recipe

  • arzu
    April 23, 2010 3:09pm


    I tried it yesterday. It is the perfect cake I have ever eaten. I used candied cherries and tossed cherries in whiskey for 2 days. The result was perfect.
    Thank you David.

  • Deb
    December 13, 2010 11:07am

    Oh, I wish I could try every recipe I bookmark in your site!

    I was so excited when I saw the title of this one. I’m looking for a recipe I lost in a move over 30 years ago – that’s how good it was, 30 years and I’m still looking.

    We called it Bishop’s Bread. It had maraschino cherries, chocolate chips, canned pineapple tidbits, lots of eggs and very little flour, oh yes, nuts too. It was supposed to bake in a loaf pan, but I made mini loaves and gifted quite a few of them. People were *really* nice to me so they’d maybe get another loaf. ;>

    Did you ever run across anything like this?

    Thanks for the great job you do. I love your writing and recipes.

  • Jean Marie
    December 13, 2010 8:17pm

    I started prepping this recipe using your book. Then I remembered the blog said “adapted from” so I decided to compare. It looks like you’ve upped the cherries from 180g to 210g even tho the quantity for Americans is still 1-1/2 cups. I threw in another 30 because cherries are good! Your book says 1 tsp baking powder but above you have it at 1/2 tsp. and increased sugar by 1/2 C. I think I’ll go with the latest incarnation. Do you think spiced rum would be good for the glaze?

  • Lynn
    December 14, 2010 8:29pm

    If I wanted to make this more like a round cake instead of 2 loaf pans, what would you recommend for the baking time? I was thinking a bundt cake pan or something similar.



  • December 25, 2010 10:53am

    I just wanted to say I made these cakes for Christmas Day and they were a super hit.
    I used fresh cherries soaked in rum overnight and the cake turned out beautifully.
    I also used sour cream instead of yogurt and it made for a lovely moist cake. Just delicious, shall make it next year too. Thank you for the recipe!

  • Brian
    January 2, 2011 10:48pm

    I also finally got around to making this for Christmas this year. Instead of cherries, I used candied orange peel (écorces d’orange confits), with Cointreau for the booze and chopped almonds for the nuts. Worked very well and was a big hit. Thanks!