Enjoy all the flavors of fruitcake this holiday season in a much easier to prepare version! These fruitcake cookies pack candied fruit, toasted nuts, warm spices, and even the flavor of rum into one crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside cookie. The dough freezes well and requires no chilling.
Traditional old-fashioned fruitcake is a real endeavor to prepare, but if you want those flavors without the work, fruitcake cookies are for you. Chock full of mix-ins, these cookies scream "holiday!" in the best way.
A fair warning, the ingredient list may look lengthy, but individually-listed baking spices and varieties of candied fruit take up the bulk of the space. I got pretty specific on the types of fruit I like to use, but it's really a choose-your-own-adventure kind of recipe. See the section below on how you can mix and match your favorites.
Why You'll Love Fruitcake Cookies
- The flavor! A blend of candied fruit, warm spices, and a special baking extract bring the flavor of real fruitcake to this easier-to-prepare cookie form.
- These fruitcake cookies have a great texture, similar to a chocolate chip cookie. The exterior is a bit crisp, with a softer, heartier chew in the center.
- You don't need to chill the dough.
- This is a cookie recipe that freezes well, from a block of cookie dough, to scooped balls, to baked cookies.
- Butter: The first step is to cream the butter and sugars, so we'll want the unsalted butter to be softened to room temperature. This helps it mix into the sugar more easily, setting the stage for just the right kind of cookie dough consistency.
- Sugars: We're using two: brown and granulated. Either light or dark brown sugar is fine.
- Extracts: Two are used: vanilla extract and rum extract. Rum, as in actual rum, is a classic ingredient in fruitcake, but extra liquid isn't exactly welcome in a cookie recipe like this. Rum extract saves the day to provide a hint of flavor without altering the consistency. I love to use this baking extract to bump up the flavor in a homemade eggnog latte and piña colada mocktail.
- Spices: Fruitcake has a complex flavor and isn't a stranger to a long ingredient list. A medley of warm baking spices are used here: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.
- Pecans: While not "a must", toasting the pecan halves before coarsely chopping them adds an extra depth of flavor I enjoyed.
- Candied Fruit: These can be varied, from using only a pre-made fruitcake blend or by mix and matching your favorites. See below for a more thorough breakout.
What Kind of Fruit to Use
Lots of different kinds of dried and/or candied fruits can be used in fruitcake and fruitcake-inspired desserts. Candied fruit is also known as glacé or glazed fruit.
Please substitute in different varieties of fruit as you like! Here is what I use:
- Candied Cherries: These are a staple in fruitcake and are extra festive in red and green. I buy these whole and slice them into smaller pieces.
- Raisins: Golden or regular raisins can be used, as can chopped pitted dates.
- Pineapple: Either dried (pictured above) or candied pineapple bits work. A substitute can be dried apricot.
- Fruitcake Blend: This is a pre-made blend of small bits of red and green cherries, candied lemon peel, and candied orange peel. Other brands may also include citron and/or pineapple, but mine didn't so I add those separately.
- Citron: This has a fairly unique bitter/sweet/citrusy flavor. You can substitute in more fruitcake blend if you'd rather not buy something extra, don't care for the flavor, or if your fruitcake blend already includes it.
- Cream the butter and sugars. Using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter and sugars on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until light, creamy, and cohesive.
- Mix in the wet ingredients. Mix in the eggs, vanilla extract, and rum extract.
- Add the dry ingredients. Separately whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and all dried baking spices. Mix this into the cookie dough in two intervals.
- Stir in the fruit and nuts. Stir in the pecans, raisins, and dried/candied fruits.
- Scoop. Scoop 1-½ tablespoon cookie dough balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart.
- Bake. Bake at for 12 or so minutes, or until the edges are golden and the tops have nearly set. Let the fruitcake cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack for them to cool the rest of the way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Grocery stores begin to carry a wider range of candied fruit in the baking aisle in November ahead of Thanksgiving, through Christmas and year-end. Your local store may not carry them the rest of the year (mine doesn't). I've bought them in the springtime and other off-season times online.
No, maraschino cherries have a lot of liquid in them, which would discolor the cookie dough and add too much moisture, which can lead to stickiness. Candied cherries are preserved in a way to have much less moisture, so their coloring won't bleed into the dough.
No you don't. Actual rum will not work as the flavor wouldn't come through without adding too much liquid to the cookie dough. If you don't have or can't find rum extract, simply replace the amount with more vanilla extract.
Variations & Ways I Tested These Cookies
- Various candied mix-ins - So many work, so this comes down to personal preference. The exact types I landed on are in the recipe card below, but I've also used chopped pitted dates, dried apricot, and crystallized ginger in my blend. All delicious!
- Brown sugar vs. a blend - In hopes of amplifying the warm spice flavor I tried a batch of these cookies using all brown sugar, not a blend of brown and granulated. While tasty, the cookies did not spread as much as I'd like. Using two sugars produces a better result.
- Chilling vs. not chilling - I've baked this cookie dough straight away after scooping, and again after chilling. While the chilled dough balls baked up slightly taller, the difference wasn't material enough for me to call for the extra time to chill.
- Dark vs. light pans - Pan coloring impacts how much cookies spread. Darker metal pans absorb heat more effectively when compared to lighter metal pans, which causes the undersides of cookies to "set" more quickly. This leads to thicker cookies that spread less. The fruitcake cookies in these photos were baked on light aluminum pans. Choose your pan type based on your preference.
More Festive Holiday Desserts
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon rum extract or more vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 ½ cups roughly-chopped pecan halves
- 1 cup chopped candied cherries half red and half green
- 1 cup candied fruitcake fruit mix
- ½ cup raisins golden or regular, or chopped pitted dates
- ½ cup chopped dried pineapple or candied
- ¼ cup chopped candied citron or more fruitcake mix
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line large baking sheet(s) with parchment paper and set aside for now.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric hand mixer, cream together the softened butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until a light, fluffy, and cohesive consistency develops.
- Beat in the eggs, vanilla extract, and rum extract.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Mix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients in two increments until fully combined.
- Stir the pecans, candied cherries, fruitcake fruit mix, raisins, pineapple, and citron into the cookie dough until evenly combined.
- Using a 1 ½-Tablespoon capacity scoop, scoop dough and place at least 2 inches apart from one another on the parchment-lined sheets. Bake for 11-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the tops of nearly set. Let cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Fruitcake Mix - Usually a medley of candied red and green cherries, orange peel, and lemon peel, sometimes with pineapple and/or citron.
- Pineapple - Either candied or dried pineapple chunks work. Can be replaced with dried apricot.
- Citron - Can be replaced by more fruitcake mix, orange peel, lemon peel, or another ¼-cup of something else.
- Crystallized Ginger - Not listed in the recipe but I've used it before and enjoyed it. These bits have bite so don't add too much.
- Chilling - This dough does not need to chill, but it can for your convenience. If baking cookies in batches, you may wish to refrigerate the dough so it doesn't overly warm.
- Storage Instructions - Once cooled store fruitcake cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to one week.
- Freezing Instructions - This dough freezes well. For a large block, wrap it in plastic wrap then place in a zip-top freezer bag. Similarly individually scooped cookie dough balls can be frozen. First freeze in a single layer, then add them to a large zip-top bag as this helps prevent them from sticking together. Baked cookies are good options for freezing, too.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer