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Dowager Duchess Fruitcake

Make sure to plan ahead: This cake needs to sit for at least one month to allow the flavors to develop. To serve, slice it as thinly as possible.

  • Yield: Makes five 5 3/4-by-3-inch tea loaves, or two 9-by-5-by-2 1/2-inch tea loaves
Dowager Duchess Fruitcake

Source: Martha Stewart Living, December 2000


  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 pounds plus 4 ounces candied citrus peel (6 cups), such as grapefruit, orange, or lemon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 15 ounces (2 1/2 cups) whole almonds, blanched
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry, plus more for dousing
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line bottoms of pans with buttered parchment. Combine candied citrus and almonds in a mixing bowl, and set aside.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl at least twice. Stir in 3 tablespoons sherry and the citrus zest.

  3. Reduce speed of mixer to low. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating until just combined. Fold in candied citrus and almonds.

  4. Pour the batter into prepared pans. Bake until golden and set and a cake tester inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes (20 to 30 minutes for larger cakes).

  5. Remove the cakes from oven, and douse each with 3 tablespoons sherry. Cool the cakes completely on a wire rack. Remove cakes from loaf pans, and discard parchment paper. Wrap the cakes in muslin or cheesecloth. Store in a cool, dark, dry place, dousing cakes with several tablespoons of sherry once a week for at least 1 month before serving.

Reviews (7)

  • PennyOnline 13 Nov, 2014

    After this recipe was a huge hit last year, I'm making it again this year, too. Even lifelong members of the Fruitcake Haters Club loved this and it doesn't have a strong alcohol flavor like some rum or brandy doused versions. I did the dousing this way: I wrapped the loaves in cheesecloth, placed them in an old 13x9 pan (to catch the drips), and put them in our extra refrigerator in the basement. Each week I poured a bit more sherry on them. Not everyone has the luxury of an extra old fridge, but I think a cool corner would have been fine. I did NOT wrap them in plastic -- the resulting loaves were dense and firm, not moist like a fresh cake but not dry at all. One loaf ended up in plastic, however: I mailed a small loaf to a friend in Germany after just 2 dousings. He let it sit several weeks, wrapped in plastic but with no more sherry, and reported it was delicious at Christmas.

  • ashmatache 23 Oct, 2014

    I made this last year and will be making it again this Christmas too. I had no idea that after wrapping the cakes in muslin they also needed to be kept in plastic to keep them moist. Don't forget to wrap them in plastic too! I made these 2 months in advance and even though I messed up they were still really good.

  • GPSJane 30 Nov, 2012

    I tried to make half this recipe but I made a mistake with the conversion of the butter. Half way through we had to add more eggs, flour and fruit. And since we only had enough candied peel for half I had to store half the batter in the fridge until the next day. Crazy I know but they seem to have come out quite nicely, at least they smell wonderful.

    I just have a question; how do you douse them once wrapped? Do you unwrap them first or just douse them through the muslin?

  • JoieDee 18 Dec, 2011

    Too bad I'm seeing this so late in the season! I like the suggestions above with the chocolate and ginger; will hope to try next year. I'm also late responding to the note above:

    To avoid having your fruit sink in the batter, toss all the chopped fruits and nuts lightly in flour before folding into the batter. I used to help my mom make traditional dark fruitcakes every year -- this works!

  • naughtyjane 21 Oct, 2011

    I grew up eating homemade dark fruitcake, filled with the technicolor candied fruits and walnuts. It was not quite fruitcake that inspires the tired jokes, but close to it. When I saw this recipe, I got excited -- first, because it is like a poundcake, and second, because it involved such seemingly exotic ingredients. It has become a favorite in my house, even with my 6 year old, and I make it with dried cherries, pecans, bittersweet chocolcate, candied orange peel, and crystallized ginger.

  • FoEnt 22 Jul, 2008

    How to ensure that all the candied citrus are spreading evenly on the cake after baking? I always experience the citrus fruits sink to the bottom of the cake after baking? Why is that happening? Any suggestion?

  • lindakristine 6 Jan, 2008

    I made mini loaves for Christmas gifts and they turned out great. They smelled wonderful, looked really pretty and best of all, I had to make these one month in advance, so I was ahead of schedule that Christmas!

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