How Long Does Fruitcake Last? | With or Without Alcohol


Fruitcake Cut in Half on a Doily

“Not another fruitcake.” Those were the exact words a family member whispered to me one Christmas. Back in the ’80s, it seems that everyone was giving fruitcakes as gifts. There’s only so much candied fruit you can eat before it gets really old really quickly. Speaking of old, what about those leftover fruitcakes that have been around for an extended period? I did some research into the supposed long shelf life of the legendary fruitcake, and this is what I discovered.

A virgin fruitcake (no alcohol) will last up to 1 month at room temperature, 6 months in the fridge, and 12 months in the freezer. If alcohol is added to the recipe, fruitcake can last much longer. However, the dried or candied fruit and nuts may start turning rancid after a couple of years.

FoodRoom TemperatureIn the FridgeIn the Freezer
FruitcakeUp to 1 MonthUp to 6 monthsUp to 12 months
Source: USDA

There you have it. While a fruitcake will definitely last a long time, I wouldn’t recommend eating that 20-year-old one you just found in your cupboard. Let’s take a closer look at why.

How Long Does Fruitcake Last With Alcohol?

To achieve maximum shelf-life without sacrificing flavor, fruitcake is typically wrapped in a blanket of liquor–literally. Depending on your taste and style, you can use anything from brandy, red wine, or most commonly, rum. Just keep in mind that adding alcohol does more for the taste and less for keeping the fruitcake from going bad.

Really, all the alcohol does is keep mold from growing or problems with the yeast making it go bad. It won’t do much about keeping the fruit and/or nuts from going bad. Therefore, you are much better off just sticking to the same shelf-life guidelines for alcoholic fruitcake as you would for virgin varieties.

How Long Does Fruitcake Last Without Alcohol?

Virgin fruitcake is commonly used during the holidays as gifts. There is no alcohol in these recipes because some people dislike the taste alcohol gives it, or maybe it stems from a personal preference. A virgin fruitcake a room temperature will still receive up to a month’s worth of shelf-life.

If stored properly, you may receive a bit of additional time. But, I recommend erring on the safe side. To serve the most flavorful cake possible, do not make it too far in advance–especially if it is of the virgin variety.

Should I Refrigerate Fruitcake?

Fruitcake does not need to be refrigerated as it lasts over a month at room temperature. But, if you have an abundance of cake and don’t want it to go bad, I suggest you store in your fridge for additional shelf-life. In your fridge, fruitcake will keep for almost 6-months. Not to mention that storing your fruitcake in the refrigerator is a breeze.

If possible, make a bit of room in your fridge and set aside. You never know when you will get that sweet craving.

How Long Can You Keep Fruit Cake at Room Temperature?

Fruitcake can be kept at room temperature for about a month. To retain as much moisture as possible, either cover in plastic wrap, place it into a plastic bag, and put it in an airtight container. This will maintain your fruitcake fresh and moist. Otherwise, you may risk the cake drying out.

To get the most out of your efforts, store fruitcake in an airtight plastic container and away from direct sunlight. Make sure the container is also leak-proof, otherwise you can quickly have a big mess. Here is a brand that I highly recommend for this purpose. It even comes in rectangle shaped, for those “blocky” fruitcakes.

Additionally, ensure your cake is completely wrapped in your liquor of choice (use a cheesecloth as a covering). For an extra insurance policy, cover the liquor-wrapped fruitcake with aluminum foil and then store it in your container.

How Long Will Fruitcake Last in the Fridge?

If stored in the fridge, fruitcake can last up to 6 months, according to the USDA. If you are reaching the 6-month mark, give your cake a quick once over to ensure it is still edible—no sense in taking the risk of consuming expired cake.

Tip: Due to their dense composition, fruitcakes do not slice well. In the fridge, however, your cake will slice a bit better and stick together with less crumble. Although a personal preference, it will make your life easier when serving multiple guests.

How Long Does Fruitcake Last in the Freezer?

For storing more than 6 months, freezing your extra fruitcake is the preferred option. Keep in mind, however, that the cake must be aged for at least 4-weeks time. This only applies to alcohol-covered fruitcake as the alcohol does not freeze. This way, you will have almost a year’s worth of time to consume it.

Before consuming, ensure your fruitcake is thawed correctly.

Can Fruitcake Go Bad?

Even with your best efforts, eventually, your fruitcake will go bad. Like all dairy, when exposed to air, oxidation starts, and your cake begins to expire. This is why wrapping it with liquor-soaked cheesecloth is critical. Not to mention storing it in an airtight container to maintain optimal moisture.

How to Tell If Fruitcake Has Gone Bad

It is a shame that such a delicate dish faces an inevitable expiration date. Here a few ways to tell if it is time to get rid of the cake:

  1. Smell- Although simple, this is one of the critical ways of telling if your fruitcake has gone bad. It should be a pleasant smell, not a rotten one.
  2. Appearance- If you can see apparent abnormalities, discard. This is not worth consumption and risking you or your guests getting sick.
  3. Mold- A common culprit is mold. If you see some, throw it out. And, don’t even think about just cutting it off. This isn’t cheese.

How Do You Store Fruitcake?

The most common way of storing fruitcake is using a rum-soaked cheesecloth. It needs to be covered entirely in this cloth to be best preserved. With a few simple steps, you will not only retain precious moisture, but you will also significantly increase the length of consumption and overall taste:

For alcoholic fruitcake:

  • With your choice of booze (rum/brandy/red wine), cover your fruitcake with a soaked cheesecloth
  • Wrap with plastic and place into an airtight container
  • Remove any excess alcohol from the container and place the lid on tightly
  • Resoak your fruitcake at least once a month with fresh liquor

For non-alcoholic fruitcake:

  • Instead of liquor, you may use grape, apple, or orange juice
  • Cover with soaked cheesecloth with your choice of juices – keep in mind to match your juice to your fruit and nut mix contained within the cake
  • Wrap with aluminum foil and place into an airtight container
  • Remove excess liquid from the container and place the lid on tightly
  • Resoak your fruitcake at least once a month with fresh liquor

With this combination, you are looking at about a months’ worth of storage time without refrigeration. Although juice works as a preservative, it does not perform as well as liquor would.

Tip: Do not let your alcohol-infused fruitcake be exposed to the aluminum–this can create corrosion from the reaction of the liquor and disrupt the taste. Make sure your cake is completely covered in the protective cheesecloth with alcohol before introducing aluminum foil.

Additional Tip: Change the liquor once a month–replace the old cheesecloth and wrap with freshly soaked ones.

How Does Fruit Cake Last So Long?

With its unbelievable, almost ridiculous shelf-life, fruitcake is known for its ability to be consumed years after preparation. This is because of its alcohol-induced roots. Also, fruitcakes contain dried fruits and nuts. In other words, they are candied. Candied nuts and fruits can have a shelf-life of almost 2 years.

Some experts even cover their fruitcakes in a layer of powdered sugar if you seek the year plus expiration date. They really can last forever if appropriately stored. It’s just a matter of whether you actually want to eat something that tastes that bad once the ingredients start to turn rancid. For me, that’s a big no thanks.

Final Thoughts

Fruitcake can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. In today’s society, fruitcake is a staple of most holidays. In this article, we have (somewhat) debunked the myth of it lasting for perpetuity. Even so, when compared to any other type of cake, fruitcake lasts an insane amount of time. Now we know.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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