Japanese Fruitcake

10 slices
50 min
This vintage Japanese Fruitcake recipe is adapted from a 1950’s newspaper clipping from my grandmother Brooks’ recipe book (recipe author: Miss Rosa.) It was a request from my dad on his birthday this year. He said grandma’s sister, my great aunt Nannie, used to make it. I was a little scared to try, not sure if it was the same recipe Nannie used, because my grandma put a couple of big X’s beside the recipe (which usually meant she did not like it.) I was very intrigued because I’ve never even heard of this cake and definitely didn’t know what it tastes like, so I began my quest of curiosity and made my first Japanese Fruitcake. After the first attempt, I can see why she put X’s by it, it was pretty dry and not an A+ cake, but a very different and unique taste. After looking through more books to find another one that Nannie possibly used, I did not have any luck. Wanting desperately to try again, I changed a few measurements and had more success, so if you are looking for a little taste of vintage cake this holiday season, try my version of Japanese Fruitcake.

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What is a Japanese Fruitcake? I’m not even sure why it’s called Japanese Fruitcake, because from researching the origin of this vintage cake, it’s mainly popular in the southeastern area of the United States. Basically, it’s a four-layer cake composed of two different flavors: yellow cake and spice cake, with a lemon and raisin filling that is made on the stovetop. Traditionally served around Christmas, this four-layer cake is typically garnished with fresh coconut and maraschino cherries.

I sometimes like to imagine what it was like to live in the 40’s and 50’s using limited resources to create desserts like the true pioneer women of yesteryear, and this cake brings that experience to my kitchen for a delicious slice of history. Transport yourself back in time and try it!

Recipe details
  • 10  slices
  • Prep time: 10 Minutes Cook time: 40 Minutes Total time: 50 min
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For cake
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
For dark layers
  • 1/2 cup dark raisins (chopped and floured)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp cocoa, dissolved in 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
For filling
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups shredded coconut, unsweetened
  • 3 lemons or citrons, juice and zest
  • 3/4 cup dark raisins
  • Optional garnish: extra shredded coconut and maraschino cherries (about 6-8)
Instructions for cake layers
Preheat oven to 350℉ / 176℃.
Grease two 9-inch pans and place parchment paper in bottom of pans and grease paper also.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Starting with flour, add alternately with milk mixture, beating after each addition until smooth.
Divide cake batter in half and evenly add to the two prepared pans and spread to edges. (I found that a heaping 1 cup scoop added to each pan was the correct amount.
Bake for 20-23 minutes or until when checked with a wooden toothpick, comes out with little or no crumbs.
While first layers are baking, add spice layer ingredients to remaining batter (raisins, dissolved cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg.) and mix in evenly.
After first cake layers are finished baking, remove from oven and let cool for about 5-8 minutes and then invert on cooling rack to cool completely
Clean both pans, then grease and line bottoms with parchment paper and add remaining spice batter and bake for 20-23 minutes, then cool as previous layers.
Instructions for filling
Add eggs to a medium sauce pot and beat for about 30 seconds, then add all other filling ingredients and stir.
Cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick.
Let filling mixture cool about 5 minutes, then start with spreading onto a yellow layer.
Next, add a dark spice layer and spread on filling, then repeat, ending with dark layer.
Spread filling on top and add fresh coconut and maraschino cherries for the garnish.
  • Credit: This recipe is adapted from a 1950's Alamance News newspaper clipping recipe titled: "Miss Rosa's Japanese Fruit Cake" that came from my grandmother's recipe book.
Julie | Inspiration Apron
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