Japanese Fruit Cake

No one knows exactly when the Japanese Fruit Cake came into the Southern tradition for the holidays. Sometime in the early 40’s it began to appear at various functions as the Oriental cake, because of it’s spices (none Japanese), an Admiral’s wife returned from Japan and served it at a function the legend goes. Southern Living printed the recipe in 1990 and it was dubbed Japanese Fruit Cake. Nothing about the cake is Japanese. Like the mysterious German Chocolate Cake that has nothing about it German (according to my German son in law) it became popular and no one is changing the names. Evidently, a German baker in America made a chocolate cake with ingredients available and sold it in his bakery. So it was dubbed German Chocolate Cake. Regardless of where the Japanese cake originated, it has been served at Christmastime in the South for over 60 years. There are so many variations, most likely due to ingredients on hand or as I have done, various decorating preferences. I believe with the White Mountain Icing and some added crystallized pineapple pieces on top, swapping out either the red or the green candied cherries, you could easily make it for any time of year. Mine recipe is four layered, as was my mom’s. I hope you enjoy it as much as my mom’s guest did and mine seem to now.

Festive Decorated Japanese Fruit Cake

My version is four layers, not three. There will be Two vanilla layers and two spiced layers.

Batter Ingredients

  • 1 cup of butter (a – see #4 in instructions)
  • 2 cups of sugar (a)
  • 4 eggs (a)
  • 3 cups of self rising flour -White Lily Brand if you can find (b – see #4 in instructions)
  • 1 cup milk (I use coconut milk, but you can use almond, whole, 2% or 1%) (c – see #4 in instructions))


  1. Cream the butter and sugar together with your mixer. (a)
  2. Add eggs one at a time and mix well
  3. Add vanilla 
  4. Alternate adding (b) flour and (c) milk to (a) butter, sugar and eggs mixture.
  5. Divide the batter in half, and pour first half into 2 – 10″ greased and floured round cake pans.

Additions for Remaining Batter Ingredients For the Two Spiced Layers

  • 1 cup white raisins
  • 1/2 cup red candied cherries 
  • 1/2 cup green candies cherries 
  • 1 cup crystallized or dried pineapple (chopped)
  • 1 cup pecan pieces 
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 tsp ground cloves

1. Divide the spiced batter into 2 layer cake pans.

2. Bake all four layers for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Set aside to cool and make filling or icing.

Option #1: Filling Ingredients For Clear glazed icing

  • Grated peel of 1 lemon
  • 1 large package frozen coconut, fine flake: or fresh grated or Bakers sugar coconut 
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 ½ Tbsp of flour

INSTRUCTIONS: In a medium pot or double boiler on top of stove

  • Mix flour and sugar, add remaining ingredients. Raise heat to bring to a slow boil
  • Boil briefly on low heat.
  • Place spiced layer on a plate.
  • Apply filling to top.
  • Add vanilla layer,
  • Apply op with filling
  • Repeat with spiced then vanilla layer
  • Decorate top with pecan halves and red/Green pecan halves

For the event I was making this Japanese Fruit Cake for, I used White Mountain Icing for a more festive decorated cake.


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsps. water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teas. vanilla


  • Mix sugar, corn syrup, in a sauce pan
  • Add water and stir well
  • Raise heat and bring to a high boil
  • Using a candy thermometer continue to boil until you reach 242 degrees (this is hard boil – it will spin a thread when raising spoon)
  • Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form
  • Slowly add the hot mixture into the egg whites
  • Continue beating on high speed until icing is very stiff
  • Add vanilla and beat until mixed
  • Ice sides of cake and then top. Sprinkle on coconut and decorate with pecans, candied green and red cherries for Christmas. For Valentines you can use just red cherries and shape into hearts. Or, for St. Patricks’ Day use Green Cherries shaped into four leaf clover. For Easter use the crystalized pineapple shaped into a Cross. I believe this cake can be enjoyed year round.

copyright RBGreenDesigns.com 2021