MINCEMEAT PIE AND FRUITCAKE, HOLIDAY DESSERTS YOU REALLY SHOULD TRY

Would you eat mincemeat pie or tartlets if you knew there was no meat, just flaky pastry filled with fruit and spices. How about fruitcake, the Christmas cake everyone jokes about? Some holiday desserts are misunderstood and should to be given another try…when properly made, they are delicious.

One of the best parts of the festive holiday season are the desserts we prepare and share with others; they have become an integral part of our celebrations. Many are part of time honored traditions that have followed families from one country to another and have been passed down from generation to generation. Italian Panettone, German Stollen, Jamaican Christmas Rum Cake, Polish Babka, Spanish Tortell de Reis, French Bûche de Noël, French-Canadian Tarte au Sucre and British Mincemeat Pies and Fruitcake are just a few of the traditional holiday desserts from around the world that are made each year and shared with family and friends.

Some desserts, however, seem to be misunderstood and aren’t as popular as they once were. Perhaps it is because of their name or because they are now mass produced and of dubious quality. Take fruitcake for example, it seems to be the most disliked cake in America and has become a joke during the holidays. Literally…Johnny Carson once joked that there was only one fruitcake in the world and that people just keep passing it around.

There are countless jokes about fruitcake yet it is a beloved part of British holidays and weddings. Both Princess Diana and Kate Middleton served fruitcakes at their weddings. There are dark fruitcakes often made with brown sugar or molasses, raisins, dates, and cherries as well as light ones with golden raisins, apricots and pineapple. My husband and I love fruitcake and I’ve made both versions, always using quality dried fruits that have been soaked in rum, along with lots of toasted pecans and wonderful spices.

Another essential part of the British festive season are mince pies but mincemeat isn’t very popular here anymore. I think it has to do with the name as meat isn’t something we would normally associate with a dessert. During the Middle Ages, mincemeat was originally made with meats such as goose, rabbit, pork or deer along with fruit and spices. However since the Victorian times, the English have also been using mincemeat without the meat. They make small little mouthfuls of crumbly pastry filled with mincemeat made with apples, candied citrus peel, nuts, raisins, and sultanas, often soaked in brandy, topped with a pastry star then baked and eaten during the twelve days of Christmas.

A Meat Free Sweet Version Of Mincemeat Pie I Believe You Will Love

Foods change and evolve, even the Christmas classics, and my mincemeat is a modern version made without any meat or suet whatsoever. Made into a full size pie, it is a delicious holiday treat that still has the flavors of Christmases past but doesn’t have any meat. It is basically an apple and raisin pie loaded with lots of flavor from citrus, spices, rum or brandy.

HOMEMADE MINCEMEAT PIE

Mincemeat

  • 1  large Golden Delicious apple (or similar sweet, flavorful apple)
  • 1  large Granny Smith apple (or similar tart, flavorful apple)
  • 1  cup golden raisins (sultanas)
  • 1/2 c. dark raisins
  • 2 Tbsp. dark rum for plumping (brandy may be substituted)
  • 1/2 c. diced candied orange peel (diced citron or dried fruit may be substituted)
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, depending on how sweet you like your desserts
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 or more Tbsp. dark rum (brandy may be substituted)

Peel and dice the apples (about the same size as the raisins) then add the lemon juice and toss. Plump the raisins with a tablespoon or two of rum. (I microwave the raisins and 2 Tbsp. of rum in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 10 seconds and let sit until cool and plumped). Combine the diced apples, plumped raisins and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Place in a sealed container and let sit at room temperature for at least 4 days or more, stirring the mixture each day. The longer your fruit mixture ages the better the taste will be.

To complete the pie:

My basic pie crust recipe is: : 14 Tbsp. butter, 2 1/4 c. flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 5 to 7 Tbsp. ice water and 1 Tbsp. vinegar.

Combine flour, salt, and butter in a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Add about half the ice water and the vinegar and pulse to combine, about 3 pulses. Add the remaining ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture just starts to come together. Form dough into two discs, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out two crusts. Place one crust in the bottom of a large deep dish pie plate, fill with mincemeat and top with the final crust. Crimp the edge and make slits to release steam. Bake until the crust is nicely browned and juices are bubbling, about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

***

Let the mincemeat mixture sit a few days before using as the flavors will mature. After the first day, if the fruit appears dry, add another tablespoon or two of rum so it is thoroughly moistened. It can be kept at room temperature if using within a week or two, if longer, I suggest keeping it refrigerated.

Calvados or other brandy of your choice can be substituted for the rum. Apple cider or juice may be substituted in place of the liquor but then you need to refrigerate the mincemeat and use it within a week.

You can also buy jarred mincemeat and add apples, raisins or nuts of your choosing. You can find another of my mincemeat (no meat) recipes here.

You can use your favorite refrigerated store bought pie crust but make sure it’s a deep dish size. If you use a regular pie plate, you may not need to use all of the mincemeat filling.

Any remaining mincemeat makes a great stuffing for baked apples or as a topping on ice cream.

MY COOKING NOTES

****

Fruitcake and mincemeat pie, two of my favorite holiday desserts, have gotten a bad rap over the years and should be given another try. You may have tried these desserts that are mass produced and sold online but they can be disappointing. However, the rich taste of a homemade version of either, made with lots of quality ingredients and seasonal spices, will make you a convert. Christmas isn’t Christmas in our house without a slice of one of them. Tell me, what holiday dessert do you make each and every year? Is there one that would you stand in a long line to buy from a famous pastry shop…I’d love to know?

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76 thoughts on “MINCEMEAT PIE AND FRUITCAKE, HOLIDAY DESSERTS YOU REALLY SHOULD TRY

    1. Hi Angie, Your version of fruit cake sounds good with the dried tropical fruit added to it. One thing my husband likes in fruitcake is the candied cherries, as long as they are included, he is happy. 😀 Thank you for your nice compliment about the mincemeat pie, we think it is a good one.

  1. I love little mincemeat tartlets. My friend from the UK would always make us some and they are divine. Still not big on fruitcake as don’t like the candied citrus but like it if it just has the cherries. Both of your desserts look amazing. Sending loads of warm holiday vibes your way.

    1. Hi Sylvia, When I first moved to Florida years ago, I had a English neighbor that made those little English mince pies. Her husband was from Italy and never cared for them but after letting her know how much I liked them, she made them each year for the two of us to enjoy with tea. I agree with you about people missing out if they don’t try these tradition holiday desserts.

  2. My mom and I always made a batch of mincemeat when we stripped the garden of its green tomatoes, an important ingredient in her recipe! Her original recipe called for suet, and many years ago she actually made it with venison. I still make it most years (no meat or suet), and while not everyone loves it, everyone loves the little mincemeat filled cookies that she also made! They are a must on our holiday dessert table.

    1. Hi Dorothy, When we lived in New Hampshire, our next door neighbors made large batches of mincemeat with deer meat. If she didn’t tell you, no one guessed that there was any meat in it. As far as I know, I’ve never had it made with green tomatoes. Mincemeat cookies sound good. 😊

  3. Fruitcake is actually pretty good stuff. If you get a good fruitcake, as you suggest. Not something I’ve ever made – or been tempted to — but we usually do buy one every year. Mincemeat isn’t as easy to buy, at least where I live. I do see it sometimes, but pretty rarely. So that I’d have to make. Your recipe looks pretty good — I should make it! 🙂 Thanks.

    1. Hi John, My husband thinks we should just buy a fruitcake but making one from scratch is a labor of love for me because I can make it just the way I like it…usually loaded with pecans. Store bought mincemeat is getting harder to find each year but the individual components are readily available so you might try making your own and Mrs. KR could then bake you a pie. 😊

    1. Hi Shy, Your fruitcake sounds extra special since you soak your fruit in dark rum for a month. I’m glad you like the mincemeat pie, I believe you would enjoy it…especially is you soak the fruit like you do for your fruitcake. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  4. You’ve done a fabulous job there Karen! Fruit cake is the traditional wedding cake in Britain, finished with white icing. At Christmas, heavy fruit cakes are made several months before December 25th and fed brandy, sherry and rum (not necessarily all in one cake) on a weekly basis to fortify them. Mince pies made with mutton have had a small comeback in recent years, but the fruit (and occasionally a few nuts) kind is ubiquitous during December. The mincemeat can be made 6 months in advance and left to mature. IMHO it should contain suet, but most commercial mincemeats use a vegetarian alternative.

    1. Hi Mad Dog, I really appreciate your kind words, thank you. A continuous dousing of brandy, sherry, rum or bourbon always makes for a great fruitcake. I’ve never had the traditional English wedding cake but I know I would love it. Years back I had one served with hard sauce that was delicious as well. I don’t really know if I’ve ever had mincemeat made with suet but I’ve had it made with deer meat when we lived in New Hampshire.

      1. Deer meat – wow that’s a real medieval mince pie! Suet is just fat – I think the fake suet they put into jars of bought mincemeat, to make it suitable for vegetarians, is made with palm oil – so not environmentally friendly.
        I don’t remember ever having wedding cake laced with alcohol (there may be some brandy in the mixture, but it’s not fed alcohol over a period of months ilike Christmas cake), but nevertheless, it lasts for years. They say that the Queen’s wedding cake, containing rum, was sent out to people all over the globe and is still edible!

  5. For a long time, I wasn’t a fan of fruitcake, however, now that I live alone, a store-bought fruitcake, some ice cream, and custard makes for fantastic Christmas season dessert 😊🤤

  6. Ooh, Karen you have got me dreaming of mince pies now! I always hesitate at making mincemeat as my partner doesn’t like it and there is too much for one person. But perhaps I will this year after all. I won’t be in the UK and I adore mince pies. (The small ones made in patty/muffin tins). You know the tradition in the UK is to eat one in a different house every day of the twelve days of Christmas to bring you luck. Sadly nobody will be able to do that this year. Your recipe is very tempting. I can almost smell that mincemeat. Yum!

    1. Hi Cathy, I think you should definitely make some mincemeat…you could freeze what you don’t use in little packages. I makes a delicious stuffing for baked apples. I knew about eating the little mince pies during the 12 days of Christmas but didn’t know about eating them at different homes, that sounds like it would be fun. 😊 Yes, this year will be different for all of us. I heard that the wonderful Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt as well as most all Christmas celebrations have been cancelled.

      1. Yes, all Christmas markets have been cancelled… all small towns have one so it feels really strange not having them this year and I have been craving the food I usually buy there… caramelized roasted almonds, potato noodles with sauerkraut, roasted chestnuts and mulled wine. 🤪

  7. Home made is always better than mass produced, Karen. Yours sounds yummy. I do however remember a family cake shop a month before Christmas. There used to be a family owned cake shop that it was dangerous to pass a month before Christmas. They made their own puddings and very alcoholic fruit cakes. You had to put in your order well in advance. Those were the days, says she, revealing herself to be an old fart. 🤭

  8. Fruit cake is very popular here in Ireland, too! I’ve made it a few times, and my family does enjoy it (but would prefer our Christmas cookies). It’s no small feat to make either, as it takes hours to bake at a low heat. Lovely to read about traditions other than our own!

    1. Hi Dana, It would be hard for me to choose between fruitcake and Christmas cookies…maybe a little plate with both. I agree about the low heat but that ensures a fruitcake that won’t be dry. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thank you.

  9. Karen, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and sweet mince pies are an integral part of our Christmas Day celebrations. I have baked my cake and each Monday since baking I will continue to feed the cake with one tablespoon of brandy. In a couple of weeks I will marzipan my cake and a week later it will be iced. I love our traditional Christmas fare👏🏻👏🏻🌸

    1. Hi, Is this my blogging friend Daphne, who I haven’t heard from in years? 😘 Your traditional fruitcake has to be outstanding…wish I could share a slice with you.

  10. Karen – commenting from Australia may I be somewhat irreverent ! Personally I may hate mince pies and fruit cakes but they are part of our backbone and I fully and smilingly accept that ! Being a Northern European ‘incomer’ I fully accept my ‘shortcomings’ and bow in apology !!! But, reading the comments so far I warmly smile at the plethora of them standing ever so courteously up to the way it was, is and probably, to a large degree, always will be . . . it may be over 40 C here at the moment but people are exchanging fave Christmas cake recipes and making mountains of mince pies with n’er a thought of meat !! Yoicks ! . . . I just love Mad Dog’s comment . . . . .and your recipe sounds lovely . . . .

    1. Hi Eha, thank you for your honest comment, I’m sure you know you are not the only one who doesn’t care for fruitcake or mince pies. Is there a Christmas tradition that you do love and try to never skip? It is my favorite time of the year especially when it can normally be shared with family and friends…hopefully next year will be different.

  11. Karen, I have never tried mincemeat pie, but I absolutely love fruit cake. I make it every year for my sweet Daddy and myself, no one else in the family will eat it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Pam, I know how much you love making special things for your Daddy…I’m sure he loves your fruitcake. I have a feeling that you would enjoy a mincemeat pie made with apples and raisins. 😊

  12. we eat mince pies and fruit cakes whether we like them or not!:-) tee hee. as long as they are made with good quality fruit and spices and lots of alcohol, you can’t go wrong…

  13. This post made me smile as soon as I read the title. The desserts look delicious, but I’ve mostly enjoyed memories of Mom’s love of mincemeat pie. Thank you. I can’t say I make either of these because there’s no one in my family that would eat them except me, but if someone had them, I’d sure enjoy a slice.

  14. A great post. I’ve never had mincemeat pie, but two years ago I made mincemeat, folded into vanilla ice cream, and served it with pumpkin. It was wonderful.

    1. Hi Mimi, mincemeat folded into ice cream is a real treat and your dessert would have made me smile if I had been at your table. Thank you so much for your lovely compliment.

  15. Karen, I’ve always loved both. My great grandmother (she was English) made her fruit cakes months before Christmas and each week she’d pour a bit more whiskey over them. After she was gone, I could never find a proper fruit cake until we visited the monks at the Abby of Gethsemani (Kentucky). Their bourbon-soaked fruitcakes are just like hers. We still order them and have them shipped over here.
    Mincemeat pie, it’s not Christmas without mincemeat. But, I’ve never made one from scratch, but instead always used the jarred filling. I’m going to see if I can source the ingredients as I’d love to try your pie.

    1. Hi Ron, Someone that likes both, that is terrific. I do hope you can find the ingredients for the mincemeat…the apples and raisins shouldn’t be a problem and hopefully you can find candied orange peel. Actually knowing you, it wouldn’t surprise me if you made your own candied fruit. 😊 I hope you will enjoy the mincemeat if you do give it a try.

  16. I’m not a heavily fruited fruit cake lover but my dear Mom used to bake a light version with coconut that was incredibly delicious when toasted. My MIL loved minced meat pie, I would have loved to make this for her. Hope you are well, we’re in a second lockdown and although we have updated our outdoor space to a warm and cozy space, it’s sitting under 6 inches of snow. I bet you’re glad you moved to Florida!

    1. Hi Eva, I am happy living in Florida, especially in the winter but I do miss New England especially at Christmas time. Palm trees aren’t quite the same as being able to walk around your own property and cut fresh greenery to decorate your home. I understand where you are coming from with fruitcake, there is a big difference between the light ones and dark ones when it comes to the fruit used…I happen to like both.

  17. Thrilled to see your post this morning. Christmas at our house would not be the same without my mom’s light fruitcake, my grandma’s dark fruitcake, my medium dark fruitcake laced with much brandy, my nana’s Christmas pudding (steamed in my great-great – grandmother’s steamer, and of course – our mincemeat tarts!. Growing up on the Canadian prairies, the joys of this time of year included coming in from an afternoon’s sledding to open the door to those heady aromas of Christmas baking. Wedding cakes in our day were always fruitcake – each person receiving a slice lovingly wrapped and tied with a bow. It would be eaten the next day, after the recipient slept with it under their pillow – for good luck! Another tradition was to visit as many homes as you could during Christmas week, collecting a piece of fruitcake at each home. Each piece of cake eaten, meant a month of good luck during the coming year. No jokes in our house – only delicious memories and the continuing of a hundred or more years of lovely traditions!

    1. Hi Ruth, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and leaving your lovely comment. I’m glad this post brought back memories of your Christmas traditions over the years. Thank you for sharing how fruitcake has been part of your family’s holiday celebrations.

  18. I had mincemeat pie only once. It wasn’t good. But my sister made it, and she’s not much of a cook. 🙂 Fruitcake, on the other hand, I do like. It just seems to have fallen so far out of favor. Time for a ressurection!

    1. I agree with you Jeff about fruitcake, there needs to be more of us sharing the love about it. Knowing the desserts and meals you have made, I believe that you would probably like mincemeat if you tried it again.

  19. I may have to make mincemeat this year. The other night on an old Great Brit. Baking Show, they did mincemeat tarts for the technical. The recipe: Make mincemeat. Glad those bakers knew how. I wouldn’t. Maybe if I try yours, I will know!

  20. I’ve never eaten nor made a mincemeat pie. He will eat a light fruitcake assuming there are no raisins to be found 🙂 My mother never made fruitcake until later in life and it was very light with fresh cranberries and frozen raspberries from her garden. It was heavenly! This time of year brings back memories of all those wonderful traditions!

    1. Hi Susan, Your picky eater certainly wouldn’t like mincemeat if he won’t eat raisins. 😊 Your mother’s light fruitcake sounds like it was delicious with fresh cranberries and raspberries. You are right, this time of the year is filled with memories of all our wonderful family holiday traditions.

  21. I agree once minced fruit pies or fruit cakes are done right then they would taste awesome, I do have my fair share of not so good fruitcakes hence I dont buy them, just make it at home using trusted recipes

  22. My husband JUST asked me if I had a recipe for mincemeat pie! Yesterday! Apparently the pie comes up in a chapter in the novel he’s reading, so he got curious. This is so timely. 🙂 I’ve never made one, but now I will. 🙂 ~Valentina

  23. I would like to try your version of the mincemeat pie. I have never been a fan of it but I think I would like your version.

    1. Hi Gerlinde, I know you enjoy your apple strudel cake filled with apples and raisins so I believe you would enjoy this pie with raisins, apples and candied orange peel. Thank you for your compliment.

  24. My Mom made Mincemeat Pie quite often around the Holidays… you just brought back so many wonderful memories!
    And fruitcake does get a bad rap. My Mom always got a fruitcake from Texas and it was delicious!
    Thanks for the memories… and I may try making a mincemeat pie this Christmas!
    Happy Holidays!

    1. Thank you for your kind words about my post on mincemeat pie and fruitcake Nancy. I’m happy that it brought back memories of your mother’s holiday tradition. Corsicana, Texas was known for good fruitcake when I grew up in Texas. I hope you will enjoy the mincemeat pie if you get a chance to make it. 😊

    1. Thank you for your compliment Amalia. It seems as though we associate some foods with holidays and mincemeat pie is a seasonal one I enjoy this time of the year.

  25. I love both kinds of fruitcake (as well as Christmas pudding), and mincemeat. I loved my Nana’s mincemeat (it has stew beef and suet – she was from Québec) – and just recently found the recipe. While I loved hers, I am much more inclined to make yours! And without anyone to share with this year, I am trying NOT to make too many desserts (if you know what I mean!).

  26. Hi David, I do know what you mean, I think we are all going to be cutting back on holiday treats. Whether you end up making your Nana’s recipe or mine, I hope you enjoy whatever delicious holiday treats you do make.

  27. We just watched them make fruitcakes on the great british baking show–and remarked how different their reputation was there. Of course those looked better than many I see here! May have to rethink these!

    1. Hi Inger, Poor fruitcake…it needs a PR rep in our country. While I know there are some poorly made commercial ones, a homemade fruitcake is delicious.

  28. I remember watching the episode when Johnny made that joke 🙂 We used to have minced meat pies and fruit cakes at Christmastime when I was a kid. I haven’t had them in ages. Yours look delicious, Karen. They pie crust looks so flaky too!!

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