Moroccan-Style Fruitcake with Apricots, Dates and Figs

Not your typical holiday fruitcake, this one your family will actually love. The Moroccan influences in the recipe make it so delicious with an exotic flavor. I use cardamom, cinnamon, honey, pistachios, apricots, and saffron. Make this for your family and friends--they will be blown away by the phyllo crust.
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr
  • Prep: 35 min
  • Inactive: 1 hr
  • Cook: 25 min
  • Yield: One 8- to 9-inch round cake; 10 - 12 servings
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For the infused butter:

5 ounces unsalted butter, melted

10 to 12 strands of saffron

1 cinnamon stick

Zest of 1 orange, peeled in 1 inch strips

For the fruitcake:

8 ounces pitted Medjool dates (about 16)

4 ounces dried figs, hard stems removed

4 ounces dried apricots

4 ounces shelled, unsalted pistachios

1/4 cup apricot or fig jam

3 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

1 pound box frozen phyllo dough (14 inches by 18 inches), thawed

1/3 cup granulated sugar

For the syrup:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup honey

6 to 8 whole green cardamom pods, cracked

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


  1. Make the infused butter: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter completely. Add the saffron, cinnamon stick, and orange zest. Heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and zest. Set the infused butter aside and keep warm. 
  2. Prepare the fruitcake: Have ready a well-buttered 8- or 9-inch springform pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the dried fruits in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5 to 6 times, then add the pistachios, jam, honey, salt, spices, and zests. Pulse several times to mix everything together, but be careful not to overchop or you'll lose the beautiful green pistachio pieces. Put the saucepan of infused butter back over low heat to warm it. On a clean work surface, unroll the phyllo. Remove 10 sheets and wrap the remaining sheets for later use. Place a damp dishtowel over the 10 sheets of phyllo to keep them from drying out. Measure the length of the dough. Trim the ends to give you 15 inches. (Each brand yields a different size dough.) I like working on a large sheet of kitchen parchment; it makes cleanup a breeze. Working with one sheet at a time, use a pastry brush to spread some of the butter over the entire surface of the sheet. Sprinkle some of the sugar over the dough. Lay the next sheet on top on an angle. (Consider the first sheet is at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock. The second sheet will be at 10 o'clock and 4 o'clock, the third at 11 o'clock and 5 o'clock, and so on.) Butter and sugar each sheet.
  3. Once finished, carefully lift the phyllo layers off the work surface (like a pie dough) and fit the phyllo into the prepared pan, taking care not to rip the dough. There will be excess dough beyond the rim of the pan that will be folded over the fruitcake. Fill the lined pan with the fruitcake mixture, making sure that it's firmly packed down, especially at the edges of the pan. Level off the top, fold the excess dough over the filling toward the center, leaving the center exposed. Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet (this will catch any excess butter). Brush the entire top of the fruitcake with more of the melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan, reduce the heat to 350 degrees F, and continue baking for 10 to 12 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven, place the springform pan on a wire rack, and let cool for at least 20 minutes.
  4. Prepare the syrup: While the fruitcake is baking, make the syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, sugar, honey, and bruised cardamom pods. Set over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and let steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Pour the syrup into a small pitcher to serve with the fruitcake.
  5. To serve: Carefully unmold the fruitcake from the pan. Once cool enough to handle, transfer it to a serving platter. Dust with confectioners' sugar and slice with a sharp, serrated bread knife. Drizzle the syrup over each slice. I love to serve this exotic fruitcake with a large pot of mint tea, fantasizing that I am in Marrakesh, sharing dessert with the locals. This dessert is great with a tangy ice cream, such as creme fraiche or buttermilk sherbet. Carefully wrap any leftovers, store at room temperature, and eat within 2 to 3 days. Fi sahitak! (Cheers in Moroccan.)

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