How to Make Fruit Fillings and Preserves for Cakes


fruit fillings in cakes

Hey there baking friends! Are you looking to add some fruity flavor to your cakes? Using fruit fillings and preserves is a delicious way to make your cakes extra moist and tasty. From bright lemon curd to sweet strawberry jam, the possibilities are endless!

In this post, I'll walk you through everything you need to know to make your own homemade fruit fillings and preserves for cakes. We'll go over the ingredients and equipment you need, step-by-step instructions for making fillings and preserves, and tips for storing and using them. Trust me, after trying these, you'll never want to use store-bought again!

What Are Fruit Fillings and Preserves?

Let's start with the basics - fruit fillings and preserves are sweet fruit mixtures that are thickened to a spreadable consistency.

Fruit fillings are soft, spoonable mixtures made by cooking fruit with sugar and often spices, lemon juice or vinegar until thick. They have a softer set than preserves.

Fruit preserves are jellied fruit products made by cooking fruit with sugar and acid like lemon juice or pectin. They are thicker and hold their shape when spread on cakes. Jam, jelly, and marmalade are all types of fruit preserves.

Both fillings and preserves can be used between cake layers, swirled into frosting, or dolloped on top of cupcakes. So let's get started making some!

Ingredients You'll Need

The main ingredients for fruit fillings and preserves are:

Fruit - This is obviously key! You can use all kinds of fruits or berries - strawberries, raspberries, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, etc. The possibilities are endless. Make sure fruits are ripe and flavorful.

Sugar - Granulated white sugar is most commonly used. You can also use brown sugar, powdered sugar or raw sugar. Sugar helps thicken the mixtures as they cook.

Acid - Lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar help preserves retain their color, flavor and texture. Acid also aids the thickening process.

Pectin or cornstarch - These help thicken fruit fillings and make preserves gel. Adding pectin ensures your jam will set up properly.

Spices (optional) - Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, etc can add extra flavor! Get creative with spice combos.

Now let's talk about the kitchen gear you'll need…

Equipment and Tools

You don't need any fancy equipment to make great fruit fillings or preserves! Here's what you'll need:

  • Pot for cooking - A heavy stainless steel pot works best. Avoid aluminum or cast iron.
  • Wooden spoon - For stirring the mixture as it cooks.
  • Mesh strainer or food mill - To strain out seeds, peels, etc for a smoother texture.
  • Jars - Sterilized canning jars to store your fillings or preserves.
  • Canning tools - Like a water bath canner, jar lifter, and bubble popper if you want to can the preserves for shelf-stable storage.

Okay, now that we've got our ingredients and tools, let's go step-by-step through making fruit fillings and preserves!

How to Make Fruit Fillings

Fruit fillings are simple to make at home. Here are the basic steps:

1. Prep the fruit

Rinse, peel, core and chop the fruit into small 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces. This gives more surface area for cooking down.

Pro tips: To keep light colored fruits from browning, toss them in lemon juice. Use softer, riper fruits as they cook down faster.

2. Combine fruit and sugar

Add the chopped fruit and sugar to a heavy pot. Start with a 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar. Stir to combine.

Let the sugar and fruit macerate for 30 minutes to an hour - this draws out the fruit juices and begins the thickening process.

3. Cook the mixture

Cook the fruit over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened and reduced to a jam-like consistency. This can take 30-60 minutes.

4. Add lemon juice or vinegar

Stir in a tablespoon or two of lemon juice or vinegar at the end. This helps the filling retain its bright color and balances the sweetness.

5. Thicken if needed

For a thicker filling, you can add a teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in water or a few tablespoons of pectin at the end of cooking.

6. Cool and store

Allow filling to fully cool before using or storing. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

And that's it - you've got homemade fruit filling ready for cakes! The possibilities are endless. Let's try preserves next…

How to Make Fruit Preserves

Making fruit preserves like jams, jellies and marmalades takes a bit more care but it's very rewarding! Here are the steps:

1. Prep the fruit

Wash, peel, core and chop the fruit into 1/4 inch pieces. To help the preserves thicken, you can crush or mash some of the fruit.

2. Combine fruit and sugar

Add the chopped fruit and an equal amount of sugar to a pot. For example, 2 cups of crushed strawberries to 2 cups sugar.

3. Cook the mixture

Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low. Cook at a gentle boil, stirring frequently, until thickened and reduced, about 30-45 minutes.

4. Add pectin or lemon juice

Once the jam looks thickened, stir in pectin to gel or lemon juice to help it set up. Let boil 1 minute more.

5. Remove from heat

Take pot off the heat. Allow bubbles to subside - skim off any foam if needed.

6. Can or store

Ladle hot preserves into sterile jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims, put on lids and rings. Process in a water bath canner or store in fridge.

Be sure to use proper canning methods if you want to make shelf-stable preserves. But you can store in the refrigerator for a few weeks too.

Handy Tips for Success

Here are some top tips to help you get picture-perfect fruit fillings and preserves:

  • Use ripe, in-season fruit at the peak of flavor. Underripe fruit won't taste as good.
  • The thickness of the finished product depends on how much water is in the fruit. Berries have less water, while stone fruits have more.
  • Adding pectin helps jams and preserves gel properly. Follow the instructions on the package.
  • Acid like lemon juice helps preserves retain their color and flavor. Add it at the end of cooking.
  • Don't double recipes or use larger pots - preserves need to reach the gelling point quickly.
  • Cook over medium-low heat. Fruit scorches easily if the heat is too high!
  • Use the freezer test to check the gelling point: Put a spoonful on a chilled plate. If it gels, it's ready!
  • Be very careful when canning preserves! Use sterile equipment and follow safe canning practices.
  • Store in the refrigerator if you're not canning them. Filling and preserves will last 2-4 weeks.

Using Fruit Fillings and Preserves in Cakes

Now comes the best part - using your homemade fruit fillings and preserves in cakes!

Here are some of my favorite ways to use them:

  • Fill or frost a layer cake with fruit filling or preserves
  • Add dollops of filling between cake layers before frosting
  • Swirl preserves into cream cheese or buttercream frosting
  • Spoon fruit curd or jam into the center of cupcakes
  • Spread preserves on sponge cake and roll up into a beautiful roulade
  • Use thick marmalade between cinnamon rolls before baking
  • Add a shiny glaze with warmed jam or jelly on top of cakes
  • Stir jam into pancake or cake batter before baking for fruity flavor
  • Fill donuts or thumbprint cookies with preserves

The possibilities are endless once you have a stash of homemade fillings and preserves ready to go. Get creative with flavor combinations - raspberry lemon, peach vanilla, strawberry balsamic - the options are countless!


I hope this post has inspired you to start making your own fruit fillings and preserves at home. Not only do they taste amazing, but you can control the ingredients. Plus, imagine the bragging rights you'll have when people ask "Did you make these yourself?!"

With a little practice, you'll be amazed at how easy it is whip up fast fruit fillings or batch up preserves for