Every year I make several fruitcakes, a couple for us and extras to be given as gifts for friends and family. If you like fruitcake, or even if you don't, give Free Range Fruitcake-Alton Brown a try. It really is delicious. It is nothing like the cardboard version with candied fruit in the Christmas tins.
People are either fruitcake lovers or fruitcake haters. I am a fruitcake lover, especially this fruitcake. Over the years, I have made, tweaked, and served Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake every Christmas.
Whenever I try to convert a fruitcake hater to a fruitcake lover, this fruitcake usually works! The most pleasant surprise for most people is the absence of the green, yellow and red chunks of candied fruit and citrus peel. In this recipe, they are replaced by dried fruits and fresh citrus peels. The cake itself is not as dense and dry as the traditional fruitcake in the tin. Unfiltered apple juice and minimal mixing make this fruitcake lighter and very moist. The spice level is perfect.
Make this fruitcake, slice it and put it on the dessert table next to the pies at Christmas. Don't call it a fruitcake or put a little folded card next to it that reads FRUITCAKE. People will eat it, love it, and before they go home, you can break the news to them. Next year they will request it!
Ready for the oven!
- Last year I made Alton's recipe exactly as written. I normally use a micro planer to zest the lemons and oranges, but last year I followed Alton's directions to cut the zest off the orange and lemon. I chopped the peels into smaller pieces but they were still a bit assertive. In the week and a half that the fruitcakes rested, the strong citrus taste did mellow out a bit. I will cut back a bit on the citrus peel this year.
- I love pecans, but walnuts would work too. Toasting the pecans brings out all the nutty flavor. Don't skip this step.
- Dried fruits are the star of this show. In the past I have substituted dried peaches for the dried apricots. Blueberries in a fruitcake seemed weird to me the first time I made this fruitcake, but it works! They can sometimes be hard to find, so you can replace the ½ cup of blueberries with what you have. Use your favorite dried fruits in the amounts called for, just mix and match.
- The gold rum in the cake is wonderful, but you could use another amber liquor of your choice. I do like spritzing and basting the with brandy as the recipe is written.
Allow at least a couple of weeks for the cakes to rest and soak up the brandy before they are eaten. It will be hard to wait, but you'll be glad you did. However, if you are late getting your fruitcake made, serve it anyway. It will still be better than any other fruitcake you have eaten.
Fruitcakes for everyone!
Use mini cake pans instead of the loaf pan. You can buy cute mini loaf pans at Christmas and give the pan and fruitcake as a gift. One year I bought tiny misting bottles online and filled them with brandy to give with the fruitcakes. Wrapping is fun with supplies from the craft store. Use three mini pans instead of one loaf pan and make sure to adjust the baking time down accordingly.
Fresh from the oven!
If you really want to impress, add a little box of Aunt Teen's Christmas Fudge in the bag with the fruitcake.
Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake
- Big heavy bottomed (non-reactive) pot
- Loaf pan or mini loaf pans
- Heavy duty wooden spoon
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup currants
- ½ cup sun dried cranberries
- ½ cup sun dried blueberries
- ½ cup sun dried cherries
- ½ cup dried apricots chopped
- Zest of one lemon chopped coarsely
- Zest of one orange chopped coarsely
- ¼ cup candied ginger chopped
- 1 cup gold rum
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 ounces unsalted butter 5 ounces =1 ¼ sticks
- 1 cup unfiltered apple juice
- 4 whole cloves ground
- 6 allspice berries ground
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- ¼ to ½ cup toasted pecans broken
- Brandy for basting and/or spritzing
- Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and macerate overnight, or microwave for 5 minutes to re-hydrate fruit.
- Place fruit and liquid left over after macerating in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing cake.)
- Heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture. Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then fold in nuts. Spoon into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.
- Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet. Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.
- When cake is completely cooled, seal in a tight sealing, food safe container. Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and if dry, spritz with brandy. The cake's flavor will enhance considerably over the next two weeks.
Approximate nutrition information is provided as a convenience and courtesy only. You are encouraged to do your own calculations if precise data is required.
We take every effort to ensure that the estimated meal cost per serving is accurate. We use a meal cost analysis application that estimates the cost of a recipe based on groceries purchased at a Walmart store in my geographical area, northern California.
Oh my! my mouth is watering seeing this wonderful fruitcake. I love the texture, color, and flavors. I cannot wait to make this beauty dear Mary. Thanks so much for sharing!
I normally don’t like fruit cakes but my
MIL made this one and I think I can be converted. Tasty.
It turned out just like yours. I am so happy and I hope everyone loves it. Thanks for all the tips.
This is what Christmas is all about! I love Alton Brown and this recipe looks easy to make! Can't wait to make this for my family this holiday!
This is exactly how I make my fruitcakes which I love! I know this as a boiled fruit cake ... always moist and delicious! What I have never used is dried cranberries, blueberries or cherries. This is a great idea and I can't wait to try your version this Christmas!
I've no heard of it as a boiled fruit cake but it makes sense. It took me a few times to get used to the blueberries. They seemed out of place but I love them now!
this recipe made me change me mind about fruitcakes - this one is delicious!!
This fruit cake turned out perfectly! Love the addition of dried fruit! Simply divine!
This looks delicious! Love the combination of spices and variety of fruit in it. I did not fancy making the usual four-hour-bake fruit cake this year, so I will definitely be trying this one.
Amy Liu Dong says
It looks delicious and looks so easy to make. I am going to prepare this for the kids. Yum!
A fruitcake worthy of gifting!
Helen at the lazy gastronome says
I’m ready for the holidays. And this is a fruitcake I’d share!
I am one of those rare people that loves fruit cake. Even the kind that comes in the tin that no one will even open. I think it's the no holds barred sugar content that makes me so happy. For years, we got the kind in a can from an aunt and then it stopped. REcently, my sister has made one that kind of sounds like this recipe and it's one of my favorite things about christmas! I think she soaks her fruit in some kind of liquor or maybe she uses a lot of liquor in the cake. It's pretty good!!
I love fruitcakes this time of year...it brings back so many memories. Your cake looks so moist and delicious. Alton Brown is one of my favorites. I think both pictures came out lovely...I love how all the colors 'pop' in the first picture...I didn't mistake it for meatloaf!
Have a blessed Christmas and happy New Year. Blessings, Catherine
It's a fantastic looking cake
Would be perfect for our coming holiday next month
Thanks for sharing the recipe 🙂
Thanks Joy! I was happy with the first photo too until Michael said, "I posted your meatloaf photo on Facebook!" Men. Oh well.
Coffee in a Christmas mug sounds good right now but the donkeys are braying to be fed first. It's always something around here.
Happy holidays and thanks for visiting!
Joy @ Yesterfood says
Mary, I am so glad you shared Alton Brown's Fruitcake- I don't know why, but I wouldn't have checked with him for a fruitcake recipe. And you have made it and tested it out!! I love that it's a more "natural" cake (hence, the "free range part", I suppose!) without the odd little bits that are usually in fruitcakes. 😀 I adore citrus, so I'm glad there's a lot in there.
You mentioned your photography (Michael thought it was meatloaf, lol!)...I actually love both photos! The bokeh effect in the first one is beautiful, and I do love the red ornaments in the second photo (which also has a lovely background!).
As I'm writing this, I am also really enjoying the snowflake effects on your blog....while I'm having my coffee in a Christmas mug. Thank you for a beautiful start to my day! ♥
Merry, merry Christmas to you and yours, Mary!
It could be this recipe. The dried fruits are soaked in rum!