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!
- Dried Blueberries. I could not find them so I added extra dried apricots.
- Candied Ginger. I omit it because some family members don't like it.
For the full recipe with quantities, see the recipe card at the end of the post.
- 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.
STEP 1: Combine dried fruits, candied ginger, and both zests.
STEP 2: Add rum and macerate overnight, or microwave for 5 minutes to rehydrate fruit.
STEP 3: Place fruit and liquid left over after macerating in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice, and spices.
STEP 4: Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
STEP 5: Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes.
STEP 6: Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture.
STEP 7: Quickly bring the batter together with a large wooden spoon.
STEP 8: Stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated.
STEP 9: Fold in the chopped nuts.
STEP 10: Spoon into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.
STEP 11: Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the middle of the cake.
STEP 12: Remove the cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.
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.
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.