Best Fruitcake in Town

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I love fruitcake, but only really really good fruitcake.  I have been using my adaptation of Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake for a few years now and I think it makes the best fruitcake in town.

Every time I have made this recipe, I have made substitutions based on what ingredients I have on hand at the moment.  If I can find dried peaches I use them instead of apricots.  Sometimes I can’t find dried blueberries so I just make up the missing amount with the other fruits.  Sometimes I use the candied ginger and sometimes I don’t.  If I don’t happen to have unfiltered apple juice, I use peach nectar or white grape juice.  I prefer walnuts so I use them instead of pecans and I like to spritz with Grand Marnier instead of brandy.  I have found that as long as I follow the structure of the recipe, any ingredient substitutions that I make will work out.

Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake


  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup sun dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sun dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sun dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
  • Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
  • 1 cup gold rum
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 oz unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
  • 1 cup unfiltered apple juice
  • 4 whole cloves, ground
  • 6 allspice berries, ground
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 to 1/2 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 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. If you decide to give the cake as a gift, be sure to tell the recipient that they are very lucky indeed.

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  1. Pingback: In Defense of Fruitcake

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