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.