It’s A Wonderful Cake

So, fruitcake…who likes fruitcake…apparently my mother-in-law and, well…no, I think that’s about it. Certainly not the most popular of holiday dishes. In this episode Alton addresses the problems with fruitcake, and provides helpful solutions.

First a little history. What we “Americans” call fruitcake comes from the Old English Plum Pudding. Plum Pudding? Yes, Plum Pudding. ‘Plum’ meaning any kind of dried fruit and ‘Pudding’ being a way of boiling or steaming a cake and wrapping it up in cloth. They would cook a cake in a pot and wrap it in a cloth soaked with brandy or some other wine. Fruits and nuts are nutritious, but spoil quickly. This was a way of preservation, being they didn’t have freezers or canning abilities. They found if you cooked a cake very dense and soaked it with alcohol, it would keep fresh for a long time. It was a sort of nutritional safety deposit box. So why do some of us get one in our stocking from our grandmothers for Christmas, year after year? It’s a matter of cultural significance. The same reason we put a tree in our living room every year. Over the years fruitcakes took on great symbolic meaning. They came to stand for good luck and fertility. Just don’t go throwing one at the bride and groom during their grand exit. So now that we are full of knowledge on the subject, let’s move on to the ingredients.

Quality ingredients is the key to a tasty fruitcake. The reason this recipe is called “Free Range Fruitcake” is because it bypasses the fakingly sweet nuclear gummy fruits in favor of the honest flavors of dried fruit. Please, please, please use whole spices when indicated. It will make a world of a difference. Let’s get started.

Combine dried fruits, candied ginger, zests and rum.  Marinate overnight or zap in microwave for 5 minutes.
Add whole spices to grinder
Grind away
Add marinated fruit, sugar, butter, apple juice and spices to pot. Heat and let cool.
Add dry ingredients into cooled fruit mixture
I don’t have a sifter so I used a fine mesh strainer
Gently tap strainer to sift dry ingredients in
Quickly mix together wet and dry ingredients with large wooden spoon
Add 2 eggs, one at a time, throughly mixing before adding the second
Pour mixture into loaf pan
After cake is pulled from the oven, spritz with brandy.  Spritzing with T-Rex is highly recommended.

Result…I did not use the toothpick method to test doneness and my fruitcake was slightly undone in the middle. This also could have been because I used the glass loaf dish instead of the loaf pan. Cooking is not perfect, you learn and get better, and next time I will own this fruitcake! The taste was significantly better than other fruitcakes, but still not my favorite dish. If you or your loved ones are a fan, bake one up this holiday season.

Free Range Fruitcake
(Printable Recipe)

* 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 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
* 1 cup unfiltered apple juice
* 4 whole cloves, ground
* 6 allspice berries, ground
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon 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.
Recipe Courtesy of


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