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Course: Sweets
Keyword: Baking, Christmas, Desserts, Free Range Fruitcake, Holidays

Free Range Fruitcake

Yield: 10 to 12 servings
Traditional fruitcake gets a flavorful upgrade with dried fruit, fragrant spices, and a light spritz of brandy.
The goal here is to free fruitcake from its reputation as a Holiday Horror. Notice, please, that there is no "candied" fruit in this recipe. Please be careful to keep it that way. The acquisition of quality ingredients is half the battle. Make that four-fifths of the battle. A fruitcake is only as good as its ingredients.
This recipe first appeared in Season 2 of Good Eats.
Photo by Lynne Calamia
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  • 1 cup golden raisins (dark raisins will not taste the same)
  • 1 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (try to find whole without sulfates)
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
  • 1 cup gold rum (dark works too)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup unfiltered apple juice or cider
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (dry not fresh)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup toasted, chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup brandy (in a spritz bottle)

Specialized Hardware

Digital kitchen scale
Coffee/spice grinder
10-inch loaf pan
Yield: 10 to 12 servings


  • Combine the dried fruits, both zests, and the candied ginger in a 2-quart plastic storage container with a tight fitting lid. Add the rum, cover, and macerate overnight at room temperature.
  • The next day, load up a coffee/spice grinder or spice mill with the cloves, allspice, and cinnamon and grind to a fine powder.
  • Add the spices, along with the macerated fruit and its liquid to a 4-quart saucepan. Add the sugar, butter, apple juice, and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (At this point, you can either complete the batter or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days, which is what I usually do.)
  • Place oven racks in the center and bottom of the oven. Place a roasting pan on the bottom rack and fill halfway with warm water. Crank the oven to 325ºF.
  • Put the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a sifter and sift onto the cooled fruit mixture in the saucepan, bringing the batter together as quickly as possible with a large wooden spoon. One at a time, stir in the eggs. Finally, fold in the pecans.
  • Grease a 10-inch non stick loaf pan with cooking spray. Spoon in the resulting goo and bake until the interior temperature hits 200°F, about 1 hour.
  • Remove to a wire rack or trivet. Spritz the top with brandy and cool completely. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and wrap in a few layers of cheesecloth. Spritz with more brandy, and stash in a tin or any other airtight, food-safe containment vessel.
  • Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and, if dry, spritz with more brandy. The cake's flavor and texture will enhance considerably over the next 2 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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