Every year, the Beloved makes fruitcake, specifically Alton Brown’s fruitcake, which he has tweaked until it is perfect. This recipe doesn’t contain any candied fruits, so if that is what has been stopping you from making fruitcake, maybe you’ll give this one a try!

It’s so good. Honest!

For ease of browsing, here are all of my muffin and quick bread recipes in one place.

A whole fruitcake decorated with pecans on top in a paper loaf pan on a cooling rack.
Alton Brown’s fruit cake recipe, free range fruit cake, is simply the best. My husband has made it for years and has tweaked it just a bit. You’ll love it!

See my Alton Brown fruit cake web story here.

Fruitcake, At a Glance

✔️Skill Level: Beginner
✔️Skills: Macerating (soaking) fruit, Simmering, Mixing
✔️Type: Christmas Cake
✔️Number of Ingredients: 26, many of which are dried fruits and spices
✔️Prep Time: 1 hour
✔️Cook Time: 50 minutes-1 hr
✔️Yield: 1 9 x 5 loaf or 4-5 6″ x 2 1/2″ loaves

Related Recipes: Fruitcake Overnight Baked Oats
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Thanks so much! I loved the fruitcake. I made it this Christmas and it was everything you said it would be. Our local liquor store had a Christmas blend of rum and brandy together so I used that. Very tender and I loved this particular blend of fruits instead of the regular candied ones.

Reader Robbie Potter

Fruitcake from The Beloved

An overhead shot of 4 loaves of fruitcake in loaf pans.

Several years ago, I wrote a post about how The Beloved started making Christmas fruit cake one year and how I thought he had lost his mind.

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Now, he has been making slight variations on the recipe for years, and he makes dozens.

He uses Alton Brown’s standard recipe for Free Range Fruitcake, but over the years, he has put a bit of his own spin on it by changing the spicing a little. And he generally also leaves out the nuts.

It is the best fruitcake recipe ever.

I went from being an avowed fruitcake mocker to looking forward to the start of his baking season.

And, if I have been pleasant, I get to lick the pot after he scrapes the batter out into the pans.

What Dried Fruits You’ll Need

No glaceed cherries or weird, rubbery peel in this stuff, friends. You will need a variety of dried fruits as well as some crystallized ginger.

This fruitcake is made without candied fruit.

Here are the players:

Collage of free range fruit cake and the dried fruit ingredients needed to make it.
  • tart cherries: you could certainly substitute dried sweet cherries here as well
  • cranberries: my husband buys unsweetened dried cranberries, but you could also use the Craisin® brand from the grocery store that are lightly sweetened
  • blueberries: a little something different. Dried blueberries are fairly mellow, so you can punch up the flavor of your fruitcake by substituting the same amount of either dried cranberries or cherries
  • apricots: If you’re not a huge fan of apricots, you can sub in dried mango, or again, add the same amount of one of the other dried fruits
  • currants: raisins work here as well
  • crystallized ginger: adds a little zip to the whole production. As with the rest, leave it out if you don’t like it, or you can even add more if you’re a huge ginger fan.

PRO TIP: You will need a total of four cups of dried fruit (this includes the golden raisins, which for me are non-negotiable), and this can be made up of any of your favorites. You do not have to stick to the proportions in the recipe as long as you use a total of 4 cups.

Other Dried Fruits That Will Work

Don’t limit yourself to just thes fruits Jeffrey uses. The “master recipe” calls for one cup of currants (or raisins) and a total of 2 additional cups of dried fruits.

You can use any sort of dried fruits you prefer.

Here are some other choices for you:

  • dried plums (prunes), snipped into pieces
  • dried pineapple (as long as it’s pliable and not hard)
  • figs
  • dried peaches or nectarines (use in place of the apricots or in addition to)
  • dried pear
  • dried apple

Do not substitute freeze-dried fruits for dried fruit or you will throw the moisture content off and your fruitcake will end up sad and dry.

Jenni Says: Do not wait until the last minute to make any kind of fruitcake. They will be at their best after 4-6 weeks of aging and being sprayed with brandy.

How to Make Jeffrey’s Fruitcake

A pot with liquid, dried fruit, butter, and spices for making fruitcake.

One of the great things about this moist fruit cake is that you don’t need a mixer to make it. You need a big old pot, a wooden spoon, your ingredients of course, and some pans to bake in.

Although the ingredient list is long, the procedure is simple.

  1. Macerate (fancy word for soak) a ton of dried–not candied and weird–fruits and citrus zest in golden rum for a few days.
  2. Plop all of that into a pot with some apple cider, sugar, and spices and simmer for a while.
  3. Let the fruit mixture cool then stir in eggs, dry ingredients and then bake. No mixer needed, and the house smells amazing.
  4. Put the cakes in airtight containers and brush or spray them with brandy every couple of days for at least four to six weeks.
A closeup of a slice of fruitcake showing all the dried fruit inside.
Your house will smell amazing when you bake the amazing Alton Brown fruit cake recipe (adapted by The Beloved!)

No Alcohol Variation

Rather than plumping the fruit and zest in rum, macerate in 7 ouncjes of water and 1 whole ounce (2 Tablespoons) of rum extract. (For a total of 1 cup liquid)

After soaking, just scrape fruit and any liquid that hasn’t been absorbed into the cooking pot and proceed with the recipe as written.

Instead of brushing the fruitcake with brandy, wrap them well and store them in a cool, dark place.

I can attest that they are Incredibly Good! I actually like this version better than the alcoholic version.

Fruitcake Spices

A man grinding spices using a mortar and pestle.

If you’re asking yourself if you need to have the whole versions of all the spices called for, the answer is not necessarily.

Generally speaking, whole spices have stronger, fresher flavor than the ground versions, but do not let not having whole spices deter you from making this most delicious of fruitcakes.

Here are the whole spices Jeffrey uses:

  • whole cloves
  • whole allspice berries
  • black peppercorns

He grinds these three together using a mortar and pestle, but you could also use a spice grinder.

And these are ones he uses already ground:

  • cinnamon
  • ginger

The nutmeg he grates separately with either a Microplane or a Microplane Spice Mill, which works shockingly well.

Serving Suggestions

We visited the Claxton Fruitcake factory once, and they suggested we serve their fruitcake sliced very thin and straight from the fridge.

Sliced fruitcake spread with cream cheese on a small cutting board with a cup of coffee in the background.

With this fruitcake, heating it up really brings out the spices. We always cut fairly thick slabs and toast them in our toaster oven. Spread with cream cheese, it really doesn’t get much better.

You could also spread it with some salted butter and maybe some seasonal jam like this cranberry orange jam.

Where To Get The Paper Baking Pans

Jeffrey has tried several sizes as well as baking full-sized fruitcake in loaf pans.

The ones he has settled on for gift-giving are 6″ x 2 1/2″, and we think they make the most beautiful loaves.

If you use this size, you can get 5 lovely little fruit cakes from one batch of batter.

Jeffrey's Pick
Junior Loaf Pan Italian Paper Bakers (25-pack, 6 x 2.5 x 2 Inch)
$20.98

Some of the paper loaf pans he tried were too long or too narrow. These Junior loaf pans are just right for his purposes. These are all he uses for his fruitcake now, unless he wants to bake a full-sized loaf to keep at home.

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03/01/2024 06:42 pm GMT

Other Christmas Dessert Recipes

I have a lot of Christmas-themed recipes on my site–cookies, cakes, etc–but I have a couple of favorites.

First, my Auntie Ev’s Trifle, which is one of our family’s traditional Christmas desserts that her family brought with them from England.

And I cannot forget angel slices, which are my favorite Christmas cookies ever. Another legacy of Auntie Ev, via the Joy of Cooking.

If you like gooey pecan and coconut filling baked on a shortbread crust and then glazed with a crackling thin lemon glaze, angel slices are for you!

Free Printable Christmas Recipe Card

And here are the printable recipe cards for this recipe. The .pdf has both on one page, and both are linked to it. Click either picture to open and save the recipe, or you can right-click each picture and save them that way if you prefer. Get all my free Christmas recipe cards if you like!

I have 3 different templates for printable recipe cards for Christmas/winter holidays, so take a look and download them all. They’re free!

Fruit Cake Recipe card.

There’s fruitcake… then there’s FRUITCAKE….
Thanks to daughter, Sarah Lally Brown, I devoured her UPPER CAPS version to the very last crumb.

Paul Lally, Ciao Italia

Questions

If you have any questions about this post or recipe, I am happy to help.

Simply leave a comment here and I will get back to you soon. I also invite you to ask question in my Facebook group, Fearless Kitchen Fun.

If your question is more pressing, please feel free to email me. I should be back in touch ASAP, as long as I’m not asleep.

A Note About Measurements

My recipes are almost all written by weight, including liquids, unless otherwise specified.

For accuracy and consistency of results, I encourage you to buy–and use–a kitchen scale.

I promise that baking and cleanup will be so much quicker and easier.

This is the scale that I recommend for home use. I have owned and used one for years.

Best for Home Use
Escali Primo Digital Food Scale
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Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.

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07/22/2024 07:15 am GMT
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A sliced fruitcake made with lots of dried fruit and without candied fruit on a cutting board.

Christmas Fruitcake

Jennifer Field
The Beloved's Alton Brown fruit cake is boozy with rum and brandy, spiced with all the Christmas spices and is positively brimming with intensely flavored dried fruit. This stuff will make you rethink your fruitcake skepticism.
4.43 from 78 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Macerating Fruit 1 day
Total Time 2 hours
Course Muffins and Quick Breads
Cuisine British
Servings 10 servings
Calories 562 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup currants (or prunes snipped into tiny pieces)
  • ½ cup each dried cranberries blueberries, cherries and apricots (chop the apricots into pieces) or a total of 2 cups dried fruit
  • zest of one lemon (Microplaned)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • ¼ cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup gold rum NON-ALCOHOLIC VERSION: 1 oz (2 Tablespoons rum extract and 7 oz water)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 oz unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
  • 1 cup unfiltered apple juice (orange juice works well here too)
  • 4 whole cloves ground (or 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground)
  • 6 allspice berries ground (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
  • 10 peppercorns ground fresh (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • several gratings fresh nutmeg or 1/4 teaspoon ground
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pecan halves (optional)
  • brandy for basting/spraying OMIT for Non-Alcoholic version. Just wrap the cake while still warm to keep it moist and store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it/gift it

Instructions
 

  • At least a day before, soak the raisins, the rest of the dried fruit, the crystallized ginger and the zests in golden rum (or water and rum extract). You can do this in a zip-top bag if you want. Shake the bag occasionally.
  • When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325F and then dump the contents of the zip-top bag, including any liquid, into a 3 1/2 quart saucepan (or similar size. Don't go buy a new pan).
  • Add the sugar, butter, juice, and spices (The Beloved grinds the cloves, allspice, pepper and salt together with a mortar and pestle. He wanted me to tell you that) and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 30-45 minutes.
  • Whisk the flour, baking soda and baking powder into the fruit mixture, combining it quickly with a wooden spoon.
  • Stir in the eggs thoroughly, one at a time.
  • Pour/scrape the batter into your prepared pan/pans, smooth the top and press on the optional pecans (in a design or not).
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You're looking for an internal temperature of 200F. This will take about an hour or a bit longer, so test at a hour and go from there.
  • Remove cake from oven and liberally brush the top with brandy.
  • Once the cake has cooled completely, turn it out of the pan and put it in an airtight container. Brush or spray it well with brandy every 2 or 3 days and let it age for at least 2 weeks or up to pretty much forever.
  • Enjoy toasted and spread with cream cheese as we do. So delicious!

Did You Make Any Changes?

Notes

This recipe makes 1 9″ x 5″ loaf of fruit cake. You can also divide it evenly among decorative, giftable paper pans as The Beloved does. The ones pictured here are about 6″ x 2 1/2″ or so. If you use the 6″ x 2 1/2″ pans, you will get 4-5 small, beautiful loaves from 1 recipe.
When baking small cakes, baking time will be about 50 minutes.
The Beloved has also made these as really mini loaves and as muffins. This recipe works no matter the shape or size of the pan, you just have to monitor them because smaller ones bake in less time.
We always line metal pans with parchment even if Alton didn’t tell us to. Just for insurance.
Nutritional Information calculated on 1/10 of the entire recipe.
Try this fruit cake toasted and spread with cream cheese. Lord, it’s amazing!

Nutrition

Serving: 1/10 cakeCalories: 562kcalCarbohydrates: 85gProtein: 5gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 63mgSodium: 598mgFiber: 5gSugar: 58g
Keyword alton brown, fruit cake, fruitcake
Did you make this recipe?Please tell us what you loved!

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105 Comments

  1. Hi again Jenni!
    YESSS! My fruitcake in mini-loaves turned out sooo good! Light and really moist! Using the friut from my liquerproduction was really a good desicion! Now I know! Added corints. Next time I’ll add nuts too!
    Best regards, Mildrid, Norway

  2. Hello there Jenni! Thanks so much for providing such an informative page – seriously, it was the only place I got all my fruitcake questions answered!

    I have already made one batch of this wonderful fruitcake and right now it is having a good long rest in my cellar. This week I am making another batch and I am excited to see how your Beloved’s addition of black pepper works with it…but I have one question. I want to soak the fruit in the water and rum extract instead of gold rum, and have bought a bottle of Lor Ann rum bakery emulsion. Apparently because it’s an emulsion, the flavor won’t bake out as it would with an extract (oh geez…I’m sorry…you definitely know this already) but it’s still a 1:1 equivalent to extract and so I’m wondering whether I should still use 2 Tbsp of it to 7 ounces of water, or should I use less?

    Thanks for any help you can provide!

    1. Hi, Melody! I’m so glad you live tgis cake. It’s just so good! I’ve never used an emulsion, but my gut says use 1 T rather than 2. Dilute the emulsion before adding it to your fruit and then taste it. That’ll be the flavor that remains after baking, so start with the smaller amount and go from there. I’ll be interested to hear what ratio you settle on. Enjoy!

      1. Hi again Jenni! Just wanted to take a quick minute and let you know how things worked out. I am so glad you recommended tasting the emulsion-water mixture before soaking the fruit, because I did and I was not impressed. In fact, I was so UN-impressed that I made a last minute dash to the liquor store and bought a bottle of rum and used that instead. Thanks for your help anyways…perhaps I will try again with a different extract another time.

        Originally, I was planning to make a non-alcoholic version for a family member who thinks I’m a tad too generous with the booze when seasoning the fruitcakes. They don’t like the flavor of the rum I use, so once the cakes were baked, I handed them off so that they could season them to their liking, using whatever spirit they preferred.

        Next time I make these fruitcakes, I’m going to try using bourbon – I have half a bottle left over from years ago and I hate to see it go to waste (which it will, sadly). Has your Beloved tried other spirits in this fruitcake, and if so, what worked well for him?

        Thanks so much Jenni!

      2. Hey, Melody! Good to know about the emulsion–thanks for taking one for the team! lol I don’t believe he’s tried other liquors. If you try the bourbon, sort of guesstimate sweetness levels against the rum and see if you may need to add a touch of simple syrup or just straight-up sugar to the soaking liquid. Otherwise, I think you’re fine to do a 1:1 substitution. I hope everyone enjoys them!

  3. Jenni, forty years ago, I started making fruitcake with a friend using only dried fruit and a huge variety of nuts as well. Fast forward, and my kids don’t like the nuts, and my husband isn’t fond of the fruit, so I quit making it. Several years ago, I decided to make a standard English Christmas Pudding and bought a pan to steam it in…and, due to all sorts of errors on the part of the shipper, ended up with three pans, LOL! So I’ve made various versions in the years since, and we’ve enjoyed them all (well, sorta and somewhat, LOL), but I’m ready not to tax my family’s patience with me this year, so want to switch to your husband’s recipe for this year’s Christmas gathering with all my family.

    The problem is that I really want to use that lovely metal pan intended to be used for steaming.

    Is there any way this recipe could be steamed instead of baked? I’m guessing not, but thought I’d pose the question. And, I tried to check out your Aunt Ev’s Christmas Pudding recipe, but the link is broken.

    Thanks so much for any help you can offer!

    1. Hi, Carol! I honestly think you should be able to steam the fruitcake in the same way you can bake a Boston brown bread that usually gets steamed. And I have to tell you, this fruitcake is spectacular, whether you make it with rum and spray it with brandy or if you make it with rum extract. Such great flavor! Another idea: if your pudding mold fits into a pressure cookier/Instant Pot, you could absolutely steam it that way. A pressure cooker is ideal for steaming/baking because the heat is relatively low and super moist. My Auntie Ev’s plum pudding is really rich and excellent, but that broken link didn’t go to a recipe but rather a video I had published where I served it to my Uncle Ray and Auntie Eileen after Auntie Ev, who always used to make it, had died. I have a paper copy somewhere, and if you’d like it, I’d be happy to email you that recipe. Let me know. But yes, you can absolutely steam the fruitcake!

  4. This recipe is fabulous! I didn’t think I like fruit cake. Turns out I just don’t like the weird fruit that’s usually in it. I would definitely recommend this.

  5. I am 86 years old and have not made a fruitcake in over 50 years. My brother and I started talking about Christmas and he wanted Mom’s fruitcake recipe. That recipe could never be found. I searched and found yours and I must say it was AWESOME. The use of dried fruit was the best decision.

    I ended up making 4 fruitcakes and each time I took out enough for a ramekin sample. Used different Brandies to finish bottles, Christian Bros and Grand Marnier. Grand Marnier the winner. Everyone that received them said they were the BEST and how did I get it so moist. I used golden and dark raisins, apricots, blueberries, dates, cranberries, along with candied green cherries and pineapple for color. Could not find Crystallized Ginger so left it out. Also red candied cherries but found a recipe for making out of Maraschino Cherries. That recipe also was an amazing find. I will never buy candied cherries in store again. I even tried the microwave on some fruit as I had only one day to soak fruit. Mailing to East Coast & Midwest. I added an apricot glaze on the top after I brushed it well on three sides with Brandy and added the nuts & cherry decorations.

    My neighbor loved it so much she is coming over so she can learn how to make one. Others are asking for the recipe. It was so easy to make and so DELICIOUS & MOIST. I can’t thank you enough for the recipe and video. Now I have a new Holiday Tradition to pass onto the family. God Bless you this Holiday Season.

    1. Oh my goodness Betty you have been a baking machine! I just read your comment to my husband, and we are both thrilled that you love the fruitcake, and we are also 100% on board with your variations. I bet they are gorgeous! I think I will steal your apricot glaze for sure. Wonderful!

      Thank you so much for writing and letting us know this is a new part of your family’s traditions. We’re honored you’ve included this recipe!

      Merry Christmas to you and your family, and here’s to a healthy and delicious new year!

4.43 from 78 votes (75 ratings without comment)

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