Every year, the Beloved makes fruit cake, specifically Alton Brown fruit cake for Christmas, and I’m going to show you how to make it.
It’s so good. Honest!
And if you love the flavors in this fruitcake, you’ll probably also like my baked steel cut oats recipe. It makes a great Christmas brunch and it has the same spices and fruits as this cake.
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The Beloved As Fruitcake Baker
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
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.
Now, he has been making slight variations on the very same Christmas fruit cake for eleven 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 just a bit.
This fruit cake is the best fruitcake recipe ever.
I went from being an avowed fruitcake hater, or at least a 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.
How To Make Old Fashioned Christmas Fruit Cake
Yes, I said pot.
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.
- Macerate (fancy word for soak) a ton of dried–not candied and weird–fruits and citrus zest in golden rum for a few days.
- Plop all of that into a pot with some more liquid, sugar, and spices and simmer for awhile.
- Let the fruit mixture cool then stir in eggs, dry ingredients and then bake. No mixer needed, and the house smells amazing.
- Put the cakes in airtight containers and brush or spray them with brandy every couple of days for at least four-six weeks.
NOTE: 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.
Packaging Christmas Fruit Cake for Giving
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I know there’s the joke about there being only one fruit cake in the entire world, and it just keeps getting passed around and around. But seriously, there are some really delicious fruit cakes out there, including this very recipe.
You do have some options for gifting excellent fruit cakes, either premade already in a beautiful tin, or making a homemade fruit cake and packaging them up yourself. Here are some ideas for you.
First up, fruitcake ready for gifting. Somehow, it’s always folks in Monasteries who make them. I think it began as a way for monasteries to make money, and now it has oddly turned into big business.
These days, monks have to run websites. But lucky for us that they do. I especially like the Trappist Abbey Fruitcake.
And here are some ways to package up your own fruitcake for gifting. Check the sizes here.
Depending on the size of your pans, you can get just a couple of cakes per recipe or a dozen or more. It all depends on the size of the cakes you want to give as gifts.
Can I Make Fruit Cake without Alcohol
Yes you can. Instead of soaking the fruit overnight, you can plump the fruit in a pan with the same amount of apple cider.
Since apple cider is sweeter than rum, you can probably cut back on the amount of sugar by a couple of tablespoons.
For spraying the fruit cakes afterwards, you can spray them with apple cider–that Martinelli’s would be nice, actually.
Unlike with the alcohol-laden loaves, you’ll have to refrigerate the non-alcoholic fruit cakes.
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.
Moist and rich, doused in brandy, set afire, and then served with a healthy scoop of brandied hard sauce. If you’re a fan of Christmas puddings, this one is a fantastic example.
NOTE: You have to grind all the fruits up for this plum pudding. Auntie Ev’s recipe says to just mix everything together. And you can do that, but it won’t be the rich, dark color Christmas puddings are known for unless you pass all the fruit through a grinder.
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!
Yes, Auntie Ev had a wonderful fruitcake recipe too, but I like Alton’s better.
Free Printable Christmas Recipe Card
And here are the printable recipe cards for the fruit cake 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!
Through a happy coincidence, a mutual friend told me that her friend Paul Lally adores this fruitcake.
Paul is the executive producer of Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito on PBS, and he has also worked with Julia Child and was a writer/director on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
All that, plus a fruitcake lover?! Yes!
Here are the photos he posted of him enjoying The Beloved’s fruitcake:
Here’s what Paul had to say about this magical Christmas cake:
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
Alton Brown Fruit Cake Recipe (The Beloved’s Version)
The Beloved usually starts his Christmas fruitcake right after Labor Day, and by the first week of December, the corner of our closet is piled high with containers of aging fruitcake. In a good way. Not in a Grey Gardens sort of way.
I really hope you love the Beloved’s fruitcake, you guys!
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup currants, (or prunes snipped into tiny pieces)
- 1/2 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
- 1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
- 1 cup gold rum
- 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
- 6 allspice berries, , ground
- 10 peppercorns, , ground fresh
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 3/4 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
- At least a day before, soak the raisins, the rest of the dried fruit, the crystallized ginger and the zests in golden rum. 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 sauce pan (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, 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!
This recipe makes 1 10" 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. He has also made these as really min loaves and as muffins. It 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 the pans with parchment even if Alton didn't tell us to. Just for insurance.
Nutritional Information calculated on 1/10 the entire recipe.
Try this fruit cake toasted and spread with cream cheese. Lord, it's amazing!
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Nutrition InformationYield 10
Amount Per Serving Calories 562 Saturated Fat 7g Cholesterol 63mg Sodium 598mg Carbohydrates 85g Fiber 5g Sugar 58g Protein 5g