Free Range Fruitcake: Something to Cluck About!{13}

Free Range Fruitcake

Behold an exceptional fruitcake, one that deserves a little respect.

Fruitcake, oh fruitcake, how I do love thee…

Oh, go ahead, start with your jokes, mock the baked good that moonlights as a doorstop, wrecking ball, and scapegoat for holiday angst. Get it out of your system fruitcake grinches, for I am here to redeem the reputation of this much maligned Christmas confection.

dried northwest fruit fruitcake

Great fruit makes for a great fruitcake: dried apricots, cranberries, blueberries, golden raisins, homemade orange peel, and sour cherries.

And may I just say, there are plenty of cakes out there that deserve one’s ridicule, though fruitcake is not one of them. Red velvet cake, really? It’s just a dyed devil’s food cake in disguise and has about as much flavor and presence as pre-wrapped Susie Q. Angel food cake? Um hmm, just an excuse to waste egg whites. Yellow cake? Sorry, its sole purpose is to be a vehicle for buttercream frosting. Sponge cake? Don’t even get me started.  (Full disclosure: I am a pie man by genetic predisposition.)

fruitcake molds pudding tins

I’m a big fan of vintage baking pans, so I bake my fruitcake in these metal molds designed for steamed puddings.

I have to admit the neon-bright candied fruit of old-school fruitcakes can be off-putting, but that’s an easy fix; indulge in the amazing variety of dried fruit available these days, usually found in the bulk section of a grocery store. For me, that includes all or any combination of the following dried fruit: apricots, candied orange peel , golden raisins, currants, sour cherries, blueberries, figs, and crystallized ginger.

lidded pudding tins

When you bake with a lidded pudding tin, the cake tends to come out moister and denser. If you don’t have a lid, you can always cover the pan with foil. And leave off the lid should you like a dryer cake.

I’d like to share a recipe, an updated version of this bejeweled baked good, a recipe festooned with the sweetmeats of summer and sopped up with a wee bit of worthy spirits.  The recipe comes from one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Alton Brown, the no-nonsense science guy of cooking.

Tall Clover Farm Fruitcakes

Alton (oh yeah, we’re on a first name basis) calls it a free range fruitcake, no doubt because he takes what has become the sad standard and improves upon it ten-fold. His cake is moist, aromatic, spicy and chockablock with sweet treats to tease your tongue.

sliced fruitcake

 Here’s the Recipe for Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake.

As fruitcake is known for the boozey company it keeps, I went local and substituted the rum with Idle Hour Whiskey from the Seattle Distillery which is located here on Vashon Island.  It’s a smooth bourbon-remiscent spirit, that is tamed with just a nuance of honey.  So let’s toast to our new year, your new love of a better fruitcake, and a plenty of idle hours to enjoy.