I Googled “good fruitcake recipe” but that way lies madness, because everyone thinks their fruitcake recipe is good. I tried again with “Food Network fruitcake recipe” and that yielded better results. One thing I did learn during my Googling is that a lot of people don’t care for citron in a fruitcake, so I went with Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake recipe, which doesn’t call for any citron.
My “modifications” to the recipe were strictly a product of making do with the ingredients I had on hand. I didn’t use the currants or cranberries (I skipped the currants but dumbly forgot the cranberries when I bought the other dried fruit) and used good old Ron Caribbean rum because that’s what the grocery store had and I didn’t feel like going to the liquor store and spending another $50 on gold rum and decent brandy. I also forgot to buy unfiltered apple juice, so I used about 3/4 cup water and 1/4 cup homemade apple butter. Most everything else was by the book in terms of the recipe—but I used the rum to baste the cake instead of the called-for brandy.
The smell of the fruit macerating and cooking and then the smell of the cake baking is not to be believed. I would buy a candle that smelled like this cake baking. It’s the smell of Christmas, truly.
The Alton Brown recipe suggests basting or spritzing the cake with brandy over the course of two weeks. Mine had to be content with being brushed with grocery store rum for a couple of days before I took it to a family get-together. People were skeptical when they heard “fruitcake” but explaining that I didn’t use any candied fruit seemed to make them much more open to trying it.
The texture is very dense, full of fruit and nuts. It’s quite moist and not overly sweet; I served it with creme fraiche and it met with rave reviews!
Next time I make it, I will use real rum or as my boyfriend suggests, Powers whisky. The liquor taste in my cake wasn’t overwhelming because it only got basted a couple of times…you can pretty much preserve this cake for weeks or months if you’re attentive about bathing it in booze. And, because the cake is already baked, you’re not cooking off the alcohol and you can actually get a buzz off this cake if it’s well and truly sauced through (and if you eat enough of it, I imagine).
Anyway: a definite do-again!