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Black Cake

1 pound raisins, minced
1 pound pitted prunes, minced
1 pound dried currants, minced
1 pound glaceed cherries, minced
6 ounces glaceed lemon peel, minced
6 ounces glaceed orange peel, minced
1 bottle (750 ml) Manischewitz Concord Grape wine
1 bottle (750 ml) dark rum
2 pounds dark brown sugar
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
10 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups almond paste, if desired

7 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 large egg whites at room temperature
2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice

silver dragees for decorating the cake

In a large bowl, combine well the raisins, the prunes, the currants,
the cherries, the peels, the wine, and the rum and let the fruit
macerate, covered, at room temperature for at least 2 weeks.

In a heavy skillet combine 1 pound of the brown sugar and 1 cup
water, bring the mixture to a boil over moderate heat, stirring
and washing down any sugar crystals clinging to the side wtih a
brush dipped in cold water until the sugar is dissolved, and boil
the syrup, swirling the skillet occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes,
or until it is reduced to 1 3/4 cups. Let the burnt sugar syrup
cool and reserve it.

Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, the nutmeg,
and the cinnamon. In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream
together the remaining 1 pound brown sugar and the butter until
the mixture is light and fluffy and beat in the eggs, 1 at a time,
beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, the flour
mixture, and 1 1/3 cups of the reserved burnt sugar syrup, reserving
the remaining syrup for another use. In another large bowl combine
well the flour mixture and the fruit mixture and divide the batter
between 2 buttered and floured 10-inch springform pans. Bake the
cakes in the middle of a preheated 350F oven for 1 hour and 50
minutes to 2 hours, or until the cakes are set and a tester inserted
in the centers come out with some crumbs adhereing to it. (The
centers of the cake will be quite moist). Let the cakes cool in
the pans on a rack, remove the sides and the bottoms of the pans
and wrap the cakes in foil or wax paper. Let the cakes stand at
room temperature for 1 week.

Roll out half the almond paste between sheets of plastic wrap to
form a 10-inch round and remove the top sheet of plastic wrap.
Fit the almond paste layer over one cake, trimming the edge if
necessary, and remove the other sheet of plastic wrap. Roll out
and fit the remaining almond paste onto the remaining cake in the
same manner.

Make the icing: In a bowl with an electric mixer beat 4 cups of
the confectioners' sugar, the egg whites, and the lemon juice for
4 to 6 minutes, or until the mixture holds soft peaks. Beat in
the remaining 3 cups confectioners' sugar and beat the icing until
it holds stiff peaks.

Transfer 2 cups of the icing to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative
tip, spread the remaining icing on the tops and sides of the cakes
with a long metal spatula, and pipe the icing in the pastry bag
decoratively onto the cakes. Arrange the dragees on the cakes.
Makes 2 black cakes.

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