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DARK FRUITCAKE

6 ounces pitted prunes (1 cup), each cut in half
10-ounce package dried figs (1 cup), chopped
6-ounce package dried apricot halves (1 cup), chopped
5 ounces pitted dates (1 cup)
2 cups pecans or walnuts or almonds (or mixture of all three)
1 cup green candied cherries (8 ounces)
1 cup red candied cherries (8 ounces)
1/2 cup candied pineapple wedges (4 ounces)
1/2 cup diced candied lemon peel (4 ounces)
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs

1/2 cup apricot preserves for garnish
dried fruit green and red candied cherries, and pecans for garnish

DAY AHEAD OR UP TO 1 MONTH AHEAD:

Grease 10-inch tube pan; line bottom of pan with foil; grease foil.

In large bowl, combine first 9 ingredients. For extra moisture
and flavor, you may add 2 cups brandy to this mixture and allow to
macerate overnight or longer, then drain before proceeding.

In another large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat sugar and
shortening just until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until
light and fluffy. Add flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract,
and eggs. Beat at low speed until mixture is just blended, constantly
scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Stir batter into fruit mixture.

Preheat oven to 325\xb0F. Spoon batter into pan. Bake fruitcake
1\xbd hours or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes
out clean.

Cool cake completely in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan and
carefully peel off foil. Wrap fruitcake tightly in plastic wrap or
foil. Refrigerate fruitcake overnight so cake will he firm and easy
to slice.

At this point you may cover with the rolled fondant or almond paste,
or decorate and glaze as follows:

Over medium beat, heat apricot preserves until just melted, stirring
occasionally. Brush cake with half of apricot preserves. Garnish
top of cake with dried fruit, candied cherries, and pecans. Brush
fruit and pecans with remaining apricot preserves. Makes one 4-3/4
pound fruitcake or 36 servings.

In any case, the cake should be allowed to ripen closely covered
in a cool, dark place, or in the refrigerator. Ideally, it should
ripen at least a month before serving.

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