- In a saucepan, combine the fruit, nuts, sugar, shortening, spices and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let cool and refrigerate overnight.
- With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F). Butter and flour two 23 x 13-cm (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans.
- In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.
- Pour the dry ingredients over the cooled fruit mixture and stir for 5 minutes with your hands or a wooden spoon. Pour the batter into the pans, without packing it.
- Bake for about 2 hours, covering the pans with aluminum foil halfway through baking. Unmould and let cool.
- Fold each piece of cheesecloth in half and soak them with the liqueur. Wrap the cakes in cheesecloth, then wrap in aluminum foil. Let the cakes rest for a few days before serving to allow the flavours to meld.
You can eat the fruitcake on the same day that you bake it; it will be delicious. However, to allow the flavours to merry better, wait a few days or even weeks before serving. Your fruitcake can easily be prepared several weeks in advance. Well wrapped, it will keep for months in a cool place. Moreover, we once appreciated fruitcakes because they kept nuts and candied fruits for a long time.
If you don’t have any fruitcake left after Christmas and want to prepare more, buy your candied fruit and freeze them now: it's that time of year that you find a greater variety in supermarkets.
Fruitcake is a dessert popular here but also in the United States, where even a festival is dedicated to it. The Great Fruitcake Toss is held each year in Colorado in January. This festival is a great success and allows everyone to present his or her own recipe. In other western countries, this traditional holiday season cake takes a different look from ours: there is, of course, the famous British plum pudding, and in Italy, the delicious panettone. As for Spain, there is no candied fruitcake: however there exists a tradition to eat 12 grapes, one at each stroke when midnight strikes to mark the arrival of the New Year.