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|Yield:||3 loaf cakes, depending on choice of pans|
1) To prepare the fruit: Combine the dried fruit with ¾ cup rum in a bowl. Cover and microwave for 1 minute, stir, then microwave for another minute. Cool to room temperature as you prepare the batter. (Fruit may be soaked in rum overnight or longer, if you don't want to microwave it.)
2) Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease three 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pans, or the pans of your choice (see tip, below left).
3) To prepare the cake: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, molasses, baking powder, salt, flavors, and spices.
4) Beat in the eggs one at time, scraping the bowl between additions.
5) Mix in the 1/2 cup milk alternately with the flour, then add the rum and mix until combined.
6) Fold in the nuts, fruit/rum mixture, and candied cherries.
7) Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, filling them about three-quarters full.
8) Bake the cakes for 60 to 90 minutes. When done, the cakes will be a light golden brown all over, and a cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean.
9) Remove the cakes from the oven, and let them cool slightly.
12) To finish: Leave the cakes in the pans, and brush with the rum or syrup. Let it soak in, then brush with more, until you've used about 1/3 of the liquid. Allow the cakes to sit for about 45 minutes, to firm up and soak up the liquid. Then turn them out onto a serving plate and brush with the remaining rum or syrup.
13) When completely cool, wrap the cakes airtight, and let rest at least 48 hours before serving. You may store the cakes for up to a month, brushing with liquor or flavored syrup weekly.
14) For easiest slicing, refrigerate the cakes. Let the slices warm to room temperature before serving.
Yield: 3 loaf cakes; or an assortment of other size cakes, depending on choice of pans (see tip, above left).