1) To prepare the fruit: Combine the fruit with the liquid of your choice in a non-reactive bowl; cover and let rest overnight. Too impatient to wait until tomorrow? Microwave everything for 1 minute (or until it's very hot), cover, and let rest 1 hour.
2) Preheat the oven to 300°F. This recipe makes enough batter for ONE (not all!) of the following: 3 dozen individual (muffin pan) cakes; 16 mini loaves (about 3 3/4" x 2 1/2"); 6 to 8 medium loaves (about 3" x 5"); or 2 standard 9" x 5" loaves. Choose your pans (or combinations), and lightly grease them. If you're making muffin-size cakes in a standard muffin pan, line the pan with muffin papers, and lightly grease the papers.
3) To make the batter: Place the the butter and sugar in a large bowl (at least 6-quart), and beat together until well combined.
4) Beat in the salt, spices, and baking powder.
5) Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition.
6) In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and cocoa.
7) Add the flour mixture and the syrup (or boiled cider) to the mixture in the bowl, beating gently to combine.
8) Stir in the juice or water, then the fruit with any collected liquid, and the nuts. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and stir until everything is well combined.
9) Spoon the batter into the pans, filling them about 3/4 full.
10) Bake the cakes on the middle shelf of the oven, as follows: about 60 minutes for the individual cakes; 65 to 70 minutes for the small loaves; 75 minutes for the medium loaves, and 2 hours + 10 to 15 minutes for the 9" x 5" loaves. The cakes are done when a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
11) Remove the cakes from the oven, and brush them with rum or brandy. Or simple syrup, or flavored simple syrup (vanilla, rum-flavored, etc.). If you like just a hint of rum or brandy flavor, add 1 tablespoon of liquor to 3/4 cup vanilla syrup or simple syrup, and brush this mixture on the cakes.
12) When the cakes are completely cool, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and store at room temperature for up to 6 to 8 weeks.
Yield: 2 large loaves to 3 dozen small cakes, depending on size.