This year I made our family's version of this and you'll be seeing it in some future holiday posts. Right now it's aging, wrapped in unphotogenic brandy-soaked cheesecloth, not yet ready for its close-up. The "fruits" involved are dark raisins ("seed, seed, seed", read the ancient instructions), currants, and citron, and the liquids, measured in "gills", are brandy, sherry, and molasses. And eighteen eggs. It's rich, dark, moist, utterly delicious. Simple, too. It's really just the quantities that are a little mindboggling. And the math. And having to weigh everything. I usually make 1/3 of a recipe (1/3 of a gill, anyone?) which makes two large bread-loaf sized loaves. Sliced thin, as it properly should be, this amount goes a long way.
The Times describes a Caribbean version. Ours, I had always assumed, came down from the German side of the family. But it's practically identical to the English recipe that Emily Dickinson made and served in the one-woman play, "The Belle of Amherst". Whatever its origin, it's very very good. We'll have our first taste on Christmas Eve.