The common impression of fruitcake can be summed up by this illustration by Edward Gorey:
Here's how to make a fruitcake that's more likely to be eaten by humans than fish.
Fruitcake You Won't Use As A Doorstop
You'll need a total of about 2 3/4 pounds dried fruit.
4 cups mixed dried fruit - raisins, apricots, pineapple, cherries, cranberries, papaya, or whatever sounds good. Chop larger fruits into pieces.
1 1/2 cups dates, chopped
6 ounces red and green candied cherries
1/3 cup diced crystallized ginger
3/4 cup dark rum or brandy
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
3 cups flour
2 tablespoons dark cocoa
1/2 cup golden syrup or dark corn syrup
1/2 cup apple or cranberry juice
2 cups chopped, toasted nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts)
rum or brandy for basting
The Fruit: Combine all of the fruit ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and soak overnight.
The Batter: Cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder, and cocoa. Add about half of the flour mixture and all the syrup to the batter. Then add the remaining flour and the juice and mix well. Fold in the fruits and any of the remaining soaking liquid, and the nuts.
Heat oven to 300F. Grease the bottom and sides of the pans. This recipe makes enough for 6 medium loaves or two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Spoon the batter into the pans, filling them about 3/4 full.
Shown here is a doubled recipe, making 12 gift-sized loaves
Bake the cakes on the middle shelf of the oven -- 75 minutes for medium loaves, and 2 hours 15 minutes for large loaves. The cakes are done when a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove the cakes from the oven and brush them with rum or brandy. Let them cool in the pans. When you have removed the cooled cakes from pans, brush all surfaces again with rum or brandy.
Wrap the cakes in cheesecloth, then in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and store them in a cool, dry place. Unwrap the cakes every week (for up to 5 weeks) and brush them with more booze (sometimes I'll use a little cherry Torani syrup as well). By the fifth week the cakes will have absorbed as much liquid as they're capable of. They'll keep for several months this way, as long as they're tightly wrapped. The flavour improves and mellows over time.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.