When I was a kid, this was my favourite thing that my grandma made. And it still kind of is even though my childhood and alas my grandma are long gone... I make it for the holidays every year, and it never fails that I will eat this stuff without remorse or a shred of self-control until it's gone. I simply can't leave it alone. My son has inherited this fondness - errr, weakness? - so now I have to double the recipe so that I'll feel sated that I've had my fill. Bloody kids; see what they do to your life? ;-P
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups plus 1/2 cup flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound pitted dates
2 pounds large gumdrops or jelly fruit slices (no liquorice ones)
Heat oven to 300F. Cut dates and gumdrops in half into a bowl and mix with 1/2 cup flour.
Cream shortening and sugar. Add beaten eggs. Sift flour, salt, and spices together. Add flour alternately with applesauce to batter. Stir in vanilla and baking soda. Fold gumdrops and dates into batter.
Bake in six prepared medium loaf pans for 1 1/2 hours, or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Gently remove from pans and cool on baking rack.