Everything about The Ultimate Black Fruitcake is uncommon. It is uncommonly expensive, due to the high cost of glazed fruit and fine liquor. Because it contains grated chocolate, it has an uncommly dark brown color. And it is uncommonly delicious.

All too often fruitcakes are hard and dry, and taste of cheap liquor. This fruitcake is moist and tender and laden with glazed fruits that have been drowned for a week in fine bourbon before being bound in a scant casing of chocolate batter.

To give the fruitcake sufficient time to develop its flavor, you'll need to bake it before Thanksgiving. And, the glazed fruit, which should be available in specialty food shops now, requires a week of soaking to tenderize it before the cake is made, and then the baked fruitcake needs at least four weeks to mature.

But when all is said and done, this great Christmas dessert will prove worth both the expense and the trouble. The recipe will generously serve 30. If you aren't planning that large a Christmas dinner, then consider baking some of the batter in individual loaf pans and giving the cakes as Christmas gifts. THE ULTIMATE BLACK FRUITCAKE (30 servings) 8 ounces glazed dried pears, diced 8 ounces glazed dried pineapple, diced 4 ounces glazed lemon peel, diced 4 ounces glazed orange peel, diced 8 ounces glazed citron, diced 16 ounces seeded large raisins 8 ounces sultanas 8 ounces currants 4 ounces glazed red cherries, cut in half 4 ounces glazed green cherries, cut in half 1 quart fine quality bourbon 8 ounces walnut or pecan meats, broken 4 ounces unsalted butter plus extra for pans 2 cups sugar 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, grated 6 eggs, beaten together with a fork 1 1/2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda About 3/4 cup fine quality cognac or dark rum

Combine all the fruits in a very large non-aluminum mixing bowl and mix well. Add the bourbon and toss together. Cover and set aside in a cool spot for a week, turning the fruit in the juices every other day. In the course of the week the fruit will absorb most of the liquor.

Mix the nuts with the glazed fruit.

Beat the butter with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy, then gradually add the sugar and continue beating for 1 minute. Add the spices and chocolate and beat until well combined. Gradually pour in the eggs and continue beating until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda, remove 1/2 cup of the dry ingredients and set aside. Combine the remaining flour with the chocolate mixture and fold together with a large spatula to form a thick batter.

Drain the fruit in a colander, then squeeze to remove most of the liquid still clinging to the fruits. Combine fruit with the reserved flour and toss well, then mix into the chocolate batter, tossing with your hand until well combined.

Butter and line 3 bread pans (about 8-9-inches long) with baker's parchment, or use two smaller bread pans and a large round or square baking pan, or use individual loaf pans for part of the batter. Fill the lined pans about 3/4 full with the cake batter.

Bake in a 275-degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top of the cake feels firm and slightly resilient when pressed. Small cakes will need about 1 1/2-2 hours, large cakes as much as 3-4 hours.

Cool the cakes in their baking pans until just warm to the touch, then pour about 1/4 cup of the cognac or dark rum evenly over each cake. When the liquor has been absorbed, remove from the pan (with the parchment still attached to the cake) and wrap in a double layer of aluminum foil. Store in airtight tins until Christmas, at least 4 weeks.

If you wish, about a week before Christmas, carefully unwrap the cakes and bathe in a little more cognac or dark rum. Be careful not to add more liquor than the cake can absorb easily or it will develop a spongy texture.

Slice with a large serrated knife.

Note: If candied or glazed fruit are not available, dried fruits can be used.