This luxurious cake contains all the dried fruit and booze you would expect from a traditional recipe. The rich flavours are gently warmed with a hint of nutmeg and mixed spice. You’ll need a 9cm/3 ½ in deep, 18-20cm round cake tin, preferably loose-bottomed.
The night before you make the cake, place all the dried fruit and peel in a bowl and mix in the brandy and rum flavouring. Cover the bowl and leave to soak in a cool place for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas 1. A separate oven thermometer is helpful here, especially if you are unsure of the accuracy of your oven.
Grease the tin and line the base and sides with a triple thickness of greaseproof paper, allowing the paper on the sides to stand about 2cm above the top of the tin. This gives it extra protection from the heat as it rises. If you have a fan oven, which tends to heat up more than a conventional one, wrap a sheet of newspaper around the outside of the tin.
Sift the flour, salt and spices into a mixing bowl. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat the eggs and add them to the creamed mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
Gently fold in the sieved flour and spices. Stir in the fruit and peel, the treacle and the grated rinds.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon.
Cut out two round pieces of greaseproof paper that will fit on the top. Rub one of them with butter or oil and make a hole in the middle of both about the size of a 2 euro coin. Lay the circles on top of the cake, putting the buttered one greased-side down first. Place the tin on a baking sheet and bake on the lower shelf for 4 ½ hours. Check that the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre. It should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.
When the cake is cold, remove from the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper and foil. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 weeks. If you like, you can prick the top of the cake and spoon over 1 tbsp brandy every week up until the final fortnight, when you should leave it dry.
Icing the cake
Heat apricot jam gently in a saucepan and sieve to make an apricot glaze. This will hold the almond paste in place. Dust your work surface with icing sugar and roll out the almond paste into a circle just larger than the top of the cake. Brush with the apricot glaze and trim the edges with a knife.
Mix water with ready to use royal icing as per packet instructions and frost the cake as desired. If using frosted fruits, dip various fruits in a bowl of water and dry. Beat egg white with a fork and dip the fruit in the egg white. Roll the fruit in caster sugar and leave on grease-proof paper to dry before decorating the cake.
Please note that frosted fruits only last 2-3 days and should be made close to eating.