This is a wonderful, rich traditional fruit cake. It can be made up to three months in advance. Make sure you allow plenty of time to ‘feed’ the cake with brandy and let it mature.

100 g (4 oz) red or natural glacé cherries

100 g (4 oz) ready-to-eat dried apricots

275 g (10 oz) currants

175 g (6 oz) sultanas

175 g (6 oz) raisins

50 g (2 oz) finely chopped candied peel

3 tablespoons brandy

225 g (8 oz) plain flour

¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ level teaspoon ground mixed spice

225 g (8 oz) softened butter

225 g (8 oz) dark muscovado sugar

4 large eggs

50 g (2 oz) chopped almonds

1 scant tablespoon black treacle

grated rind of 1 lemon

grated rind of 1 orange

TO FINISH

brandy, to feed

675 g (1½ lb) almond paste or marzipan (see almond paste recipe)

675 g (1½ lb) fondant or ready-to-roll icing

TO DECORATE

almond paste (leftover from putting over the cake)

green food colouring

ribbon, holly or your favourite decorations

1 Begin this cake the night before you want to bake it. Cut the cherries into quarters, put in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper. Snip the apricots into pieces. Measure the fruits into a large bowl, mix in the brandy, cover and leave in a cool place overnight.

2 Pre-heat the oven to 140°C/Fan 120°C/Gas 1. Grease a 20 cm (8 in) deep round cake tin then line the base and sides with a double layer of baking parchment.

3 Measure the flour, spices, butter, sugar, eggs, almonds, treacle and lemon and orange rinds into a large bowl. Beat well, then fold in the soaked fruits. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon. Cover the top of the cake loosely with a double layer of baking parchment.

4 Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 4½–4¾ hours or until the cake feels firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

5 When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little brandy. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of baking parchment, and again in foil, and store in a cool place, feeding at intervals with more brandy. Don’t remove the lining parchment when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist. Cover the cake with almond paste about a week before icing.

6 Cover the cake with fondant or ready-to-roll icing. Colour the almond paste (left over from putting the almond paste on to the cake) dark green. Roll out on a board that has been lightly sprinkled with icing sugar and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) wide strips. Cut these into diamonds and then, with the base of an icing nozzle, remove half circles from the sides of the diamonds to give holly-shaped leaves. Make vein marks on the leaves with a sharp knife, bend the leaves over the handles of wooden spoons and leave to dry. Decorate the top of the cake with the almond-paste holly leaves and finish by tying a ribbon around the sides of the cake.

Read More: How to Prepare a Lime Lattice Cookies

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