- 250g (8oz) unsalted butter, chopped
- 185g (6oz) brown sugar
- 125ml (4fl ml) brandy
- 125ml (4fl oz) water
- 1kg (alb) mixed dried fruit
- 100g (3 1/2oz) mixed peel
- 100g (3 1/2oz) natural glacé cherries, halved
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 2tbsp treacle
- 2tbsp finely grated lemon zest
- 250g (8oz) plain flour
- 75g (2 1/2) self-raising flour
- 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 150g (5oz) whole unblanched almonds
- Place the butter, brown sugar, brandy, water, dried fruit, mixed peel and glacé cherries in a large saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
- Heat the oven to 150°C (gas mark 2) grease a 23cm (9in) round cake tin. Line the base and sides with a double layer of greaseproof paper, extending the paper 5cm (2in) above a cake tin.
- Transfer the cooled fruit mixture to a mixing bowl. Add the beaten eggs, treacle and zest, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda and the mixed spice until well-combined. Roughly chop half the almonds and stir these into the mixture.
- Spoon into the prepared cake tin. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining whole almonds. Wrap the outside of the cake tin with three layers of brown paper extending the paper 5cm (2in) above the cake tin, to match the baking paper and tie the paper securely with string. Place three layers of brown paper on a baking sheet, the put the cake tin on top.
- Bake for 1 hour, then cover the top of the cake with greaseproof paper and cook for a further 1½ hours, or until the cake is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin, then wrap in tinfoil and store for up to 3 months in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
A guide to a good combination of mixed dried fruit is 375g (12oz) raisins, 250g (8oz) sultans, 250g (8oz) currants, and 125g (4oz) chopped mixed dates, figs and prunes - but you can use other fruits if desired.
To avoid a rather long day in the kitchen, you can make a cake in two stages - boiling the fruit on the first day, the mixing the ingredients and baking the cake on the second day.
The mixture can also be baked in different sized tins. You could make the cake in three 10cm (4in) tins (cooking for about 45-60 minutes) and give them to friends as gifts.
There is no need to ice a cake like this, if you're not fond of icing. Simply decorate the top of the cake with whole almonds, lightly pressing them into the batter before baking to make a pretty pattern on the surface. But if you do want a traditional icing, leave the top of the cake plain and ice as normal once the cake has cooled.