This rich, spicy fruitcake made a week or even a month or two before Christmas will mature and ripen to a truly festive dessert.
375g packet raisins
375g packet sultanas
250g packet currants
125g mixed peel
125g glace cherries, halved
6 dried apricots, 6 nectarines, 6 peaches, diced small
125g blanched chopped almonds
4 Tbsp each brandy and rum
250g brown sugar
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp golden syrup or marmalade
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
Blanched almonds and glace cherries to finish cake
1. Prepare the fruit mixture by chopping the raisins, sultanas and currants. Add peel and put into a large bowl. Add cherries, apricots, nectarines, peaches and chopped almonds. Sprinkle with the brandy and rum and leave overnight, first mixing well to separate the fruit pieces.
2. The next day, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until soft. Add brown sugar and lemon rind and continue beating till light and fluffy. Add the golden syrup or marmalade. Next, add eggs, one at a time, and beat well. (Add some sifted flour if mixture curdles.)
3. Into a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Add 2 Tbsp of flour mixture to the dried fruits and toss through to prevent fruits sinking to the bottom of the cake. Mix remaining flour mixture into the batter, then fold the mixed fruits through using your hands.
4. Line a 24cm round or square, deep cake tin with 1 layer of brown paper and 2 layers of baking paper. Pour the mixture into prepared cake tin. Level top and drop tin sharply on to kitchen bench to settle mixture. Stick cherries deep into batter, then decorate the top with almonds.
5. Bake in a preheated 150c oven for 2 1/2 to 3 1/4 hours or until a fine skewer inserted into the centre comes away clean. Turn cake upside down, lift paper and sprinkle hot cake generously with extra 2 to 3 Tbsp rum or brandy, then return the paper. Wrap in a clean tea-towel and leave on a cake rack until cold. Wrap in greaseproof paper, then in foil and store until ready to use.
Important: If cake appears to be browning too much, cover with several thicknesses of paper. You may find that some oven temperatures vary a little.