Place all of the dried fruits into a large mixing bowl or pot (I use my jam pan), and mix in brandy or dark rum. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to stand for at least 24 hours, stirring every few hours so the fruit plumps up.
Mix together the zest, almonds, flour and spices in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar and treacle until light. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a little flour with each. Finally, gently fold in the dry ingredients.
Tip the creamed mixture into the fruit. You can be polite and use a wooden spoon if you like but I find it easier to role my sleeves up and use my hands. If you have a spare 10 year old with clean hands, you will find they love this bit! Make sure the fruit is evenly distributed.
Prepare a 23-25cm (9-10 in) cake tin: Double-line the inside of the tin with baking parchment, greasing it first. Allow the parchment to come about 1cm (1/2 in) above the top of the tin which should be in the region of 8cm (3 1/2 in) deep. Cut a double circle of parchment with a diameter approximately 5cm (2 in) bigger than the tin. Fold and cut a hole in the centre about 4cm (1 1/2 in) across.
Pour the mixture into the lined tin. Even the top and make a slight indentation in the centre with the back of a spoon. Put into the middle of a preheated oven (150 C / Gas mark 2) and carefully balance the circular disk of parchment on top of the tin - this stops the top of the cake over-browning and drying out. It's easier not to use the fan in a fan oven as it tends to blow the covering parchment off.
Bake for 3 hours and 45 minutes. Place on a rack and allow to go cold in the tin (overnight). Remove from tin and take off the side parchment, leaving the bottom intact. Pierce all over with a skewer and carefully spoon over 5 tablespoons brandy or dark rum. Wrap carefully in a double layer of parchment then in two layers of foil. The cake must be completely enclosed by both.
Age in a cool, dark place in an airtight tin for at least 4 months. 'Feed' monthly with four additional tablespoons of brandy or rum. Rewrap carefully each time.
Two weeks before required, cover with marzipan. Allow to dry for 5 days. Ice with fondant or royal icing, and decorate as desired.
I don't want to say that the recipe was bad, but I'm so frustrated by what has just been a very expensive go at making fruitcake again! I took it out of the oven 20 minutes before the recipe called for, but it looks burnt! My oven is accurate, I bake every week, but somehow when it comes to fruitcakes, I always either under- or over bake them! Any advice? - 16 Sep 2012
Hi graywriter1, the four months is how long the author recommends you age the cake before you marzipan and ice it. We'll change the 'keep' to 'age' to make this more clear! Also, if you don't have four months, 6 to 8 weeks should be just fine! - 27 Oct 2011