My Great-Grandmother's recipe
11 oz Plain Flour
large pinch of salt
1.5 level teaspoons mixed spice
0.5 level teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 oz glace cherries
3 oz blanched and chopped almonds
5 oz chopped mixed peel
10 oz butter
10 oz soft brown sugar
0.5 teaspoons vanilla essence
2 tablespoons of black treacle
2 tablespoons brandy
1. Grease tin with butter and line with 2 layers of greaseproof paper inside the tin, and tie double thickness of brown paper outside the tin.
2. Sieve together the flour, salt and spices
3. halve the cherries, and (in a separate bowl from the flour) mix all the dried fruit, the chopped peel, the chopped almonds, and the cherries.
4. In a third bowl beat together the eggs and vanilla essence
5. In your bigest mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until soft and creamy, beat in the egg and flour bit by bit (about 1 spoonful of each at a time, beat in, then add the next spoonful, and so on, until it is all mixed in.)
6. add the fruit and mix in (again, this is easier if you add the fruit a bit at a time and mix as you go.
7. add in the treacle and the brandy. Add more brandy if you like.
8. Pour into the cake tin, then bake in the centre of the oven for about 90 minutes at 335 F then turn down and cook for a further 2 hours at 320. Test using a skewer to make sure it is cooked through.
9. leave for a minimum of 15 minutes before turning it out of the tin.
10. wrap tightly in greaseproof paper and foil and store. During the storage period unwrap it and feed it at intervals. feed by making holes in the top and/or bottom of the cake with a small skewer or large darning needle, and pour a tablespoon of brandy over it. allow this to soak in, then re-wrap. Personally, I feed it from the top and bottom alternately.
Traditionally it is then iced (frosted) by covering with a layer of almond paste (like marzipan) then royal icing on top of that.
As long as you keep the same total quantity you can vary the proportions of the different fruit - I tend to leave out the cherries as no-one in my family likes them much, and add in extra raisins.
My grandmother's recommendation was to bake the cake about 3 months before chirstmas, and to feed it fortnightly. Don't feed it the week before you put the marzipan on, as you want the surface to be dry.
You can bake it further in advance, but in that case, stop feeding it at some point and just store it. We had one which we mislaid and ate the christmas after the one it was baked for.It was stunningly good when we came to eat it. But ensureing that it is carefully wrapped so the packing is airtight is important.
If you prefer, you can use rum instead of brandy.