To bake the cake:
Wash the cherries and cut them in half.
Wash the fruits and drain through a sieve. Tip into a bowl, add the mixed peel and mix well. Pour the brandy over the mixture. Leave to steep overnight.
Preheat the oven to 140°C. Melt the butter and sugar together in a microwaveable bowl at 1 minute intervals, stirring each time until all the butter is melted and the sugar and butter have become amalgamated. Alternatively, do it in a saucepan, stirring until well mixed, then pour into a mixing bowl.
Add the eggs to the butter and sugar and mix again with a wooden spoon.
Tip the flour into a bowl and add all the ground spices. Sift in the flour into another bowl to combine the flour with the spices thoroughly. Now the flour to the wet sugar, butter and egg mixture.
Tip in and stir the steeped fruit and remaining liquid, plus vanilla extract. Make sure you really mix well, use your hands if you find it easier to get stuck right in!
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake, 2 1/2 - 3 hours on 140°C gas mark 1, until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Take notice of your cake while it's baking. If you feel it's getting very dark and cooked on the outside, turn the temperature down to 120 and bake for longer. All ovens vary greatly, so keep an eye on your precious cake! Leave the cake to cool in the tin, if you want to add an extra brandy kick, you can brush the top of the fruit cake with some extra brandy while it’s warm. Turn out when cold.
TO STORE: Wrap in a double layer of greaseproof paper and a layer of foil. This recipe is really rich and gorgeous, you don't have to leave it to mature if you are in a rush it will still be divine but of course al fruit cake improves with time so you can leave it to mature for 4-6 weeks if you wish.
Cut out little circular fruit cakes with your round cutter, they need to be about 2 inches high so if the cake is a bit deep trim down with a knife.
Brush the fruit cakes with some boiled apricot jam so they are sticky.
Half your marzipan and knead on your worktop dusted with icing sugar and roll out to a thickness of approx 3-4 mm. once you have rolled out you will have a large square. With a sharp knife, cut out smaller squares, bit enough to lay over the top and sides of your mini cakes. Cut off the excess with a small sharp knife around the bottoms.
With 1kg you’ll easily cover 12-16 cakes, if you want to make less just roll out less marzipan.
Place the squares on top and gently push down the sides to stick the marzipan, try not to pull down, but press onto the sides.
Pat the top flat and with the flat of your hands, work around the edges to smooth and straighten and give your cakes a good finish. If you want to try for a more professional look, you can purchase cake smoothers, little flat paddles with a handle to make the surface really flat. You can buy these in many cookware shops now. Repeat the same process until you have as many as you need.
To ice the cakes, brush with a little brandy, vodka or cooled boiled water to make the marzipan sticky. Repeat the rolling out with the sugar paste in the same way, cutting squares, placing over the cakes, trimming and smoothing until they are iced with a smooth surface.
Leave to dry overnight and decorate as required with a readymade iced flower or decoration.
Any leftover fruit cake can be kept wrapped in baking parchment and foil for up to 6 months.