You need to begin this cake
the night before you want to bake it. Mix the dried fruit and zests, place it in a mixing bowl and mix in the apple cider (brandy was used in the old English recipe) as evenly and thoroughly as possible. Cover the bowl with a clean tea cloth and leave the fruit aside to absorb the cider for 12 hours.
Next day pre-heat the oven to 350*. Now begin the cake by sifting the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing. Next, in a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until it's light, pale and fluffy. Now beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the creamed mixture a tablespoonful at a time; keep the whisk running until all the egg is incorporated. If you add the eggs slowly by degrees like this the mixture won't curdle. If it does, don't worry, any cake full of such beautiful things can't fail to taste good!
When all the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices, using gentle, folding movements and not beating at all (this is to keep all that precious air in). Now fold in the fruit mixture and chopped nuts. Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared bread tins, spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon and, if you don't intend to ice the cake, lightly drop the whole blanched almonds in circles or squares all over the surface. Finally cover the top of the cakes with foil, do not seal the foil, just lay on top so that the cakes can rise and get air.
Bake the cake for 4½-4¾ hours. Sometimes it can take up to ½-¾ hour longer than this, but in any case don't look till at least 4 hours have passed. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling. When it's cold 'feed' it – make small holes in the top and base of the cake with a cocktail stick or small skewer, then spoon over a few teaspoons of cider or brandy, decorate with icing of choice and enjoy.