1. A few hours before (or the night before), soak the fruit in the orange juice and spirit, which you have chosen. This will make them plump up and give the cake more flavour.
2. Once they have soaked drain them well. Reserve the liquid.
3. Pre-heat oven to 150º C Gas Mark 4.
4. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan, the equivalent to 2lb, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper so it overhangs the end, which will make the loaf easy to lift out.
5. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients, the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, brown sugar, spices and nuts.
6. Add the drained dry fruits and toss everything together so the fruit and nuts get a good coating in the flour, this is important so they don't sink in the batter.
7. In a separate bowl, beat/whisk the eggs and vanilla until light coloured and thick (this will take a couple of minutes).
8. Add the egg mixture to the fruit and nut mixture.
9. Add the reserved liquid from the fruit and melted butter and mix until all the fruit and nut pieces are coated with the batter but do not overbeat/whisk or the cake will be heavy.
10. Spread the mix into the prepared loaf pan.
11. Bake for approx 1 hour, or until the batter is golden brown and has pulled away from the sides of the pan (If you find the loaf over browning too quickly, cover with aluminium foil after about 40 minutes.) To make 100 per cent sure the loaf is cooked, insert a knife or skewer into the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean the cake is cooked, if it comes out gunky, stick it back in for 5 minutes then test again.
12. Once cooked remove from oven and leave to cool. When cool, lift the loaf from the pan and prepare the topping.
13. For the topping you want to melt the sugar and butter in a pan over a medium high heat. Once bubbling turn the heat off and add the rest of the ingredients.
14. Spoon over the top of the loaf before serving allowing the juices to run down the sides.
15. The loaf can be made up to 2 weeks in advance, as long as it's stored in an airtight container or wrapped in Clingfilm. It's actually best a couple of days in. Prepare the sauce when you are ready to eat the cake.
16. For the cream, whisk the cream until thick then stir in the orange zest and the Cointreau if using, embarrassingly easy.
tip* to toast nuts is to release their flavour so it's well worth doing, to do this simply add them to a dry baking tray in a single layer and roast for 15 minutes. You can also do this in a dry frying pan on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Keep an eye on them - you know they are done when their colour begins to change, you can smell toasted nuts in the air and their skins loosen and flake off. You can always cheat and buy ready toasted nuts, it’s no sin!
For the loaf
3 large eggs
40g melted butter
160g dark brown sugar
100g plain flour
1tsp of vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange, FInely grated
juice of 1 orange
1tsp mixed spice
1tsp baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
50ml cointreau or brandy
250g of each you're chosen toasted nuts see tip*
250g dried fruits such as sultanas, currants, glace cherries, dried apricots, pitted dates and figs
For the topping
60g of butter and sugar
2tbsp golden syrup
A small handful each of your favourite toasted nuts and dried fruits (I like hazelnuts and blanched almonds along with glace cherries)
For the orange cream
1 small tub of double cream
1 shot of Cointreau (optional)
1 orange zest