This has been my favorite fruitcake since I first tasted it when I was in my teens. The recipe is adapted from one given to me by Daphne Giles, the British sister-in-law of my late childhood friend, Noel Giles. Daphne comes from Newbury, near Oxford, and prepared this every year for Noel's Christmas day birthday.

Makes fifty 2-inch squares


Batter

8 ounces dark raisins
8 ounces golden raisins
8 ounces currants
8 ounces dates, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces dried figs, stemmed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces mixed candied fruit
4 ounces candied cherries
4 ounces candied pineapple, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 ounces walnut halves
4 ounces pecan halves
4 ounces whole almonds
1/2 cup plus dark rum or brandy, plus more for sprinkling
2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs

Topping

1 pound almond paste
4 cups (1 1-pound box) confectioners’ sugar
1 cup light corn syrup

One 12-x-18-inch half sheet pan

  1. In a large bowl, combine fruits and nuts and toss with rum or brandy. (The mixture may be left covered several days at this point.)
  2. When you’re ready to bake the cake set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees.
  3. Sift flour with other dry ingredients and set aside. Beat butter until light then beat in brown sugar. Continue beating until lighter. Beat in a third of the flour mixture, 2 eggs, and continue alternating until all is combined, ending with flour mixture. Pour batter over fruit and nuts and fold thoroughly together.
  4. Press batter into the prepared pan. Place a piece of parchment or foil over the batter and press it so it adheres well. Bake until firm and no longer wet, about 1 hour, being careful not to overbake.
  5. Cool the fruitcake in the pan. Moisten cheesecloth with 1/2 of the remaining rum. Sprinkle cake with remaining rum and wrap it in rum-moistened cheesecloth. Wrap in plastic and foil and age the fruitcake several weeks, if you wish. (Please note: Although the cake should keep fine at room temperature, especially since it has been soaked with alcohol, I prefer to age it in the refrigerator.)
  6. For topping, combine almond paste, sugar and 1/3 cup corn syrup in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse repeatedly about 10 or 12 times to form a dough. Remove from work bowl and knead until smooth. Double wrap in plastic and store until needed at room temperature.
  7. To cover the fruitcake with the marzipan, bring the remaining 2/3 cup corn syrup to a boil in a small saucepan. Brush half the hot corn syrup on the fruitcake. On a surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar, roll half the marzipan to the size of the fruitcake. Lift and place marzipan on fruitcake, pressing to adhere. Invert fruitcake to a clean surface and repeat with remaining corn syrup and marzipan. Trim edges and cut fruitcake into 2-inch squares. Wrap any leftover squares in plastic wrap.