1. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm loose-bottomed deep round cake tin with baking paper.
2. Put the dried fruit, cherries, port or rum and orange zest and juice into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
3. Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan130°C/gas 2. Beat the margarine and sugar together until pale. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour with a pinch of salt, then add the mixed spice and ground almonds until well combined. Stir in the fruit and pecan nuts and spoon into the prepared tin. Level the surface and bake for 3½ hours until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
4. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then take out and cool on a rack. Discard the baking paper and re-wrap in baking paper and foil. Keep in an airtight tin for up to 2 months.
Tip: Decorate this cake with glacé fruits and nuts or marzipan and icing. If you need to avoid wheat sources of sugar check labels carefully and make sure the dried fruits have no added sugar.
For the cake decoration
Mixed nuts and glace fruit
1. Warm 3 tablespoons of apricot jam with 1 tablespoon of water and brush half over the surface of the cake. Arrange 100g mixed nuts, 550g mixed glacé fruit (such as cherries, pears, melon, orange, lemon) on top and brush with the remaining apricot mixture to glaze.
Tip: Take your time when decorating the cake to ensure a smooth finish.
For a traditional cake
1. Warm 3 tablespoons apricot jam with 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan, then push through a sieve. Turn the cake over and place on a 25cm round cake board. Brush all over with the sieved apricot jam.
2. On a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, roll out 600g almond marzipan to a 25cm circle. Lift over the cake and press down lightly, using cupped hands to shape the sides. Trim off any excess.
3. On a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, lightly knead 250g ready-to-roll white fondant icing until softened. Brush the marzipan with a tiny bit of water to make the marzipan 'tacky'. On a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and a tiny bit of cornflour, roll out the fondant icing to a 25cm round. Lift over the cake and shape, as with the marzipan.
4. Dust your hands with icing sugar and cornflour and 'polish' the cake. Trim the edges with a knife to finish.