1. Combine all the dried and glacé fruit, candied peel and almonds in a large bowl. Add the orange zest and juice, and the brandy. Mix well, cover and leave for several hours or overnight .
2. Heat your oven to 150°C. Line the base and the sides of a 20cm round deep cake tin with a double thickness of baking parchment, cutting it so that it stands a good 5cm proud of the top of the tin.
3. In a very large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together for several minutes until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little of the flour with each to prevent the mixture splitting. Stir in the fruit mixture. Sift the remaining flour over the mixture and fold in, using a large metal spoon. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.
4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 3 hours, then check by inserting a skewer into the centre – if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. If not, give it a further 15-30 minutes. Leave the cake to cool before removing it from the tin.
5. When your cake is completely cooled – and ideally after a couple of days – you can marzipan and ice it. Warm the apricot jam gently in a saucepan with a splash of water to thin it down, sieve, then brush all over the cake.
6. Roll out 300g of the marzipan to a large circle, about 4mm thick. Using the cake tin as a guide, cut a round of marzipan to fit the top of the cake and then position it. Roll out the other 200g marzipan with the trimmings and cut 2 long strips to fit around the side of the cake. Position these, then smooth the marzipan and mould around the edges together.
7. If you are using ready-to-roll icing, roll it out on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar to a thickness of about 5mm. Lift it over the marzipan, smooth down and trim off the excess at the base.
8. If you are using homemade royal icing, smooth it over the cake with a palette knife. You can leave it smooth or swirl it into peaks with the back of a spoon or your palette knife, as you choose. Leave to set.
9. Wrap a ribbon around the side of your Christmas cake and finish as you wish with festive decorations.