• I’ve gone a little crazy over glacé orange slices lately. You could use them in place of the glacé apricots and pineapple, keeping the orange-flavour theme going in this recipe. Or, use the glacé orange, finely chopped, in place of the mixed peel.
• Don’t be put off about making the syrup for this recipe. Let the sugar melt slowly and tilt the pan so the sugar browns evenly and stir it gently. Remember, sugar reaches a very high temperature, you’re caramelising it here, so be careful. Remove the pan from the heat, add the juice, stand back as the mixture will spit and spatter as the cold juice hits the hot caramel. Lumps of toffee will form, which need to be melted. Sometimes if you just leave the syrup alone, the residual heat will melt the toffee, but most people are in a hurry, so return the pan to a low heat and stir it until the toffee melts. Don’t boil the syrup, you don’t want to evaporate any of the lovely syrup.
• To slow down the cooling of the cake, which takes at least overnight, I throw a couple of folded towels over the cake pan. When the cake is cold, I remove the foil and wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap, then keep the cake in a plastic container in the fridge. I never bother with freezing rich fruit cakes. The cake will keep and cut perfectly at room temperature, but if insects are about, the fridge is the best place. The cake will cut like butter and return to room temperature quickly.
• I’ve abandoned using brown paper for lining cake pans; three layers of baking paper is just fine. If you struggle with lining the pan, coat the inside of the pan with a little spray oil, it will hold the outer layer of paper in place.