Tip the sugar, butter, dried fruit, whole cherries, ginger, orange zest and juice into a large pan. Pour over the rum, brandy or juice, then put on the heat and slowly bring to the boil, stirring frequently to melt the butter. Reduce the heat and bubble gently, uncovered for 10 mins, stirring every now and again to make sure the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Set aside for 30 mins to cool.
Stir the nuts, eggs and ground almonds into the fruit, then sift in the flour, baking powder and spices. Stir everything together gently but thoroughly. Your batter is ready.
Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Butter and line a 20cm round tin with baking paper. Spoon the cake mix into the tin and level the top with a spoon dipped into boiling water. Bake for 45 mins, then turn the oven down to 140C/120C fan/gas 1 and bake for 1 hr-1 hr 15 mins more or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. The un-iced cake will keep wrapped in foil for 2 months or will freeze for 1 year.
To decorate the cake, thickly roll out the ready-to-roll icing on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and stamp out ivy shapes with a cutter. Leave for a few hrs or overnight on baking paper to dry, then rub the surface of the leaves with some of the gold or silver lustre.
Brush the top and sides of the fruit cake liberally with apricot jam, then drape the marzipan over the cake. Smooth over the surface with your hands to give a snug fit, then trim away the excess marzipan with a sharp knife. Lift the cake onto a serving plate.
Make up the fondant icing to a spreading consistency, then swirl over the cake to a rough iced effect. Decorate with a cross of ribbon and the ivy leaves while the icing is still wet so that they stick in position, then leave to set.