Place all the dried fruit, cherries, peel, alcohol, spice and zest in a large pan. Squeeze over the orange juice and bring to the boil. Tip into a large bowl and stir in the orange essence. Cool, then cover and set aside for 2-4 days (the longer it's left, the better the flavour), stirring daily.
When ready to bake, butter a 25cm springform round cake tin and line with 2 layers of baking parchment. To protect the cake during cooking, wrap the outside of the tin with a few sheets of brown paper and secure with string. Preheat the oven to 140°C, fan 120°C, gas 1.
Sift the flour twice into a large bowl. Place the butter and sugar in a separate large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Fold the flour in gently with a large metal spoon, then fold in the soaked fruits. Spoon into the tin and level.
Cut a piece of brown paper to fit just over the cake and cut a 50p-sized hole in the centre. Place on the cake to prevent over-browning. Bake for 3½-4 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container until ready to decorate.