Pre-heat oven to 160 C. Lightly grease a 8 X 4.5 X 2.5 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom of the tin with 2 layers butter paper. Also line the sides of the pan with butter paper that extends 2" above the top edge. (You can hold the strip with a paper clip while filling/ baking).
Drain the dried fruits. Reserve the alcohol, if any. You can add the same in the batter or use it to feed the cake after baking. Lightly coat the drained fruit with little flour to avoid sinking to the bottom of the pan.
Sift flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg & all spice into a large bowl. Rub in butter using your fingertips.
Stir in the sugar, soaked fruits, nuts & ground almonds using wooden spoon. Give it a good stir.
Add all but 2 Tbsps of milk & stir gently. Warm the remaining milk in microwave (it should not be boiling but warm to touch). Pour the warm milk on the baking soda and then stir it thoroughly into the mixture. Do not beat.
Pour into the prepared pan, slightly hollow out the center so that the cake doesn't form a dome upon rising. Decorate the top with blanched almonds.
Bake at 160 C for 45 mins without opening the door. Then reduce the temp to 150 C & bake for another 30 mins or till a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean with just few moist bits.
Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. De-mold & remove the butter paper.
Marinate a cheesecloth in brandy, allow it to soak well. Gently squeeze the cloth to remove excess brandy, the cloth should be moist enough. The cheesecloth should be able to go round the cake 2-3 times.
Using a skewer or tooth pick, poke holes on the underside of the cake. Brush with drained brandy (step 3). Cover the cake completely in cheesecloth going round 2-3 times. Then wrap tightly in aluminum foil and place in an air-tight container. The foil should not come in contact with the cake directly. Do not refrigerate this cake while feeding.
After 4-5 days, remove the foil & lightly brush the cake with more brandy through the cheesecloth. Through the old foil & wrap in new foil. Repeat the process till you are ready to eat. This cake keeps well for several weeks.