The Time given above for making the cake does not include time for pre-soaking the fruit, but only for mixing the batter and baking the cake.
Please read the write up to my post on How to make a rich Christmas fruit cake, as it has many tips that can help you when you are baking this eggless cake.
For how to soak fruits for the Christmas cake, check the links in the write up to this post, above.
Keep the butter (if using) out well ahead of time to bring it to room temperature before you start baking. The milk should also be at room temperature.
Grease with oil and line with parchment, a square 8" tin. Use 2-3 layers of parchment and allow the paper to jut out of the tin all around, for at least an inch, maybe 2.
Measure the ingredients as in the list above, and keep them ready for mixing the batter.
Toast the nuts and chop into very small pieces but not into crumbly bits
Preheat the oven to 150 C (300 F)
Add the toasted sliced nuts to the measured quantity of soaked fruits, and stir them in.
Sieve together the dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder and baking soda and the spice mix. If using butter, melt it but allow it to cool, without solidifying. Hot butter should not be mixed into the cake.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in milk, oil/ melted butter and molasses if using, and the vanilla extract, if using. Omit the molasses for a non-added sugar version. Add the lemon zest.
Add the nuts, mix.
Add the soaked dry fruits with their liquid, and mix it all in, not stirring too much but just enough that all the flour becomes moist.
Transfer the batter to the prepared cake tin.
Bake for 1.5 hours or till the cake is lightly brown/ golden brown and a tooth pick inserted, comes out clean with no batter clinging to it. It can take upto 2 hours, depending on the oven, so keep checking after the first 1.25 hours.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.
Brush the surface with apricot, peach or apple jam. Though the cake tastes pretty good even without the jam.
You can give a cake a glaze on top, or drizzle some icing sugar, if you wish.