MAKE FRUIT STARTER (3 WEEKS): Combine fruit cocktail, peaches, pineapple, maraschino cherries, brandy and sugar in a large glass jar and stir well with a wooden spoon. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel or cheesecloth and let stand at room temperature for 3 weeks. Stir mixture 2 to 3 times each week. (Do not cover with an airtight lid; the fermenting mixture will expand and the jar could burst.) Drain fruit (and set aside for another use), reserving the liquid. The liquid is the Fruit Starter for the Friendship Cake.
MAKE CAKE (4 WEEKS):
Day 1: Pour liquid starter into a large glass jar. Cut peaches into chunks and add to the starter with liquid from the can. Add 2 cups of sugar and stir well. Cover jar with a clean kitchen towel and secure with a rubber band. (Do not use a tight lid because the mixture needs air to ferment.) Stir once a day for 10 days.
DAY 10: Add pineapple tidbits with the liquid from the can. Add 2 cups sugar. Stir well and loosely cover. Stir once a day for 10 days.
DAY 20: Add drained and halved maraschino cherries and 2 cups sugar to the jar and mix well. Stir once a day for 10 days.
DAY 30: Grease and flour 2 bundt pans and preheat oven to 300℉. Drain fruit and reserve liquid to be given away as starters to friends. (Yields about 3-4 pints of liquid.) The fruit will be used in the cake. Mix sifted cake flour, the remaining 1 cup of sugar, instant vanilla pudding, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Combine eggs, sour cream and vegetable oil. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients 1/3 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Fold in fruit and nuts. Divide batter into pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pans, then place cakes onto serving plates. Store cakes in an air-tight container or cover with plastic wrap. They can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
TO GIFT: Place the Fruit Starter in mason jars or other decorative airtight containers. Type or hand-write the cake portion of the recipe and include it with each jar of Fruit Starter; give it to 3 of your friends (keep one in the freezer for yourself). You can also give a cake with the starter. Like a chain letter, this cake will be passed on from friend to friend.