This gorgeous iced fruitcake is a wonderful, traditional way to welcome a new member of the family. The beautiful floral decorations, made from dainty fresh flower heads dusted lightly with caster sugar, are surprisingly simple to create.
For the Cake
500 g butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
8 eggs, separated
4 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons brandy or whisky
3 cups sultanas
1 cup slivered almonds
3 cups chopped mixed peel
For the Marzipan
3 cups icing sugar
4 1/2 cups ground almonds
8 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons triple strength rose water
6 tablespoons apricot jam, heated and sieved
For the Icing
6 egg whites, lightly whisked
9 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons glycerine
For the Decoration
A selection of fresh flower heads, such as miniature roses, freesias, primroses, violets or rose petals
2 teaspoons gum arabic (from chemists or cake decorating shops), or 1 small, lightly beaten egg white
4 teaspoons rose water
About 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
Ribbon, to decorate
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For the Cake, first preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 23 cm square cake tin and line with nonstick baking paper. Beat the butter until it is soft and creamy, add the sugar and beat until the mixture is very light and ﬂuffy.
Whisk the egg whites until they will hold a soft peak, then gradually beat them into the creamed mixture. Whisk the egg yolks until they are light, thick and creamy. Gradually beat them into the butter mixture.
Sift the ﬂour and spices into the bowl and, using a large metal spoon, carefully fold them into the mixture. Gently mix in the brandy or whisky, then gently fold in the sultanas and slivered almonds.
Spoon a third of the mixture into the tin, spread evenly and sprinkle with half the peel. Add half the remaining mixture, sprinkle with the remaining peel, then spread the last of the mixture on top.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 1 1/4–1 1/2 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven, leave in the tin for 1 hour to cool, then remove the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the almond paste, sift the icing sugar into a bowl, mix in the almonds and mix to a stiff paste with the egg yolks, vanilla and rose water. Turn out onto a work surface, lightly dusted with icing sugar, and knead briefly until smooth. Roll out to a 38 cm square.
Put the cake on a 28 cm cake board and brush it all over with hot apricot jam. Lift the almond paste carefully onto the cake and smooth it evenly over the top and down the sides. Trim the excess from around the bottom. Leave overnight in a cool place to dry.
For the icing, put the egg whites in a bowl and gradually beat in the icing sugar, beating well until the mixture is smooth. Next, beat in the glycerine.
Using a palette knife, spread an even layer of icing over the top of the cake, then pull a ruler, preferably a metal one, across the top of the cake to smooth the icing. Trim the excess icing from the edges. Spread a coat of icing over one side of the cake, then pull a cake scraper along the side to smooth it. Repeat with the other sides.
Leave the cake overnight to dry. Meanwhile, put the remaining icing in a clean bowl, cover the surface closely with plastic wrap, cover the bowl and refrigerate.
Next day, trim the rough icing from around the top edge and corners of the cake with a sharp knife. Beat the chilled icing mixture and coat the cake as before. Repeat twice more, leaving each coat to dry overnight before adding the next. Reserve the remaining icing for piping decorative borders of your choice around the edges of the cake.
For the decoration, select about 18 to 24 of the most perfect ﬂower heads and, depending on their size, leave them whole or separate the petals.
Blend the gum arabic (or egg white) smoothly with the rose water. Using a clean, fine paintbrush, paint each ﬂower lightly and evenly with the gum arabic (or egg white) mixture, then immediately sift lightly all over with caster sugar.
Put the ﬂowers on a wire rack to dry in a warm place for two to three days.
Spoon some of the remaining icing into a paper piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle and pipe a decorative border around the top and bottom edges of the cake. This can be stars or shells, or a double shell edge as shown in the picture.
Leave overnight to dry. Tie the ribbon around the cake and decorate the top with the sugared ﬂowers.