30 mins to 1 hour
over 2 hours
Equipment and preparation: For this recipe you will need a 15cm/6in, 23cm/9in and 30cm/12in round cake tin, thin cake boards of respective sizes, and 20cm/8in, 28cm/11in, 35cm/14in thick cake boards. You will also need eight dowelling rods, eight cake pillars and different sized sugar flower cutters. All of these are available from specialist cake shops.
For the sugar flowers, knead the white sugar paste until soft and pliable and roll it out until it is 5mm/¼in thick. Using the cutters, cut out different sized flowers. Roll small pieces of bronze sugar paste in balls and stick them into the middle of the flowers with the edible glue. Set aside to dry for a couple of hours. (The flowers can be made up to a month in advance and stored in an airtight container.)
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 1. Grease and line a 15cm/6in, 23cm/9in and 30cm/12in round cake tin. Ensure that the greaseproof paper comes above the tin by about 9cm/3in so the top of the cake doesn’t burn.
For the 30cm/12in tier, cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until well combined. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Fold in the flour, ground almonds, cinnamon and mixed spice.
Stir in the dried fruit, zest and brandy. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for four hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the 23cm/9in tier and bake in the oven for three hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the 15cm/6in tier and bake in the oven for two hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
When the cakes are cooked, remove them from the oven set aside to cool for 15 minutes. Remove them from the tin and and place onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Warm the apricot jam in a saucepan, then pass it through a sieve.
Level the top of the 15cm/6in fruit cake, paint the top with a little apricot jam, then turn it upside down onto the 15cm/6in thin cake board. Using a piece of string, measure the top and sides of the fruit cake (this is so that you roll the marzipan out to the right size). Paint the fruit cake all over with the apricot jam.
Dust a work surface with icing sugar and roll out 500g/1lb 2oz of the marzipan until it is large enough to cover the top and sides of the fruit cake (use the piece of string as a guide). Carefully lift the marzipan onto the cake and smooth it on with your hands. Trim off any excess marzipan, ensuring the cake board is also covered.
Paint the cake with cooled, boiled water. Knead 500g/1lb 2oz of the white icing until soft and pliable and roll it out until it is 5mm/¼in thick and large enough to cover the top and sides of the fruit cake (use the piece of string as a guide). Carefully lift the icing onto the cake and smooth it on with your hands. Trim off any excess icing. Leave the cakes overnight so that the icing can dry (do not store the cakes in the fridge).
Repeat steps 9, 10 and 11 for the 23cm/9in cake using 1kg/2lb 4oz each of marzipan and icing.
Repeat steps 9, 10 and 11 for the 30cm/12in cake using 2kg/4lb 8oz each of marzipan and icing.
Once the icing has dried, apply a thin line of edible glue around the bottom edge of each cake and carefully stick some ribbon around the cake, securing the join with a little extra glue.
To insert the dowelling rods, hold a dowelling rod at the side of the 23cm/9in cake and mark with a pencil where the icing comes to. Cut the rod and three others to the same length. Push the rods into the cake about 5cm/2in away from the sides, to form the four corners of a square in the centre of the cake. Measure, cut and insert the rods in the same way for the 30cm/12in cake.
To cover the 20cm/8in thick cake boards, knead 400g/14oz of the icing until soft and pliable and roll it out until it is 5mm/¼in thick and large enough to cover the cake board. Spread a little glue over the board, then carefully lift the icing onto the cake board, smoothing it until flat. Trim the edges. Apply a thin line of glue around the edge of the cake board and carefully stick the ribbon around the cake, securing the join with a little extra glue.
Repeat step 16 using 500g/1lb 2oz icing for the 28cm/11in cake board and 750g/1lb 10oz icing for the 35cm/14in cake board.
If you’re transporting the cakes to a venue, it’s best to transport them separately and assemble the cake at the venue. To assemble the cakes, first stick the 30cm/12in cake to the 35cm/14in cake board. Add a little glue to the middle of the 35cm/14in cake board, then position the 30cm/12in cake in the middle. Place four of the pillars on top, positioning each one over a dowelling rod. Top with the 28cm/11in cake board, and repeat the process with the 23cm/9in cake, finishing with the 20cm/8in cake board and the 15cm/6in cake. Using the edible glue, arrange the sugar flowers in on the top of the cake and around the sides of the 15cm/6in, 23cm/9in and 30cm/12in cake.
The cakes can be covered with marzipan up to one month ahead and can then be iced three days in advance.