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For the decoration

  • 1 egg white
  • 50g caster sugar
  • small bunch blackgrapes
  • hollyor bay leaves
  • 20cm/8 inch round fruitcake
  • 1-2clementines
  • 1-2just ripe figs
  • a few kumquat
  • a few physalis(Cape gooseberries)
  • approx 65cm red or gold ribbon
  • For the frosting

  • 2 egg whites
  • 175g icing sugar
  • Method

  • STEP 1

    Lightly beat the egg white in a shallow bowl and spread out the caster sugar on a baking sheet or tray. Dip the grapes and the holly or bay leaves into the egg white, or use a paintbrush. Shake off the excess, then coat in the sugar. Set aside to dry for at least 10 mins, ideally about 30 mins.

  • STEP 2

    When you’re ready to decorate, make the frosting. Put a large bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Put the egg whites and icing sugar into the bowl and whisk for 5-7 mins until you have a thick, very glossy frosting. Use a spatula to clean around the edges of the bowl every so often as you whisk. Scoop the frosting onto the top of the cake and spread it around with a flat-edged knife, swirling as you go to create a snowy effect (see Knowhow, below).

  • STEP 3

    Halve the clementines, figs and kumquats, then arrange on top of the frosted cake with the physalis, frosted grapes and leaves. Fix a ribbon around the base and leave the cake somewhere cool – but not the fridge – until your guests arrive.

  • This type of frosting is essentially a meringue, withthe egg being cooked by the heat of the water it’swhisked over. For a deep, swirled topping, dollopa few good spoonfuls of the frosting on top, thengently paddle the frosting out to the sides of thecake with a palette or a flat-edged knife. The frostingis more forgiving than other icings in case you makea mistake, although try to avoid moving it aroundmore than 5 minutes after putting it on the cake.

    OK, so the fruit probably won’t last morethan a day but the point of this cake is that itlooks fabulous and is a cinch to put togetherwhen time is short. You can also add freshcranberries, pomegranate seeds or still-intheirskin lychees. If you’re really stuck fortime this is also a great way to transforma plain bought fruitcake – but that can beyour own little secret!

    Goes well with

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