1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
200g ready-to-eat dates, roughly chopped
100g natural glacé cherries, halved
250g ready-to-eat exotic dried fruits (we like Sainsbury’s), roughly chopped
50g stem ginger in sugar syrup, chopped
250ml dark rum, plus extra
175g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175g molasses sugar
4 medium eggs, beaten
200g self-raising flour
100g pecans, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1-2 tbsp milk
For the marzipan layer
1 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
250g ready-made natural almond marzipan
Icing sugar, to roll out the marzipan
For the royal icing
3 medium eggs, separated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
800g icing sugar, sifted
Food colouring (your choice of colours)
For the cookies
65g icing sugar
Few drops vanilla extract
1 medium egg yolk
125g unsalted butter, diced
190g plain flour
Edible food glitter (optional), to decorate
1. Run a knife down the inside length of the vanilla pod to remove the seeds. Set both the pod and seeds aside. Put the raisins, sultanas, dates, cherries, mixed exotic dried fruits, ginger and the vanilla pod and seeds into a large bowl. Pour in the rum, mix, cover and set aside for 24 hours, stirring occasionally, until the rum has been absorbed and the fruit has plumped up.
2. Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed round, deep cake tin. Cut out 1 circle of baking paper to fit the base of the tin, and 1 long length about 4cm taller than the tin. Snip short cuts along the long edge, and fit it inside the tin with the snipped cuts resting on the base. Sit the circle of paper on top. Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan130°C/gas 2.
3. Drain and weigh out 450g of the soaked fruit, discarding the vanilla pod. Purée in a food processor then mix with the rest of the whole soaked fruits and set aside.
4. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar very well. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding flour if it curdles. Add the fruit, flour, pecans and spices and fold until well mixed. Stir in milk if it’s a little stiff. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface with the back of a spoon. Make a shallow dent in the centre of the cake so it doesn’t peak up too much in the oven. Bake for 21/2-3 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for a few hours, then remove from the tin onto a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Turn the cake over and brush the base with jam. Roll the marzipan out on icing sugar to a circle just larger than the cake. Put the cake onto the marzipan, jam-side down. Make 4 piping bags. Cut 2 pieces of greaseproof paper into 25cm squares, then cut each piece diagonally into 2. In your left hand, hold the middle of the long side of 1 triangle (it’ll look like an arrow pointing right). Make a cone by rolling the top corner with your right hand to meet the right-angle of the triangle, and hold with your thumb and forefinger. Using your left hand, roll the final corner around to meet the other 2. Fold the tips of the 3 corners inside the cone. Repeat with the other 3 triangles and set aside.
6. Make the icing. Put the egg whites (reserve the yolks), lemon juice and half the icing sugar in a bowl and stir until smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the icing sugar until the mixture is smooth and forms soft peaks. Turn the cake over again. Using a palette knife, spread 300g of icing over the marzipan, then swirl and peak. Fill 1 piping bag with icing. Snip off the end to make a small hole and pipe around the edge of the cake, pulling down as you go to make small icicles. Leave to set for at least 4 hours. Cover the remaining icing with cling film to prevent it drying out.
7. For the cookies, put the icing sugar, vanilla, 1 egg yolk, butter and flour into a food processor and whizz until just combined and firm – do not overmix. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
8. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Knead the dough briefly to soften and roll out on a lightly floured work surface to 3mm thick. Cut out shapes from the dough using star- and moon-shaped cookie cutters in a variety of sizes (or use a sharp knife to cut out shapes). Place spaced apart on lined baking sheets and brush with the reserved egg yolks. Bake for 10-12 minutes until pale golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.