Mary’s light fruit cake is covered with marzipan and fondant icing to look like a tennis court, but you can easily adapt it to your sport of choice. A great birthday cake for sports fans!
Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/140°C/Gas 3. Grease a 23cm x 15cm rectangular cake tin, then line the base and sides with a double layer of baking parchment.
Cut the cherries into quarters, put in a sieve and rinse under running water then drain well. Drain and roughly chop the pineapple, then dry the pineapple and cherries very thoroughly on kitchen paper. Snip the apricots into pieces. Roughly chop the almonds. Place the prepared fruit and nuts in a bowl with the grated lemon rind and sultanas and gently mix together.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a food mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, including a spoonful of flour with each addition to prevent the mixture curdling. Fold in the flour and ground almonds. Lightly fold in the fruit and nuts then turn the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Level the surface.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 2 hours, until golden brown. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Cover the cake loosely with foil after 1 hour to prevent the top becoming too dark.
Leave to cool in the tin for 15 mins then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.
For the almond paste, mix the ground almonds and sugars in a bowl, add the egg and almond essence. Knead with your hands in the bowl to form a stiff paste, but don’t over-knead as this will make the paste oily. Wrap in clingfilm.
For the royal icing, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they become frothy. Mix in the sifted icing sugar a tablespoonful at a time. You can do this with a hand-held electric whisk but keep the speed low. Beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks. Cover the surface of the icing with clingfilm.
For the fondant, place the gelatine, water, glucose and glycerine in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water and heat until the gelatine has dissolved. (Do not allow the water to boil or the gelatine to get too hot.) Remove from the heat. Sieve half of the icing sugar into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the gelatine mixture and mix together using a wooden spoon. Sieve the remaining sugar onto the work surface and tip the mixture onto it. Knead together until the fondant is smooth and pliable. Reserve a thumb-size piece of the white fondant and wrap in clingfilm. Little by little, add mint-green food colouring to the remaining fondant and knead to a pale pistachio-green colour. Wrap in clingfilm to prevent drying out.
Roll out the almond paste on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, to a rectangle slightly larger than the cake. Neatly cut out a 23cm x 15cm rectangle and place on a silicon sheet dusted with icing sugar. (This will enable you to slip the almond paste on top of the cake, once the cake has cooled.)
Roll out the green fondant on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, to a rectangle slightly larger than the cake. Neatly cut out a 23cm x 15cm rectangle and carefully place on top of the almond paste.
Divide the royal icing between 3 bowls. Colour one bowl pale dusky pink, the second bowl a light gold colour, and leave the third bowl white.
Spoon most of the white royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a No. 3 writing nozzle. Pipe the outline of a tennis court on top of the green fondant, leaving a 2cm gap around the edge.
On a sheet of greaseproof paper or a silicon mat, pipe the outline of 2 small tennis rackets (approx. 5cm long) and a tennis net about 12cm x 3cm (it should be the same width as the court you piped onto the fondant). Spoon the remaining white icing into a piping bag fitted with a No. 2 plain nozzle and pipe the strings of the tennis racket within the tennis racket outline and the strings of the net within the outline of the net. Leave to dry until you can peel them off the paper.
Spoon the pink icing into the piping bag fitted with the No. 8 star nozzle, and spoon the gold icing into the piping bag fitted with the No. 7 star nozzle.
Using the pink and the gold icing, pipe a decorative border around the edge of the fondant.
When the cake has cooled, gently lift the decorative iced layer of almond paste and fondant onto the cake.
Pipe a line of white icing across the middle of the tennis court. Peel the net off the greaseproof paper and stick it on the line of icing, so it stands up on top of the cake. Lay the iced tennis rackets on either end of the court and finally roll a small tennis ball from the reserved fondant.