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The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and base line a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment. Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, almond extract, flour, ground almonds and milk and beat very well until light and pale in colour. Spread into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 35–40 mins. Remove and allow to become completely cold before cutting and icing.
To make the butter icing, put the butter into a bowl and beat well. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until smooth and creamy. Cut the cake in half to make two rectangles each 10x20cm. Take one half and cut into two pieces measuring 10x14cm and 10x6cm. Using a little butter icing, attach the 10x6cm piece to one end of the 10x20cm piece. This is the cab part of the engine. Take the 10x14cm piece and slice in half horizontally. Spread a little butter icing on the main part of the fire engine (behind the cab) and stick on one of the 10x14cm pieces. The remaining piece of cake is not required.
Using a sharp knife, slice the front of the cab at an angle where the windows will be placed. Spread the whole cake with butter icing. Roll out the red fondant and use to cover the fire engine. Trim around the base.
Roll out all but 50g of the grey icing to an irregular strip and place on a 30cm cake board. Carefully lift the fire engine onto the board.
Unroll about half the liquorice from each of the four wheels. Attach the strips, using a little of the red icing, to make a double border around the base of the cake. Again using the icing, attach the four wheels. Use leftover liquorice to make strips to mark the centre of the road.
Roll out the reserved grey icing and cut out 6 shutters and two wing mirrors. Attach to the cake using red icing. Use the white icing to make two front and two side windows for the cab. Attach with red royal icing and pipe around each window and pipe the cab doors.
Stick on dolly mixtures to represent headlights, roof lights and ladder supports. Make a ladder from the chocolate covered biscuit or mint sticks, chopping and sticking with icing. Attach to the top of the engine with icing.
Stick together the two party rings and attach to the side of the fire engine. Roll the yellow fondant icing into a long sausage and wrap around the biscuits to represent the hose, snake out onto the board and then make a small circle of yellow icing and stick on the end for the nozzle. Colour the remaining royal icing a pale blue colour. Thin with a little water if necessary and drizzle onto the cake board to represent water flowing from the hose.
Using a little blue colouring thinned with water, paint the windows with a fine paint brush. Using black colouring, paint windscreen wipers on the front windows.