Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Using the 28cm cake board, or the base of a 28cm cake tin as a template, draw a circle on the baking parchment, then flip it over so that the pen or pencil doesn’t come into contact with the meringue.
Tip 5 of the egg whites into a large bowl, or the bowl of a tabletop mixer (make sure it’s extremely clean – any traces of grease will prevent the egg whites from holding) and add a pinch of salt. Whisk the egg whites using an electric whisk, or in the mixer, until stiff peaks form. Add 275g of the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, while continuing to mix. Once incorporated, the mixture should be stiff and shiny, and should hold up in peaks on the end of the beaters. Add 1 tsp cornflour and 1 tsp vinegar and mix again until combined.
Use some meringue to stick the parchment to the baking sheet. Pile the meringue onto the parchment and spread it out with a spatula or palette knife to fill the circle. Bake on the middle shelf for 1 hr 20 mins, then turn off the oven without opening the door, and leave the meringue inside to cool for at least 4 hrs to prevent it from cracking. Once cool, loosely cover with cling film or a tea towel and leave in a cool and dry place for up to 2 days.
Follow steps 1-3 for the next two layers, but this time line two baking sheets with parchment. Draw a 20cm circle on one and a 14cm circle on the other. Once you’ve made the meringue mixture, divide it between the baking sheets and spread out to fill the circles. Bake for 1 hr 20 mins and cool as before.
To make the compote, put the apricots in a saucepan with the caster sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 5-8 mins until the fruit is soft and pulpy. Remove from the heat and use a stick blender to purée the fruit, adding a splash of water if needed. Cool until you’re ready to assemble. Can be made up to 2 days before, or frozen for up to 2 months.
On the day you want to assemble and serve the meringue, halve or quarter five apricots, and stone half the cherries. Toss the peach slices, apricots and stoned cherries with 2 tbsp icing sugar and set aside to macerate for 30 mins.
Remove the cardamom seeds from the pods and grind to a powder using a pestle and mortar. Pour 1 litre of the cream into a large bowl or freestanding mixer. Add 25g icing sugar and half the cardamom. Whisk until the cream is just holding its shape – don’t overwhip. Use a little of the cream to stick the largest meringue to a cake board or stand, then pile the rest on top. Drizzle over some compote and scatter with the macerated fruit and some pistachios. Insert four dowling rods, pushing them into the centre of the meringue until they hit the base, then snip the tops so they sit flush with the cream and fruit
Whip the remaining cream, sugar and cardamom, and use a little to stick the 20cm meringue to the cake board. Carefully put this on top, then pile on just over half the cream. Top with compote, fruit and pistachios as before. then insert four more dowling rods and cut them to the correct height.
Use some of the remaining cream to stick the final layer to its cake board and position on top carefully. Top with more cream, compote, nuts and fruit, and finish with the remaining unstoned cherries. Serve as soon as possible – the meringue will only hold for 1-2hrs.