So the second post in double whammy day is on decorating your Christmas cake! If you cast your mind back to the start of the month, you may remember that the very first post in the Perky Christmas series was my (or perhaps more accurately, Delia’s) recipe for Christmas Cake. Since then I’ve been faithfully feeding my cake it’s weekly dose of brandy to get it in the Christmas spirit (ho ho!). And since Christmas has suddenly arrived, today really is the last opportunity to get decorating and transform my slightly dour fruit cake into a bake worthy of Christmas. Even cakes need a little glamour at this time of year after all.
I usually just use supermarket ready to roll marzipan and fondant icing. This year however, always up for a challenge, I decided it would be fun to make my own. Yes, I know you’re thinking that surely life’s too short for such activities, but I had to try once just to check that I hadn’t been missing out on something amazing all these years.
Good news though! Life is indeed too short and supermarket ready to roll is definitely the way forward on the marzipan front. My home made version (recipe by Delia here) was slightly crunchy and didn’t have the intense almondy deliciousness that the shop version has. Either I didn’t make it right or the years I’ve spent consuming supermarket marzipan have damaged my tastebuds… either way, save your wrists (far too much whisking involved) and time and buy supermarket marzipan for your cakes.
And on the fondant icing front, the home made version is probably marginally tastier. It wasn’t that tricky to make either, albeit did involve some slightly strange ingredients that sound as though they could be in a bar of soap not a cake: glucose, glycerine, and gelatine in addition to icing sugar and water.
To be frank though, no one really seems to like fondant icing that much and with enough marzipan and the delicious cake beneath it I think the effort and ingredients required negate the marginally better taste in this case too. The recipe I used from Lindy’s Cakes is below though just in case anyone is keen enough to try it out.
The decorating bit is, in my opinion, the highlight of the whole cake production process. And if you’ve never iced a cake with marzipan and fondant icing before, a fruit cake is a great starting point as it’s so sturdy.
For a 20cm cake you’ll need 400g marzipan and 500g fondant icing (also called sugar paste) in addition to some apricot jam and a little icing sugar.
First you need to brush the cake all over with a couple of tablespoons of melted apricot jam, to help the marzipan to stick to the cake.
Roll out your marzipan on a surface dusted with icing sugar into a round about the thickness of a pound coin and big enough to cover your cake. Make sure you turn it all the time otherwise it will stick to the table and you’ll have to start again. To check it’s big enough to cover the cake, use a piece of string to measure the cake sides and top and then compare to the size of your marzipan.
With the help of a rolling pin, gently lift the marzipan over the cake, laying it centrally, and then use your hands to gently smooth over the cake, making sure no seams form as you mould the marzipan around the sides. Trim off the excess using a knife. Stage one is complete!
Next, roll out your fondant icing, again on an icing sugar dusted surface to the thickness of a pound coin. Don’t make it too thin as this will make it tricky to work with. Again, make sure you turn the icing all the time to stop it sticking to the surface. Before you pick up the icing to lay it onto the cake, brush a little water or brandy over the marzipan to ensure the icing will stick to it.
Using the rolling pin to help you again, guide the icing over the cake and use your hands to smooth the icing over the top and then sides of the cake, working around so you don’t get any folds or creases. Once you’re done, trim off the excess around the bottom, and if you have some, use cake smoothers to ensure you have a really nice smooth, shiny surface.
Now you can either just tie some ribbon around the cake and leave it elegantly plain, or you can decorate the top. For my cake, I cut out little holly leaves and stuck them to the cake with a little water and used some silver balls as berries. Alternatively you could use some coloured icing to pipe “Merry Christmas” on top.
And there you have it. Your Christmas cake is ready for it’s big moment tomorrow afternoon at teatime…well, if you can fit any in after lunch that is!
Fondant Icing/Sugarpaste Recipe
From Lindy’s Cakes
30ml cold water
1/2 sachet / 2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
65ml liquid glucose (about 70g)
1/2 tablespoon glycerine
500g icing sugar
1. Place the water in a small bowl, add the gelatine and soak for a couple of minutes until spongy. Stand the bowl over a pan of hot but not boiling water and stir until the gelatine has dissolved. Add the glucose and glycerine and stir until well mixed and runny.
2. Put the icing sugar in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the glycerine, glucose, and gelatine mix and stir together with a spoon. If after mixing well it’s still a little dry and not coming together, add a drop of extra water – be careful not to add too much though.
3. Once the fondant has come together, turn out onto a surface dusted with icing sugar and knead until it forms a soft, smooth ball.
4. Either use immediately or tightly wrap in clingfilm and a plastic bag until needed.