It’s time to decorate our Christmas cakes! Back in November, just before Stir-Up Sunday, I shared my favourite ever Christmas cake recipe. After periodically feeding it with PX sherry over the last month, it’s now time to cover it in marzipan and icing, and to make it look pretty.
It’s important to note that once you’ve covered the cake with your marzipan layer, it needs at least 24 hours to dry out before adding the icing on top; in addition, if you’re using royal icing as per the recipe below, this will take another few hours to dry – so do ensure you factor this into your timings.
So – first step: the marzipan. The homemade stuff is miles more subtle (and, in my opinion, more tasty) than shop-bought marzipan, and very easy to put together. This can be made up to three days in advance, and stored in the fridge. If you’ve been feeding your cake with alcohol, make sure you leave around a week since its last feed if possible, so it’s not too damp.
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food.
Recipe: Vanilla marzipan
- 175g golden caster sugar
- 280g icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)
- 450g ground almonds
- Seeds of 1 vanilla pod
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp lemon or orange juice
- 3 tbsp apricot jam
- In a large bowl, combine the caster sugar, sifted icing sugar and the ground almonds. Add the seeds scraped from the vanilla pod and mix well.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the beaten eggs and the orange or lemon juice.
- Using a table knife, ‘cut’ the mixture together (sounds weird but it works!) until the wet and dry ingredients have mostly come together into a dough. Bring it together a little with your fingers if you need to.
- Dust a clean work surface with icing sugar and turn out the dough onto it. Knead briefly until you have a smooth mixture, adding more icing sugar if the mixture is too wet.
- Bring together into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge until required.
- When you’re ready to put the marzipan layer on your cake, transfer your cake to a cake board or plate. Warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan, and then strain into a bowl through a sieve. Using a pastry brush (I use a silicone one and it’s a revelation!), lightly cover your cake with the warmed jam.
- Remove the marzipan from the fridge and unwrap. Dust a clean work surface with more icing sugar, and roll out the marzipan with a rolling pin until it forms a circle approx. 40cm in width, rotating it regularly to ensure even thickness and ensuring the dough doesn’t stick to your surface.
- Carefully lift the marzipan and drape over the cake, making sure it’s well covered. Use your hands to smooth the marzipan all over the cake, and then use a sharp knife to trim off the excess.
- Cover the cake with clingfilm and set aside (at room temperature or in the fridge), ideally for at least 24 hours so the marzipan can dry out a bit.
Once your marzipanned cake has dried out for at least a day, you’re ready to ice it – the fun bit! Homemade royal icing is really easy to make, but if you’re short on time and want a smoother finish, you can of course use shop bought ready rolled fondant icing instead.
Recipe adapted from goodtoknow.co.uk.
Recipe: Royal icing
- 2 egg whites
- 450g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp glycerine
- In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites lightly.
- Gradually, add the sifted icing sugar and whisk into the egg whites (ideally using an electric whisk or a stand mixer) a few spoonfuls at a time until you have a stiff, glossy mixture.
- Add the glycerine and mix in thoroughly.
- Now you can use a spatula or palette knife to ice the cake thoroughly, making sure all the marzipan is covered. To achieve a smoother finish, periodically wash the spatula or knife under hot water and smooth it over the layer of icing. Alternatively, you can use your knife to create peaks and swirls on the icing for a snow-like finish.
- Now for decoration! If you have items you’d like to place on your cake which need to stay put, it’s best to put them in position while the icing is still wet. I think using metallic-effect spray or edible glitter look amazing on the pure white icing. Have a Google for other ways to make your cake look lovely.
- Leave the icing to set overnight. Then enjoy your beautiful creation!