Okay so last time we saw your Christmas cake it was stashed somewhere wrapped in parchment or foil and being occasionally ‘fed’ with a bit of booze. Now it’s time for the fun bit… the decoration!
You will need:
Making your own marzipan (or almond paste) is really easy. There are recipes everywhere so I won’t bore you with that bit. Or just pick up a block of marzipan at the supermarket).
Jam or marmalade
Basically you need something sticky to adhere the marzipan to your cake. Traditionally, apricot jam is used, but frankly I find it a pain as it’s often lumpy and my Christmas spirit doesn’t run to pushing jam through a sieve. I use rindless marmalade, which is kind of like jelly so it’s much easier, plus the flavour echoes the orange in the cake. Tradition also says that you should ‘boil’ your jam, but really you just need to melt it. As far as I can work out there’s no actual benefit from boiling it (maybe thickening it? But then why add the water? I read somewhere that it’s supposed to inhibit bacteria development but I’m not sure why bacteria would decide to run rife around your Christmas cake anyway) plus it spits everywhere, makes a mess and HURTS (I’m speaking from experience here) if it splashes you.
You can buy this in packs, and I think ready rolled as well. I was really tempted by a hot pink colour in my local cake decorating shop, but resisted the urge and went for traditional white!
To marzipan and ice your Christmas cake:
Just put two or three spoonfuls of whatever sticky stuff you’re using and pop them into a saucepan with a splash of water.
Splodge the warm jam or jelly liberally all over your cake (brush or spread, whatever you like), then just roll out your marzipan (it’s helpful if you squish it into a rough circular shape before you start – use a dusting of icing sugar instead of flour) until it’s big enough to flop over the cake. I roll mine out on clingfilm, then you can just pick the whole thing up and flop it over the cake, smoothing it down over the sides.
Cut off the excess, tucking it in a bit underneath the cake and you’re done.
It will need to dry out now, so put it back in the tin (or if it’s on a cake stand, cover it with a piece of baking parchment or something) for at least a few days (you’ve still got time!).
When it’s dry, it’s time for the fondant icing.
Repeat the process of shaping and rolling out the block of icing. Give the marzipan a brush over with some boiled water to give the icing a ‘key’ to stick to, then just flop the icing over the cake, again smoothing it down as before. My cake wasn’t perfectly flat on top, but hey, I’m a home cook and I can’t stand the thought of cutting the top of the cake to make it straight. Feel free if you want to though.
Now for the fun bit! You can see how I decorated my cake with a Disney’s Frozen theme here, but feel free to decorate it however you like!
Once finished, pop your beauty back into the tin until you need it. If you want to leave out the marzipan layer, it’s best to do the fondant as soon as possible before you intend to eat it, as the cake tends to stain the icing without a marzipan layer.
And that’s it. Give yourself a pat on the back and possibly a gin. You deserve it.
Oh, and here’s the whole lot again in pictures:
(Note: this post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated – mostly because both my photography and cake decorating skills have improved a tiny bit!)