I started writing this post about icing my Christmas cake the week before Christmas. All the Christmas preparations, work commitments and the numerous pre-Christmas events with the kids I needed to attend took over, hence I am finishing it on New Year’s Day! Better late than never.
I also apologise for the length of this post, I should possibly have split it into two. It is part of the learning curve for being new to blog writing, I think.
Did you make a Christmas cake this year? Did you ice it?
I could hardly believe it when I realised it was only a week until Christmas, I thought I was so organised and then all of a sudden I was running out of time. I still had some Christmas cards to post and present wrapping to do.
This year I actually managed to make my Christmas cake before the end of November. I treated it to some extra festive tipple now and again and then the time arrived to adorn it with some festive decoration. In previous years I barely managed to get the cake made in time so decoration has been a piece of ribbon around the cake.
If I am being honest I had never actually iced a cake before so this next task was a little daunting.
Several days (5-7) before icing, I made some almond paste and covered the cake. This was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. I’m not a great fan of marzipan but making my own almond paste was definitely worth while. I was able to roll it out nice and thinly. The flavour is just mildly “almondy” and it isn’t too sweet. Even my dad ate it and he really doesn’t like marzipan.
For the almond paste you will need:
250g Ground Almonds
150g Caster Sugar
150g Icing Sugar (sifted)
1tsp Almond Essence
Mix the ground almonds, caster sugar and icing sugar together in a bowl. Add the egg and almond essence and knead with your hands in the bowl until it comes together to form a stiff paste. Try not to over knead as the paste will become oily.
Wrap in clingfilm and pop into the fridge until you are ready to use it. The paste will keep in the fridge for about a week. You can also freeze it for up to a month.
Covering the Cake with Almond Paste:
Turn your cake upside down so you have a nice flat surface on top and place on a cake board larger than the cake. If you don’t have a cake board use a large flat plate. I didn’t have a cake board at the time so used one of those disposable serving plates.
Dust your surface and rolling pin with icing sugar and roll out the paste. I started to panic at this stage as it cracked and split round the edges but you can just overlap these splits and roll together. I used my cake tin as a guide and cut out a circle of the rolled paste a little larger than the cake.
Warm some apricot jam, it makes it easier to spread, and brush a thin layer all over the exposed surfaces of the cake.
Take your circle of paste and put it on top of the cake. Mine was a little larger than the top of the cake so the edges just folded down.
Next you need to roll out a piece to go around the side. I did it in two pieces as I was a bit tight for space on the surface I was working on. Measure the height of the cake and using your rolling pin as a ruler run a knife down your paste in two lines to cut a strip.
Take your strip of paste and wrap around the sides of the cake. Press together with the circle already on the top. Having never done this before I was worried but it was much easier than I thought and the edges pressed together easily. That’s it done.
Cover loosely with some baking parchment and leave to dry. Ideally you need to leave to dry for at least 3 days, however if you are pushed for time overnight will do as long as you are using royal icing for a snow peaked effect rather than flat icing.
This is how my cake looked after the almond paste dressing.
The almond paste dries out over time and becomes hard so about 5 or 6 days later I got round to icing my cake. I have to say I am glad that I had made the decision to do the roughed up snow peak version I don’t think I am ready for the smooth flat finish.
For the Royal Icing you will need:
3 Egg Whites
675g Icing Sugar (sifted)
3 tsp Lemon Juice
1½ tsp Glycerine
I did this whole process with a hand held whisk.
Separate your egg whites and place into a large mixing bowl. Whisk the egg whites until they start to froth up, then add your icing sugar 1 tablespoon at a time whisking continually on a slow speed. Too fast and you will find yourself and your kitchen covered in icing sugar.
When you have all the icing sugar combined add the lemon juice and glycerine and continue beating the mixture until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks.
Icing Your Christmas Cake
You are now ready to ice your cake. Don’t worry if you’re not quite ready, you can cover the mixture with clingfilm and keep in a cool place for a couple of days.
I didn’t really enjoy the process of icing the cake. I felt that I couldn’t really tell how even I was spreading the icing and I thought that there seemed to be more icing than I needed. Anyway, with a bit of patience I got it all on and as I was doing a snow peak style it didn’t really matter that it wasn’t completely even.
Cover the cake loosely and leave overnight to firm up. I was expecting the icing to go rock hard but the glycerine prevents this. It hardens more over time but it never really becomes rock hard.
Here is my Christmas Cake in all its iced splendor.