How To Ice A Christmas Cake

As you know, I dove into the murky waters of Christmas cake making a month back and have been feeding no less than six Christmas cakes ever since. Yes, six. Everybody wanted one. I did try to explain that I had never made them before and that they were high risk but nobody seemed to mind.

So, after patiently feeding my cakes for four weeks it was time to wrap them in marzipan and icing and make them look fabulous. However, this task really worried me because I am not very good at that sort of thing and often the instructions on websites don’t really tell you everything you need to know. And they didn’t…

First off, nab some readymade icing from your nearest retail store. You can make your own, of course, but I honestly don’t have the time or inclination for such a sticky endeavour. For those of you that really, really want to make your own icing this is a great recipe right here.

You’ll also need some marzipan, a rolling pin, apricot jam, baking paper, icing sugar, a knife, a pastry brush, and some coloured icing or decorations. And some brandy.

You can choose either golden or white marzipan for your Christmas cake, I chose golden because I had a bit of a theme in mind, but purists may want a white cake from top to fruit. Now it is time to roll out that tasty marzipan and get it onto the cake. And this is where things get sticky.

Really sticky.

Smother your board with icing sugar to stop the marzipan from sticking to it, and brush the cake with brandy to encourage the marzipan to stick to it. Some people use both brandy and jam, others just use one or the other. I used both to great effect.

Measure around the cake with a piece of string. This is going to be your side point. Then dip the knife into some hot water and cut through the centre of the marzipan and put one half aside. Roll the first half into a circle that is wider than that of your cake.

There were plenty of tips on how to get your marzipan to fit your Christmas cake but the best one by far was to take the tin you baked it in and see if it fits. Also, when rolling, roll out in each direction so that it forms a circle naturally. It takes time but it does form a lovely circle.

I rolled the marzipan to a thickness that I liked, measured it with the tin and then went to warm the apricot jam. This just makes it so much easier to spread over the cake. You’ll only need two to three tablespoons. Spread this evenly around the cake in a thin layer. Now carefully place your marzipan circle over the top of the Christmas cake.

Next, roll the second half of marzipan into a wide, rectangular strip, cut it down the middle and wrap it around the sides. Use the string you measured with earlier to make sure that you have rolled it out far enough to cover the entire Christmas cake. Carefully press the marzipan around the Christmas cake, making sure there is nothing showing, trim away the excess with kitchen scissors or a knife, and then set it aside under a tea towel to dry.

Delia also suggests using brandy on the top of the marzipan to smooth it out and help it to dry.

Don’t put the icing on for at least 24 hours. The marzipan is oily and will show up in the icing – like one of mine did – if you do it too soon. I would really wait two to three days, ideally so you don’t take the risk.

You probably noticed when you cleaned up after your marzipan mission, that there was icing sugar everywhere. It got into everything! So I decided to find an alternative way of rolling my icing for my Christmas cake. Baking parchment. Not only did my icing stop sticking to the board, but it also rolled out easier, looked smoother and peeled away like a sticker.

Let me explain.

Putting the icing onto the cake isn’t as easy as the marzipan. This is because you now have to roll that circle to include the sides so you can drape this huge disc of icing over the Christmas cake without a dent, a tear or a gap. This is hard to do. However, if you roll it carefully on baking parchment, you can then flip it over (verrry gently), place it in the centre of the cake, and gently pull the parchment away – just like a giant wall sticker.

It is, by far, the easiest solution and worked a charm on the icing reindeer and decorations I made as well. Although, the picture above is the Delia way and the way many suggest you should do this. I tried that and my icing tried to attack me.

To do the icing just copy the same directions as the marzipan but don’t cut it in half. Try to create one giant circle so you can trim along the bottom of the cake to remove the excess, making it look like one perfect icing glove.

I had a few nicks and tears which I promptly covered with coloured icing – I used Dr Oetker as it came with five packets of festive colours – that I rolled out and cut into Christmas shapes using my cookie cutters. Cookie cutters work really well and you can adjust the thickness of the icing to create different looks. I also made little squares of icing and drew “bows” on them with Dr Oetker icing pens.

I was pretty pleased with how well the cookie cutter shapes worked out as they looked fabulous – reindeer and Christmas trees – and were so easy. Then I smothered the cake with silver icing spray (awesome stuff, smells weird) and ta da, done!

Warning: If you mess up the icing don’t try and take it off again. This usually has tragic results that may see you drink the rest of the brandy…

1 comment

  • LynleyOram
    That is the best tip I've read for icing a cake. I'll definitely give the parchment a go.

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