Britain · Cake · Christmas · Desserts

The cake which takes all year, part 3

A whimsical example of how to decorateSubtitle: The devil’s in the details

Having made the mixed peel, cooked the cake, bathed the cake in alcohol weekly and now anticipating Christmas, it’s time to decorate your cake. 

I have previously made valiant attempts, but so far have failed to wow.  That’s all got to change!  Regardless of my lamentable efforts, the Christmas cake in England is not only enjoyed for its taste, but also its visual presentation.  The cakes are whimsical, elegant, simple, traditional, non-traditional, white or colored.  What matters is the ooh and ahh factor when brought to the table.  Click on the picture to link to the blog where they show how that one was made.  The recipes given to me for completing the decoration are below, but creativity is an intangible.  If you’re stymied, start with something simple and see where you go next year!

A Christmas Cake, unlike an American fruitcake, has a double hit of wow frosting.  The first is a layer of marzipan, rolled smooth and laid over the entire cake.  I made the almond paste from scratch the first year and was told it “wasn’t right.”  Subsequently, I have bought a roll of marzipan from the store and had good reviews, but for the purist, here is step 1 of decorating:

Almond Paste (Almond Icing) – 2 days to a week before serving

  • 4 cups ground almonds (should be a fine powder)
  • 1 1/2 heaped cups sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • yolks of 4 eggs (separate them and save the whites for the royal icing tomorrow)

Mix almonds and sugars to a stiff dough with the egg yolks.  It will be very stiff and need a lot of energy to work it together.  Add in an extra egg yolk if needed, or a tablespoon of brandy improves both the flavor and workability. [Hubby said this was a step not to be ignored].

When the paste is thoroughly worked together and softened, roll it out about 1/4″ thick.  Brush egg yolk around the sides of the cake, cut strips of paste the right width and attach around the cake, pressing on and smoothing with a knife.  Where the ends of two pieces come together, brush a little egg yolk into the joint and work them together.

If the top of the cake is rounded, cut a thin slice off to level it.  Roll out the rest of the almond past (remaining 2/3) to the size of the top; it should be about 3/4″ thick.  Brush egg yolk over the top and put the paste on.  Brush yolk into the joints and work them together, smoothing over with a knife.  Make a good flat top and smooth sides, with a sharp edge around the top.

Let the cake sit overnight for the surface of the almond paste to harden up a little before putting on the white icing.

Royal Icing (the day after the marzipan)

  • 4 large egg whites (or substitute powdered egg whites)
  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice


Combine the egg whites and confectioners’ sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl.  All the utensils must be grease free.  Whip with an electric mixer on medium speed until opaque and shiny, about 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in the lemon juice, this will thin out the icing. Beat for another couple of minutes until you reach the right spreading consistency.  Keep the mix well covered while working with it – it dries out quickly.

Spread with a knife over the sides and top of the cake.  Smooth over with a knife dipped in hot water as needed.

If you have a decorator kit (icing syringe), decorate with rosettes and fern leaves.  If not, a smooth finish, criss-crossed with a fork, or wrapped with a shining ribbon looks attractive and tastes every bit as good.

I have ordered pressed sugar decorations for this year’s (2012) cakes as the previous attempts were somewhat pathetic.  Never fear, I shall overcome and it will be beautiful.  I leave you with a link to a collection of decorated cake images.  Enjoy!


2 thoughts on “The cake which takes all year, part 3

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