I am gradually catching up with my Christmas preparations, cards are written and posted, parcels posted, presents are all bought or made (I think!!) tree is up and I have just got round to decorating the Christmas cakes…
Ideally Christmas cakes are made about 6-8 weeks before Christmas, to allow them to mature and give you time to feed them with alcohol! I don’t tend to feed mine, whereas my sister feeds hers so much you can’t eat it and drive! One year she asked me to decorate a cake for a special occasion, she’d been feeding it brandy for weeks, when I put it on a cake board it seemed to slump to one side, ‘Ruth’ I said, ‘this cake is drunk!’
I made my cake a couple of weeks ago, I always follow Delia Smith’s recipe from my 30 year old cookbook, but I’ve just found the recipe on line so I can share a link with you. For those of you not familiar with a rich fruit cake it’s basically a sponge cake made with soft brown sugar and a bit of treacle so it’s a nice dark colour, then it is just full of dried fruit, like an 8″ cake has about 2lb of fruit, currents (50%) sultanas, raisins, cut peel etc. It takes several hours to cook on a vary low heat, double wrapped with baking parchment so it doesn’t burn round the edge.
I made two cakes, an 8″ hexagonal one for us and a little one for a Christmas present. I rather like the hexagonal tin, I hired one for my children’s Christening cakes and decided after hiring it twice I may as well buy one! It’s probable my most used special occasion cake tin. A couple of nights ago I covered them in marzipan, I prefer the white to the bright yellow marzipan. I melt some apricot jam to stick it on with, it’s meant to be an apricot glaze but jam is much cheaper and I can use what’s left on my toast! I learnt the hard way with marzipan that a coating of icing is only as good as the marzipan underneath, so it’s worth taking time to smooth it and polish it. I usually turn my cakes upside down so I have a perfectly flat top, some people are very against it but I prefer it to trimming the top with a knife as the crumbs stick to everything. I also fill in any little holes or gaps with little blobs of marzipan first.
Once the marzipan was on it was a simple task to cover the cake with sugarpaste, I’ve always used water to stick it on without any problems. Books usually call for clear alcohal, I never used to like clear spirits and I wasn’t going to buy a bottle just for cakes!
I wanted a fairly simple and quick decoration this year. I remembered some sugarpaste white roses I found a few weeks ago in a box in the kitchen, they were left from a wedding cake I did last year! There were just enough to make a simple arrangement in the middle, not quite Christmas roses, but close enough! I used some silver gypsophillia to fill in the gaps. A pretty ribbon round the bottom and six silver draghees finished it off.
The second cake needed to be flat iced as I know the recipient doesn’t like sugarpaste. I’m getting better at flat icing, it’s not perfect as I didn’t have time to do the sides one night and the top the next night, but it’s good enough for Christmas! My original plan was to do a spiky sort of top but I couldn’t get the icing to peak nicely, so I flat iced it in a circle. Today I tied a tartan ribbon round it, I then picked some osmanthus from the garden, wired a couple of red bells and tied a red ribbon round it. The bottom edge needed neatening up[ a bit so I piped a little shell border right on the edge.
My final cake is a bit of a family tradition. I started making gingerbread houses about 20 years ago, I used to get them flat-packed from IKEA. I used to make about 20 and sell them at work, it helped pay for Christmas! Nowadays I use a gingerbread house from Morrisons, I don’t think the design is as pretty, but the gingerbread tastes a lot nicer and it’s a lot more convenient to buy.
Now the kids have grown up I just decorate them with white icing, rather than lots of sweets. I decorate them flat and then put the house together with a line of icing. I cover the board with a rough layer of icing too which looks like snow and helps to keep the house solid. It looks a bit rough and ready this year but it all goes down the same way !
I think I’ve just got presents to wrap and the final food shop and I’m about ready for Christmas, how are you doing?
Beautiful and simple cakes, very elegant, Margaret! They sound delicious! I am finishing my Christmas shopping tomorrow, I think. Girl #1 will be home so I’m hoping she can help me sneak DH’s gift into the house! Today, I gave Max a bath, so he is all ready to snuggle up with one of his girls. 😄 Just laundry and cleaning today!
Your cakes look gorgeous!
I love both icing and marzipan on my Christmas cake, but no-one else does, so my Christmas cakes are always naked 😦 I made mine about a week ago, and it’s had almost daily feeds of booze, but not very much, just a spoonful at a time. I use sultanas, cherries, chopped dates, dried apricots and prunes and glacé pineapple, as well as orange zest and juice, so it’s a very fruity cake indeed!
They are all lovely. We decorate a gingerbread house on christmas eve and leave a piece of the roof out for Santa’s treat!
You are a very talented cake decorator – beautiful! I need to get my Christmas cards started!
The cake is beautiful! The gifts are all taken care of here but the food I haven’t started on yet,nor finished the cleaning .. I have a few more days yet before family starts to pour in.
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