Adding marzipan to the drunken Christmas cake
In our October blog I shared various videos covering the different stages of baking your Christmas cake. Today, I was adding marzipan to the top of my cake. Alas, Mr M, camera man extraordinaire was not available today, so there is no video, just my photos.
Christmas Cake is going to be one of the goodies in our December Selection box so it's time for me to start covering this in marzipan and icing. The December Selection Box is not ready to order yet, but keep an eye out for it on our store.
Before we begin though, just in case you're wondering how Mr M had managed to leave the house today when we live in central Scotland and are currently in level 4 lock down for Covid, let me assure you it was all above board! Beatrix had a large lump removed a few weeks ago and today was the day for the last of the stitches to be removed. She has been a little star really over this recuperation period, enduring the embarrassment of the large plastic collar (her own fault because she quickly learned how to remove the nice looking comfy blue one!) and a thick medical jacket to stop her licking her enormous wound. Usually she has a wooden blanket box that sits in front of the lounge window so that she can spend the day watching the world go by. I can tell you, a border collie is the best neighbourhood watch you ever hope for. I know exactly when the postman has left the sorting office in Kirkintilloch, when a strange car is coming down the crescent, when an unknown person is trying to come down our drive and even when a plastic bag is blowing down the street. To stop Beatrix jumping up onto this box and bursting her stitches, this box was removed and is currently something both Mr M and myself fall over every time we go to the little room downstairs.
Anyway, we decided that as Beatrix has recovered enough to jump up at the now visible radiator in front of the window because of the non-existent blanket box, she was well enough to help Mr M get her into and out of the car for the trip to the vet. And that's why Mr M was able to leave the house during the current lockdown.
Back to the Christmas cake covering.....
The Christmas cake has been made for a few weeks now and I have been feeding it weekly with a good helping of brandy to help with the maturing (the cake not me as I am maturing quite nicely with no help required!).
Your cake should be covered with marzipan about 5-6 days before you are going to ice the cake, which would be a couple of days before you want the cake to be ready to serve. As my cake is going to part of our December Selection Box, today was the day I needed to marzipan mine. I will then cover in icing on Sunday.
As I am not serving my cake whole and nobody will see the full cake, I'm only covering the top with a simple layer of marzipan and then fondant icing.
You can make your own marzipan and icing very easily and they do taste amazing. However, this involves the use of raw egg whites so when I'm making the cake for others, I buy my marzipan and icing ready made. I would suggest that at least once you make your own marzipan and icing as they are very easy to make and taste devine. But I'm always saying that baking should be fun and that includes Christmas baking. At a time when you're making things that you might only ever make once and using ingredients you have sometimes never heard of, there is no shame in making things easy for yourself and using some of the good quality ready made ingredients. Marzipan and icing fall into this group of ingredients.
I know that not everyone likes marzipan but this layer is needed on fruit cakes before you put the icing on so that the moisture from the matured cake does not seep out onto the icing and discolour it.
Whether your marzipan is home made or ready made, you need to first coat your matured cake in something to glue the marzipan in place. Traditionally, warmed sieved apricot jam is used. Who has the time or inclination to sieve jam and who even likes apricot jam? I use any mild-tasting jelly-jam I have to hand, such as gooseberry jelly jam. I wouldn't use something like blackcurrant or wild berry because these just have too strong a taste for a glue and if you ask me, are just too lovely to be used here.
Firstly, place your cake on a cake board or what ever you are going to serve the cake on. If you're going to decorate the top and sides of the cake, spread your warmed sticky mixture over the whole of the cake. If like me, you are only decorating the top, spread this only over the top of the cake.
Cover your worktop with a little icing sugar and knead your marzipan to make it easier to roll out. Roll out the marzipan to about 5mm thick to be slightly larger than your cake. (If you are covering a round cake, you can do this one piece, using a piece of string to measure the size of your cake up the side, across the top and down the opposite side. If you are covering a square cake, I would suggest covering the top in one piece and then covering the sides in four smaller pieces. Use your fingers covered in icing sugar to gently mould the joints together).
Once the marzipan is to the required size, use your rolling pin to help you transfer it to your cake. Smooth down and gently press the edges with your icing sugar-covered fingers to make them smooth.
If you've covered the whole cake, you can now put this somewhere safe and dust-free for up to 5 days to allow the marzipan to dry out before covering with icing, but do not put in an airtight container. If you've covered only the top of the cake, wrap some clean parchment paper and foil around the cake sides before storing.
For my Christmas cake, I used the recipe from a book called The Magical Tearoom on the Hill - Recipes, Tales and Adventures. Ok, so that's my shameless plug for my new book. And while I'm shamelessy plugging, I may as well remind you about my online book launch on 30 November. Get your place booked and come along and find out about the girl who was living her dream running her own tearoom on the hill.
And finally, I feel I have been a slacking a little in drip feeding overly cute photos of Minnie and Peter, or Harley as Chloe says I have to call him. How is this for cuteness?