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How to Ice a Christmas Cake

Easy Christmas Cake Icing - Christmas Cake Frosting

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How to Ice a Christmas Cake
Photo © RFB Photography

Watch My Video on How to Ice a Christmas Cake

One of the fun jobs in the run up to Christmas is the Christmas Cake icing. You don’t have to be a professional cake decorator to know how to ice a Christmas cake, it is actually quite easy to produce a lovely cake to take center stage on the Christmas tea table. Buy ready made marzipan and/or fondant icing and with the addition of brightly coloured ribbons, leaf cut-outs, or a sprig of holly you can easily make a cake to be proud of. If you have the time, and the inclination, then make your own icing. It doesn't take long and is fun to do.

Don't leave Christmas cake icing until the last minute. It needs to be at the very latest a week before Christmas, preferably two.

The Marzipan - Almond Paste Layer

Before any icing takes place you will need to cover the cake with a thick layer of marzipan/ almond paste. As well as giving a lovely almondy flavour to the cake, the thick paste layer creates a cushion between the cake and the icing . It is important once the marzipan is on the cake that you leave it to dry for a few days or up to one week before icing. If you ice too soon the oil from the almond paste will seep into the icing and spoil the appearance of the finished cake.

You will need approximately 1.25 kg /2 ½ lbs almond paste for a 23 cm /9” cake
  • 1.25 kg />2 ½ lbs marzipan, almond paste, ready rolled if you prefer
  • 4 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
  • Icing sugar for rolling
  1. Stand the cake on a cake board or cutting board and lightly dust with sifted icing sugar. and roll the almond paste evenly into a circle large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake (you can cover the bottom as well if you wish).
  2. Paint all surfaces of the cake to be covered with the runny apricot jam (this is the glue to make the paste stick to the cake). Slip the circle of paste onto the cake and pat carefully all over the surface to make sure it is stuck to the cake. Check that the surface is smooth and even and also trim away any excess.
  3. Leave to dry in a cool, but not ice cold, place uncovered for a few days up to one week.

The Icing - Fondant or Royal?

Traditionally glossy royal icing would be used to cover a Christmas cake but unless you are a skilled decorator it can be tricky to use, unless all you want is to make a “snow” effect on the surface, then this is the best icing to use.

Fondant Icing is an easy and quick way to create a smooth iced surface for your cake. It is rolled and placed on the cake in a similar way to the marzipan. You can use it alone, or with the marzipan layer and even finish with a splash of royal icing if you are feeling a little decadent. Fondant icing is also useful for cut out shapes to decorate the surface of the cake. There are hundreds of small cutters in different shapes to use or if you want to be artistic then cut out your own shapes with a sharp knife.

Royal Icing

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1lb 2oz/ 550g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp glycerine, from good cook shops
  1. With an electric hand whisk, lightly beat the egg whites in a large roomy bowl. Gradually sift in the icing sugar beating all the time. Continue to beat until you have thick stiff white peaks, expect this to take between 8 and 10 minutes.
  2. Add the glycerine and give the mixture one last whisk.
  3. The icing can now be spread over the almond paste covered cake with either flat palette knife and smoothed to create a clean surface or use the knife to lift up little peaks all over the cake. Decorate as you wish with silver or gold sugar balls, Christmas ornaments, whatever takes your fancy.
  4. Leave to dry and the icing to set hard (at least overnight up to two to three days) before serving. If not serving immediately, store in an airtight tin.

Fondant Icing - For a 9” cake

  • 1½ lb /675g icing sugar, plus extra for rolling
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoon liquid glucose (available from good cook shops)
  1. Sift the icing sugar into a large roomy bowl. Add the glucose and 3 egg whites and mix thoroughly until a smooth dough is formed.
  2. Place the dough on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and knead the dough for 10 minutes.
  3. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Dust the work surface with icing sugar and evenly roll the smooth dough to a circle large enough to cover the cake.
  5. Brush the remaining egg white over the almond paste surface of the cake. Lay the icing over and gently pat into place. Trim away any excess.
  6. To Finish - Use off cuts of fondant icing to create cut out shapes (leaves, stars, hearts, the choices are endless) and stick using egg white for glue. For different coloured shapes, take a small piece of fondant icing, roll into a ball and flatten on the work surface. Place one tiny drop of food colouring on the surface. Roll the icing back into a ball and knead to create an even colour throughout.
  7. Finish in any way you wish - tie a large red ribbon around the outside, stick a sprig of holly on top - you decide, but above all, have fun.
  8. Leave to dry and the icing to set hard (at least overnight up to two to three days) before serving. If not serving immediately, store in an airtight tin.
Related Video
How to Cover a Cake in Fondant

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