Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snowed in and Christmas Cake decorating - Step 1

Well, we're snowed in this evening, so what better thing to do when it's cold outside than write my blog ! I had so wanted to go for a run after work today, but it was not to be.. by the time I got home the snow was welll over my boots and the traffic was practically at a standstill..

So, Cupcake and I came home and I made a start on the five Christmas cakes that are in need of decoration. I had already marzipanned three of them at the weekend, so they were ready to decorate. Well, actually that's not entirely correct, one of the cakes does not have marzipan so I will put a double icing layer on that one. So, I marzipanned two, did a one-layer icing on another and left them to dry out..

When decorating your cake this is what you need to do:

1) Get a cake board. Get a board that fits your cake nicely. Remember by the time you have added marzipan and icing, and also if you plan to ice around the base of the cake, this can quite increase the girth of the cake, so just bear that in mind ok ?

2) So, you have your board. Take a wodge of marzipan or icing and use it to stick the cake to the base of the cake board.

3) With your cake nicely secure, open your marzipan and use it to fill all of the little gaps on the top of the cake to create a surface that will look as smooth as possible when iced. Also, look at the base of your cake, if it is not perfectly flat then fill in that space with marzipan so that your cake will be a perfect round or square when iced.

4) Once you have filled the holes,done some patchwork and created the perfect shape, you can now glaze the cake and get it ready for the marzipan. BUT before you do this you must measure the cake to check what size you will need to roll out your marzipan and icing to. You can do it when it's covered in glaze if you like, it's just easier and less messy before... I use a standard sewing measuring tape.

5) For the glaze you need apricot jam or you can buy 'Apricot jam glaze'. The secret of the glaze is that it must absolutely be fruit-free and clear. If your glaze has pieces of fruit in it, and you brush them onto your cake, and then add marzipan and icing, apparently the pieces of apricot can start to go mouldy in your cake... Enough said huh ?

5) Put several tablespoons of the glaze into a saucepan and heat it gently (or chuck it in the microwave for 15 seconds or maybe less actually - it just needs to be warm and 'brushable' (is that a word ??)). If you happen to just have jam and not glaze, you can still heat the jam the same way, but you must sieve the jam afterwards, before you use it, to get rid of any fruit 'bits'. Brush the warm glaze all over the cake. I use a wonderful silicon pastry brush, but I have been known to use a traditional brush and then spend hours (or what felt like hours !) quite literally 'picking hairs'. Actually, being quite a pedantic person I quite like to pick hairs at times, but not literally !!

6) Roll out the marzipan to the desired thickness and diameter. I have a lovely smooth rolling pin which I only use for decorating cakes. Wooden rolling pins tend to be a little pitted which can leave marks on your lovely iced cake, which you want to be smooth, smooth, smooth... Use the rolling pin, and your arm if necessary to drape the marzipan over the cake. Once you are happy with the position and cover,  use your hands to secure the marzipan over the cake.

7) Once the marzipan is in the correct position and smoothed out over the top and sides of the cake, take a blunt knife and trim the excess marzipan from the base of the cake. Always leave a little more than you think you need and use the edge of the knife to press the marzipan against the cake and make a neat bottom edge. Please ensure the knife is blunt and you press lightly as the cake is now on it's presentation board, otherwise you could very easily mark your board.

8) Once you are happy with the trimmed area, clean your cake board. (I use kitchen towel dipped in alcohol to get rid of any jam drips or icing sugar dust). Cover the cake with either a perforated cake cover, or loosely with greaseproof paper and leave the marzipan to dry.

The marzipan needs at least 24 hours to dry before you ice the cake.

See Christmas Cake decorating Step 2 - coming soon !

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