Firstly, remove your watch and rings. You would be amazed how easy it is to mark the icing.
This is what you need.
Your cake :o)
1) A rolling pin
2) A small glass of vodka
3) A pastry brush
4) A pack of ready-to-roll icing
5) Your various decorations - ribbons, edible decorations, 'Merry Christmas' sign etc.
6) A tape measure
Technical stuff eh ?
1. Take you cake, and if you have one place it on a revolving, raised board - as in the photo below:
NOTE: I only had a revolving board because I did a cake decorating course and I thought it would be nice to have one. You definitely don't need one, just try and position yourself and the cake so you can see all around it when you lay on the icing. Ditto the icing sugar shaker above, nice to shake on to your worksurface when you are rolling out the icing, but good enough to just toss some sugar onto the work surface too.
2. Take your icing and using your hands, knead it until it is soft and pliable. The aim here is to warm up the glucose in the icing to make it easier to handle.
3. Take your tape measure and measure your cake so you know how large to make your icing.
4. Clean your work surface with anti-bacterial spray or soap and then leave the work surface for five minutes to dry, so that the icing is not tainted.
5. Roll out your icing to the measurement you took in step 3 above. I prefer to move my icing every second roll with the rolling pin so that the icing does not stick to the work surface. You don't have to turn it, just move it a couple of inches at a time. You might have noticed I have a lovely rolling pin in the photo above. This is especially for icing, it has a smooth surface and does not leave pit marks on the icing like a wooden or other rolling pin might. Having said that, using a different roling pin which may leave marks is not a major problem as it is easy to get rid of icing marks by polishing the cake (see step 10 below). I only use the rolling pin above for icing cakes - which is a little bit of a kitchen kit indulgence on my behalf, no ?
6. When you are ready to put the icing on the cake, quickly brush the vodka all over the cake. The vodka makes the icing stick to the marzipan, and then evaporates so no alcohol taste is left behind. NOTE: If you put the vodka on any sooner, it will evaporate and the icing will not stick. (eek!)
7. Carefully lift the icing by folding the icing over your rolling pin, you will also probably need to use your arm to manouever the icing. The icing is about 3-5mm thick (depending on how thick you like it), perhaps 20-25 centimetres in length, and depending on the size of the cake the icing can split easily so just take it slowly. I like to look down on the cake, as I position it and ensure the icing fits the cake all the the way round.
If the icing should not stretch all the way to the bottom of one of the sides, then there are a couple of things you can do. Firstly, you can gently lift the icing and reposition it. Or, you can coax the icing down the sides of the cake and do some patchwork on it from left over icing.
8. Once the icing is on, roughly trim the excess as soon as possible. I have found that sometimes the weight of the excess icing can cause the icing to rip. Then, take the blunt edge of a kitchen knife and trim the icing so that it is close to the cake. Run the knife along the edge of the cake, to smooth it down, still with the blunt edge of the knife. This is simply because the sharp edge of the knife could leave knife marks on your board.
9. Your final result shoud look like this:
10. Now, use your hands to smooth down the cake. Start with the top, and move your way down the sides. Defintely make sure you have no jewellry on at this point, as you will mark the cake. I tend to use the palm of my hand, and the bottom of the palm of my hand. You can achieve a really shiny, smooth, polished finish.
11. I then use a paintbrush to brush on lustre dust and I then scatter on edible glitter. Then I 'glue' on my little shop-bought figures, and add a pretty ribbon to the base of the cake. I stick the ribbon and the figures to the cake using either a tube of white, shop-bought glue if I happen to have some around, or I mix a little icing sugar with a drop of water to make a icing 'glue'. Just a dab will fix ribbon or figures quite firmly to the cake.
Leave the cake alone for a day or two, so that the icing can dry. I then wrap my cake in cellophane and tie with a matching ribbon.