Having covered your fruit cake in marzipan, you’ll be ready to cover it in icing and turn it into your masterpiece.
In years gone by, and when our children were small I did the ‘snow’ effect with royal icing and then decorated it with Christmas trees, Santa Claus, silver balls, you name it. The nice thing about this is that the children can help which means the cake is finished quickly, the children derive huge enjoyment from it and irrespective of what the finished product looks like, your delicious rich fruit cake can’t be spoilt…. everyone wins!
Here’s the recipe for Royal Icing:
1 egg white
1 ½ cups sifted icing sugar
With an electric mixer, break up the egg white with the beater (not the whisk), then gently add the sifted icing sugar little by little on a slow speed (which will prevent ‘snow’ all over the kitchen).
Now this is where you will have to judge the consistency because egg whites vary so much. Using a pallet knife, lift the icing to see if it will do what you want it to. If it just runs off the knife, or ‘flops’ too much then it’s going to behave the same way on your cake. To remedy this, add more icing sugar, little by little. If you add too much at a time you risk going too far and the icing might be too stiff and dry to stick easily to the marzipan.
How to ice a Christmas cake:
When you’ve reached the point where you think it’s just right, dollop the icing on the cake and spread it over the whole thing so there is no marzipan showing at all. Then, using the handle of a spoon, go all over the cake lifting the icing as you go, until you have the effect you want. Now the cake is ready for your little ones to do their thing. Of course, if your children are just a little older, hand over the whole job, they’ll love it.
For a more sophisticated look you’ll need to use fondant icing (aka plastic icing). This icing seems to be the preference currently and although you can make your own, and I have from time to time, buying it ready to roll from the supermarket really is a very straight-forward and hassle-free option. Fondant icing is easily managed and applied in exactly the same way as I showed you in my previous blog about how to marzipan your cake, with one or two exceptions so read on.
Remove the icing from the packaging and kneed it a little, trying to avoid getting any air pockets in it. Do this for just a couple of minutes and you will feel the icing move from a fairly firm state to a more soft and pliable one. With a dusting of icing sugar on the surface, roll out a piece of icing for the top to about 4 -5 mm thick and, as you did before, use the tin you baked it in as a template and cut out the top piece, using a knife, but cutting a little more generously this time (remember you already have marzipan on the cake).
Instead of using apricot jam, use water as a glue. In the same way as you did before, paint the top of the cake with water sparingly, as you don’t want it to drip everywhere. The surface only needs to be damp. Then lift the icing on to the cake and once again smooth it with your hands (not using too much icing sugar this time) until you can feel the icing is flat, smooth and like satin. Next, follow the same procedure as before for covering the sides.
So now you have the icing all in place, trim it where necessary, then with the palms of your hands, smooth it, gently, especially on the seams. This may take a little time but it’s worth it. Just keep going until you’re happy with the finish, the seams will become minimal or if you work for long enough they will disappear. Your cake is now ready to decorate as you wish!