With Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time to Marzipan a Christmas Cake!
The time to marzipan and ice your cake is as soon as you’re happy you’ve fed it sufficiently. I usually take it from the cool, dark place where it’s been maturing for the last umpteen weeks, give it a last feed, wrap it for the last time and start the process the next day.
Its always best to be well organised. The process goes far more smoothly and you’re likely to make a better job of it, encouraging you to make your own Christmas cake again next year.
Step 1: Supporting The Cake
My advice to you would be to buy a cake board, the kind I use for all the cakes I make. The reason for this is that you’ll be unlikely to have a platter exactly the size you want and since it will be in use for quite a while it will become inconvenient, not being able to use your serving platters as you would generally do. The board or plate has to be perfectly flat as well, so a cake board made for the job is definitely the way to go. They’re available from any baking supplier and are a very reasonable purchase.
The next thing you’ll need is smooth apricot jam. This can be the cheapest variety available. You won’t taste it and its only purpose is to provide the ‘glue’ that sticks the marzipan to the cake. Icing sugar, a rolling pin, a board on which to roll, a small sharp knife, a pizza cutter and a pastry brush are the only other things you need to have at the ready!
Unwrap the cake and set it on the board, upside down, so the perfectly flat bottom surface is now on the top. The top of the cake usually has a dome shape to some degree (now at the bottom) causing the cake to be somewhat unlevel. There are a couple of ways you can deal with this. The first is to slice off the dome, which has never worked for me. I never slice it off level, and I end up slicing off more than necessary. The second (my preferred way) is to take small amounts of marzipan and push them in to the space at the bottom (now upside down again) between the cake's dome and the board, filling the gap and keeping the cake steady and straight. Any extra can be trimmed off with a knife.
Step 2: The Marzipan Topping
Next, warm some of the apricot jam in the microwave, making it runny. Paint the top of the cake with the warm jam, making sure it goes to the edges. After doing this, and with icing sugar on the board, roll a 4 mm thick piece of marzipan slightly larger than the diameter of your cake, and using the tin you baked the cake in as a template, cut the marzipan. This should fit the top perfectly. Carefully lift the marzipan onto the top of the cake and smooth it with your hand, gently so as not to make it any bigger.
The next step is the sides. Paint the sides of the cake with the warmed apricot jam. Measure the circumference of the tin to give you the length it needs to be but measure the cake up to the top of the marzipan for the height. Cut your strip the same thickness at the top. I find the pizza cutter very handy for this part. Then carefully roll the marzipan on to the rolling pin.
Carefully lift the marzipan and push it gently on to the side of the cake, unrolling it as you go. It should make a neat join but if there is an overlap, don’t worry, just remove the extra with a sharp knife. You’ll notice that mine is slightly taller than the cake. I prefer to be able to slice that off, therefore getting the perfect fit.
With icing sugar on your hands, once again smooth the marzipan, making sure the joins are perfect and the cake is completely covered.
The marzipan seals the cake and it can now stay like that for a couple of days without any covering. This allows the marzipan to dry off a little, providing a very firm base on which to place the icing and decoration.
Besides providing the base for the icing, marzipan gives the cake the subtle, almond flavour for which Christmas cake is well-known.
Make sure that you keep in touch with The Wedding Cake's blog for our next article on how to ice your Christmas Cake! If you're looking for the perfect Christmas Cake recipe, see our older blog posted here.