Icing the Christmas Cake

Having left myself not enough time to ice the cake before Christmas, I needed to figure out how to get a classic look without waiting for the marzipan to dry.  So, I decided to try an experimental approach to icing the cake.

First, I rolled out a single packet of white marzipan as thin as I could manage, and used it to cover the cake fondant-style.

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Normally the next step would be to cover the whole thing in Royal Icing.  The problem here is that the oil from the marzipan is liable to seep into the Royal Icing if it hasn’t had enough time to completely dry between steps.  Ideally the marzipan would be done a week ahead of the final icing, but I was doing this the day before Christmas Eve so I didn’t have many options.

I decided to use some red fondant that was left over from Hallowe’en.  There was clearly a possibility that the red would seep through rather than the marzipan oil, but it seemed at least worth a try – the idea being that the fondant would form a buffer between the marzipan and the Royal Icing.

Again, I rolled it out as thin as I could manage, and covered the cake in a single piece.  I brushed the marzipan layer with some warmed up honey to help the fondant to stick.  Sieved apricot jam is more traditional here, but I was working with what was to hand!

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It looked pretty awesome, although it wasn’t a very traditional Christmas cake style.

The next step was the Royal Icing; I’d normally be inclined to make this from scratch, but being short on time I used a just-add-water packet.  I was very glad of the Kenwood mixer for the beating and stirring phases.

I made up the icing according to the packet, but it seemed to be aiming for a consistency that could be rolled out, so I ended up adding quite a lot more water to get a much softer icing which was closer in consistency to buttercream.  This meant that I could use a palette knife to apply it with a nice textured finish.

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It stuck to the fondant easily and pretty soon it was looking very much like an old-school traditionally iced Christmas cake.

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The final touch was to get out the cheesy decorations, and the end result brought me right back to being 5 years old.

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Christmas Cookies

Not long before Christmas, a new biscuit tray turned up in our kitchen – a Wilton sandwich cookie pan to be exact.  Now anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for gadgets, so I had to try it out and see what kind of results I could get from it.

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The packaging had some pretty inspiring pictures of interestingly coloured biscuits, but the actual recipes were not so inspiring.  The first one I looked at called for something like a cup and a half of vegetable oil, and some butter flavoured essence, which sounded pretty revolting.

I did some searching and had a look in my recipe books and settled on this recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 125g Stork margarine
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 250g plain flour
  • Red food colouring powder

Method:

  • Beat margarine and sugar together until white and fluffy
  • Slowly add egg, beating thoroughly
  • Mix together flour and food colouring and fold into mixture
  • Roll out into cookies and bake at 180 C

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I used the red food colouring powder that I bought for making our red velvet wedding cake – it gives a great vivid red colour without having much impact on the texture the way some of the liquid food colourings do.  The recipe above gave a fairly stiff dough which was the perfect consistency for rolling out.

For the first batch, I rolled it out to about half a centimetre thickness and cut circles that were the size of the outer lip in the tray.

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When I put them into the tin, they basically filled the indentations, with a slight bulge to the top.WP_20151220_16_59_13_Raw

I baked them for 10 mins, but they were a little bit darkened on the outside when I took them out of the oven.  Although they hadn’t really risen, they were clearly much to thick to sandwich together properly, and had quite a big lip around the outside.

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Since there was plenty of dough left over, I had another attempt.  This time I rolled it much thinner, maybe 2 millimetres, so that it sat quite low in the tray and only came up to the top of the inner lip.

This second batch took only 5 mins to cook, and were still a lovely red colour when they came out.  They were solid and crispy all the way through, and just the right size for sandwiching.

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This batch is filled with a salted caramel buttercream – I took inspiration from http://www.farmersjournal.ie/recipe-salted-caramel-sauce-178328/ and adapted it fairly drastically to suit my objectives.  The one in the picture above also has some green food colouring added for a more Christmassy effect.
Ingredients:
  • 100g Granulated Sugar
  • 50g Demerara Sugar

  • 25ml Cold water

  • 1 tbsp of golden syrup

  • 25ml Double cream (gently heated in the microwave for 40secs)

  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

  • 25g Stork for caramel

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil

  • 125g Stork for buttercream

Method:

  • Stir the sugars, water and syrup over a low heat until completely dissolved.  This takes a long time so be patient and keep stirring!
  • Increase the heat and bring it to a gentle boil – watch it carefully at this stage, it’s likely to burn very easily.
  • Once it has darkened slightly, remove from the heat and add the warmed cream, stirring continuously.
  • Add the salt, 25g of Stork, and coconut milk and stir until it is well blended.  At this point you have essentially a nice salted caramel sauce.
  • Once it has cooled completely, soften another 125g Stork and slowly beat in the salted caramel to create a thick buttercream filling.

Crinkles!

I discovered an intriguing recipe at http://whatsformeat.blogspot.ie/2012/12/chocolate-crinkles.html – I’ve never seen these before but they appear to be a fairly popular Christmas cookie in the States.

Given that they’re dairy-free anyway and this page has a gluten-free variation also, I just had to try them out.

The recipe basically involves making a meringue, then mixing in melted chocolate.  This gives a stiff dough which is rolled into balls and coated in icing sugar – when you bake them they flatten out and give a ‘crinkle’ effect.  They look very impressive even though they’re so simple to make, and they were very popular with the family when I took them visiting.

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