Monday 18th November 2013
Welcome to part two in our series on creating the perfect Christmas cake. Last time the amazing Sandra Monger shared her chocolate fruit cake recipe to give us the perfect bake for your festive cake. In part two we’ve enlisted the help of expert cake maker Juliet Sear of Fancy Nancy to help you marzipan your cake like a pro.
A traditional Christmas cake absolutely has to have a marzipan layer. The sweet hint of almonds is a vital part of the overall taste of the cake, but the marzipan also helps to trap in all the moisture in the cake. This means that by the time you cut that first slice on Christmas day the cake is as mouth-wateringly delicious as when you pulled it out of the oven.
You’ll want to leave between and week and a fortnight between marzipanning the cake and applying the final layer of icing. This gives the marzipan time to set properly so that the icing layers on smoothly, so be sure to give yourself enough time before Christmas to avoid ruining your masterpiece.
Marzipanning a Christmas cake isn’t hard, but there’s a particular knack for applying it smoothly, so here we go!
1. Take your apricot jam and spoon at least two tablespoons into a pan. Depending on the size of your cake you may need more or less. Add some water to the jam to thin it out a little and then bring it slowly to the boil. Pass the jam through a sieve and then set it to one side to cool.
2. Take your cake and place it on a board or cake drum. Your cake is bound to be perfect, but if it is domed a little just cut the dome away to give a flat surface. If there are areas that are a bit uneven you can smooth these out by working some marzipan into the gaps.
3. Take your palette knife and apply a thin, even layer of the cooled apricot jam over the entire cake. This will help the marzipan stick securely to the cake.
4. Dust down your work surface with icing sugar then take your marzipan and knead it until it’s nice and pliable. Once it feels soft and workable begin to roll it out with firm but gentle pressure. Don’t rush this stage as you want the marzipan to be smooth and a uniform thickness. Keep rolling until you have a circle that is big enough to cover the cake with room to spare.
5. Take your rolling pin and fold the marzipan over it, then lift the marzipan and roll it over the top of the cake.
6. Gently smooth down the marzipan with your hands, making sure to smooth out any creases and bubbles. Be careful here as if you get too enthusiastic you could tear your marzipan.
7. Grab your knife and trim away the excess. Because marzipan is so malleable, if you have any ragged edges you can smooth them back with your fingers.
8. For a perfect, polished finish take a cake smoother and buff over the surface.
We asked Juliet Sear (of Fancy Nancy) cakes if she had any extra hints and tips and she said, ‘to ensure you have an even roll out of the marzipan, use spacers at either side of the cake’ and ‘if you’re covering the cake board or drum with marzipan too, lift the cake and trim at the edges of the board or drum’.
So that’s stage two complete. Wrap the cake in tin foil and place it in a cool, dark area to allow the marzipan to set. Then you’re ready to apply the icing. Be sure to come back for part three where we’ll talk you through the steps to ice your Christmas cake.