I feel like we’ve been working on our Christmas cakes for such a long time lovingly stirring boozy fruit, baking our precious cakes and feeding them with brandy it’s really exciting to be at the final stage – decorating!
For an 8″ cake you will need:
1 x 10″ cake board
1kg ready to roll icing
2 tbsp apricot jam or marmalade
Unwrap your cake from the paper and foil you’ve been storing it in and set it on your worksurface.
See whether it is level, mine isn’t so it needs to be levelled with a knife – any excuse, it means I get to eat the trimmings!
Using a large serrated knife cut the dome of the top of the cake if necessary.
Prepare your cake board and position your cake on it so that the cut side is downwards.
Check that you’re happy with your levelling and adjust if necessary.
Take your jam or marmalade and zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds to soften.
Using a pastry brush paint the outside of the cake with a thin layer of jam (avoiding any bits!). So now the cake is nice and sticky and will be ready to glue on the marzipan layer.
500g is enough marzipan to coat an 8″ cake. If you love the taste of marzipan you can make this layer thicker but you will need more to do so. Knead gently on your worksurface to ‘warm’ the marzipan which will make it easier to work with.
Take half of the marzipan and shape into a rough sausage shape.
Dust your worksurface with icing sugar and roll out the sausage into a long strip to reach around the outside of the cake. Measure with string to help you know how long it needs to be.
Again with the string measure how tall your collar of marzipan needs to be and cut to the right height. It should be 5mm above the top of the cake.
Easiest for cutting marzipan and sugarpaste is a pizza cutter, the type that rolls.
Position around the outside of the cake and trim neatly where the two edges meet.
Gather together the trimmings and the remaining half of marzipan and roll out to about 5mm thick on your worksurface.
Using the tin you baked the cake in as a template cut out a circle for the top of the cake.
Use your hands to smooth the seams of the marzipan. Smooth the top and the sides working out any major lumps and bumps.
Now you need to leave it to one side to dry a little – 24 to 48 hours. Now I know you Pink Whiskers don’t like waiting and like to get things done here and now (far too impatient like me!) but it is important in getting a really good finish on the sugarpaste layer. The marzipan needs to be slightly firmer to give you a fighting chance. So put it to one side and come back to it tomorrow.
Okay, so the marzipan has set a little and we’re ready with the sugarpaste.
Work with 1kg of sugarpaste for an 8″ cake. The thicker the sugarpaste the easier it is to work with and the less it will crack and split on you. I’m not generally a fan of Supermarkets own brand sugarpaste as in the past I have found it too sticky. But in the interests of The Pink Whiskers I have been trying them out – you’ll be fine with Dr Oetker, Sainsburys own brand and Asda’s own brand and Regalice. (In fact I think the Asda one came out top in by book).
Dust the worksurface liberally with icing sugar. Knead the sugarpaste to warm it up making it much more pliable.
Measure across the cake with a piece of string from the board, over the top and back onto the board again and cut the string to the right size. Dampen the marzipan with a pastry brush dipped in a little bit of water.
Begin to roll out the sugarpaste making sure you have plenty plenty of icing sugar on the worksurface, once it sticks it’s gameover and you have to start again.
You can turn the sugarpaste when rolling but don’t flip it over.
Measuring with your piece of string keep rolling out, into a rough circle until the sugarpaste is just over the right size.
Polish the top of the sugarpaste with the flat of your hand to smooth it out. Take any rings or watches off first as they always catch and rip up your hard work. You will feel what I mean as you polish – the sugarpaste takes on a shine and will be super smooth.
Place the rolling pin in the middle of the rolled out icing and flip it over.
Starting on the top, ignore the sides for now, polish the top of the cake with the flat of your hand again. When you are happy with the top start working the way down the cake with your hands, smoothing the sugarpaste into position. Go slowly and work from the top of the cake down towards the board. If the sugarpaste starts to crease lift it away from the cake and smooth from the top down again. If the sugarpaste begins to crack you can ‘polish’ out the start of any cracks with the palm of your hand.
Eventually you will have worked all the way down to the board. With a sharp knife trim off the excess sugarpaste at the base of the cake. Wrap up the excess in clingfilm and save it for now.
Set your cake to one side and leave overnight to firm up. Again this is important before we start adding the decoration as the sugarpaste is soft it is really easy to nick and mark it with your hands and we don’t want that do we?
So here’s a couple of ideas for decorating your cake.
First up ribbonage!
The choice is yours, simply secure it at the back with a pin.
For the holly leaf cake, colour some sugarpaste green and little bit red, or use ready coloured.
Cut out 12 holly leaves.
Mark on the leaf veins with a back of a knife and drape over a rolling pin to curl. Leave them to dry out overnight.
Score a faint circle onto the top of your cake using a circular cutter to use as a guide.
Secure the holly leaves in two’s using the circle as a guide to position them. Take a small blob of sugarpaste and mash in a bowl with a few drops of water to make a glue. Use to secure the holly leaves in place.
Make some holly berries using the red sugarpaste and glue in place.
I have also added some little silver balls, a dab of water will hold these in place.
Equipment Links to Amazon:
For the snowflake/star cake.
Cut out one large star and five small stars from white sugarpaste. Cut out one large snowflake and five small ones in white too.
Lastly cut out some little white stars.
Position onto your cake using a little dab of water to glue together, again I have added some silver balls – just because I can’t leave them alone!
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For the last cake idea I have made a little polar bear from sugarpaste. Instead of covering the cake in white sugarpaste I have coloured some an ice blue colour.
Add an iceberg circle of white sugarpaste to the top for the polar bear to sit on. Here’s how to make a polar bear.
Form the shapes shown in the picture – a tapered ball like an egg shape for the body, a ball for the head which I have shaped to form a slight muzzle, two sausages for legs, two back legs like chicken drumsticks and two ears – circles pinched together to form a teardrop shape.
Indent the eyes using the end of a paintbrush and indent the ears too.
First stick the back legs in place using a dab of water.
Insert a piece of dry spaghetti through the body. It will help secure the head.
Add the head. Add the front legs and mark in some polar bear claws. Poke two small paintbrush end holes in the head to stick the ears into.
Cut out a thin strip of coloured sugarpaste, fray the ends and stick into place as a scarf.
Add in small balls of black sugarpaste for the eyes and nose. Mark on his mouth using a drinking straw cut in half.
Add a couple of pieces of holly to his head and a couple of red berries too.
The entire cake has been brushed over with snowflake lustre dust so it is all sparkly and then I’ve added some little white stars too.
Equipment Links to Amazon:
Ruth Clemens, Baker Extraordinaire
Finalist on BBC2 The Great British Bake Off