You’ve probably all decorated your Christmas cakes (if you have one) already, what with it being Christmas eve eve today (already! How?!); but on the off chance that you haven’t yet gotten round to it, I thought I would share how I’ve chosen to decorate mine this year.
I’ve been so busy recently that I almost didn’t get round to decorating my cake at all, so I opted to go for something quite quick and simple that I could get done when I had a spare minute. I had already baked and decorated a batch of gingerbread stars and snowflakes so simply piled some on top of a cake that I had covered in marzipan and royal icing. The result is simple but effective, and a perfect option for the time-poor.
The gingerbread recipe can obviously be used to just make gingerbread biscuits without the need to put them on top of a cake, and very nice gingerbread biscuits they are too (I should know, I’ve eaten enough of them). They are easy to make, perfectly spiced, and smell amazing while they are baking. You do need a steady hand for the piping, but even if does turn out a bit wibbly (mine certainly is), it still looks good and is relatively simple to do.
The cake recipe I used is my rich Christmas fruitcake, so the marzipan and royal icing quantities given below are the amount to cover an 18cm round but very tall fruitcake. The amount given should also be fine for a 20 or 23cm round cake as well.
Gingerbread Topped Christmas Cake
- 100 g (3.5oz) butter cubed
- 80 g (1/3 + 1/8 cup) light brown soft sugar
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 tbsp treacle
- 1 tbsp water
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp gorund cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 240 g (2 cups) plain flour
Royal Icing For Gingerbread
- 235 g (2 + 1/3 cups) icing (powdered) sugar sifted
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 large egg white
- edible glitter (optional)
To Cover Cake:
- 1 kg (2.2lb) marzipan
- 3 tbsp apricot jam
- 675 g (6 + 3/4 cups) icing (powdered) sugar sifted
- 3 large egg whites
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp glycerine (optional)
Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup, treacle, water and orange zest in a pan and heat gently while stirring until it is melted and smooth.
Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the spices and bicarbonate of soda, followed by the flour. Mix until it forms a smooth dough then cover the pan and place in the fridge for about an hour, until the dough is firm.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and line two baking trays with baking parchment. Bring the dough together into a ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm (1/8) inch thick.
Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and place them slightly spaced apart on the baking trays. Re-roll the scraps to cut out more shapes.
Place the trays in the freezer for 15 minutes until firm then bake for 10-15 minutes until the biscuits feel firm when lightly pressed and have begun to darken a little around the edges. The smaller ones will cook quicker than big ones so try to group similar sized ones together on the trays.
Leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Once the biscuits are cool, make the royal icing. Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice. Stir in the egg white a little at a time until the icing is smooth and thick but pipe-able; if you drizzle some back into the bowl the pattern should disappear after about 8 seconds. If it is too thick then add a little more egg white (or lemon juice if you've run out), and if it is too runny then add a little more sifted powdered sugar.
Spoon the icing into a piping bag fitted with a 1mm plain round nozzle. Pipe snowflake designs onto the biscuits (Pinterest is a great place to get inspiration for patterns!) and set them aside for half an hour to dry. Sprinkle with edible glitter if using.
To Ice The Cake:
Trim the top of the cake if it is domed and place it upside-down on a cake board or serving platter so that the flat bottom is now the top. Dust a worksurface with icing sugar and roll a bit of the marzipan into a length of rope. Press the rope into the gap between the bottom of the cake and the board so that it is flat all the way round.
Trim off any excess marzipan and add it back to the rest, shape into a ball and then roll out to a large circle, big enough to entirely cover the cake.
Gently heat the apricot jam until it is runny then brush it all over the cake. Carefully lift the marzipan circle over the cake and press it down the sides so that the cake is completely covered. You will probably get some folds and creases, just trim off the excess marzipan and smooth the edges together, it doesn't need to be perfect. Trim off the excess marzipan from around the bottom of the cake.
If you have time, allow the cake to dry out for a couple of days before icing to prevent any oils from the marzipan seeping into the icing. If not then you can go right ahead and ice it.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the icing sugar a little at a time and fold in. Stir in the lemon juice and glycerine if using (the glycerine prevents the icing from setting tooth-breakingly hard).
Beat the icing with an electric mixer until it is very stiff and white and forms stiff peaks.
Use a palette knife to spread the icing all over the cake, there is no need to get it too smooth.
Arrange a pile of gingerbread stars on top of the cake and add a couple of small ones around the sides. Sprinkle with edible glitter and set aside for a couple of hours to firm up. Store in an airtight container.
This is my last post before Christmas (and probably until January) so I wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!