I didn’t start making my Christmas cakes until the beginning of December which is a little late but now that the fruit and nuts have soaked in brandy and citrus juice, the cakes have been baked and then finally iced and decorated, I feel I have caught up with the season.
A few years ago the very generous and thoughtful Celia gave me more cake boards than I could count and I’m still making my way through them. Normally I would make round cakes but I seem to have a lot of square cake boards that need using so that’s the reason some of this year’s cakes are square.
A few tips to making a good fruit cake are:
Soak the dried fruit and nuts in brandy (or similar) for at least a week and stir the mixture daily;
Line the cake tins with care – I know this is a tedious chore but it will help your cake have good shape and the brown paper and baking paper will protect your cake from the long cooking time where you want to avoid a cake that is too dark (burnt/dry) on the outside and too blonde (raw) in the middle;
Have your eggs at room temperature;
Beat the butter and sugar only until just combined;
Add the eggs one at a time and beat until only just combined;
When the cake is in the tin, lift it up and drop it down on the bench several times to release any trapped air bubbles;
Place the cake in the oven on a wire rack covered in a few sheets of brown paper to facilitate a cake that’s evenly cooked (not dried out and dark brown on the bottom);
When the cake comes out of the oven sprinkle with brandy then quickly cover the top of the cake with foil;
Allow the cake to cool overnight in the tin;
Wrap cake in the baking paper and then foil and cling film and store upside down for a few weeks if time allows;
Place a little marzipan on the cake board then put the cake upside down on top of the marzipan. The marzipan will help the cake stick to the board;
Brush cake with lightly beaten egg white or thinly-spread raspberry jam then cover with marzipan (use a good quality marzipan because the artificial almond paste tastes nothing like the real thing;
Ideally wait 24-hours before continuing to ice the cake allowing the marzipan time to dry (difficult if it’s hot and humid in your kitchen);
Roll out your fondant then lift it onto the cake using your rolling pin then smooth it over the cake using your hands and an icing smoother tool; and
Decorate as desired.
In the past I’ve decorated cakes with holly, Christmas trees, angels and snowmen so this year I decided to go with snowflakes. The snowflakes are very easy to make. I bought a snowflake cookie cutter then placed a silver cachous in the centre of each snowflake. In a kitchenwares store I stumbled upon a container of tiny snowflakes and so to give the fondant snowflakes a bit of texture, I decorated each snowflake in tiny edible snowflakes.
Making the snowflakes wasn’t difficult but was a little time-consuming. The fastest way to get those tiny snowflakes onto the fondant was to dip a paintbrush in edible glue (or lightly beaten egg white), wipe off excess then dip the brush across the container of tiny snowflakes. A few would stick to the brush and then these could quickly be pressed onto the snowflakes.
I think the cake would look good with snowflakes not only covering the sides but also on top of the cake but I have a few little treasures that I’ve collected over the years that traditionally adorn the cake and it would be heresy if I didn’t bring them out of hiding for another chance in the limelight.
Now my cakes are finished and this week the ones that have been made as gifts will be wrapped in clear cellophane and delivered.
And my final tip…I always make my cakes gluten-free as that way no one needs to miss out on a slice or two.
And now we just need a close-up of that gorgeous sausage dog.