It seems to have been a long time in the making but it certainly wasn’t started early enough. A few weeks ago I showed you a porcelain bowl filled with dried fruits and nuts soaking in brandy. And soak they did. For weeks. It just seemed to take an inexcusable amount of time to progress those fruits from dried to brandy-swollen and then to cake mix.
When I was growing up my Auntie Lexia always made a Christmas cake. If you opened the door of her fridge at any time of the year it would be filled with butter wrappers. She always saved her butter wrappers because she said they were the best thing for lining cake tins and produced the best results.
The worst job ever in the whole Christmas cake making process is always the lining of the tin. In our throw-away generation we no long use butter wrappers but instead line the tin using a sheet of brown paper and two sheets of baking paper. The older generation was so much more resourceful – using things that everyone today just throws away.
Lexia would make her cake well in advance of Christmas and that’s what I normally do – but not this year! It needs time to mature and the longer it matures the better. You just wrap it in cling wrap and foil and leave in a cool, dark place to rest and mature. I always rest mine upside down to flatten the top. There was no resting or maturing phase for my cake this year.
I always cover my cakes in marzipan. I don’t buy the imitation because it tastes so artificial. You can make your own but who’s got the time. I always moisten a small amount of marzipan with some water then squish it onto the cake board placing the cake upside down on top of the squishy marzipan. This helps the cake to stick to the board. The marzipan-covered cake should be allowed a day to dry off before covering in royal icing but again, who’s got the time.
I use royal icing to cover the cake. You can make your own but again… I knead the icing on my bench sprinkled with icing sugar then roll out into a thinnish layer. Once the cake is iced I wrap some festive ribbon around it and secure with sewing pins and then affix a bow.
Sometimes I decorate the cake in festive thingies made from icing or marzipan but over the last few years I’ve been collecting a few worthless treasures that have been appearing year after year on my cake and there’d be an outcry if they didn’t make a timely appearance each Christmas. There’s the dog that’s symbolic of my two little girls and the house with the chimney for Santa to slide down and the tiny Christmas tree and the little snowman and his friend. They’re all looking a little battered but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them. To stick them on the cake I dip them in softly beaten egg white and this makes them stick to the icing.
For the recipe and many more much better images, here’s the link to It’s a Write-Off and this post might be about the time I perhaps wrote-off a friend’s car – unintentionally of course!