You can use this decorating idea to cover any fruit cake or sponge. As I was making my cake about three weeks before Christmas, I used my recipe for Last Minute Christmas Cake (see recipe below), which does help to speed up the mature taste. I added about a quarter more of all the ingredients, to make a cake to fit a 20cm square cake tin – the recipe as given would fit a tin roughly 16cm square.
For the larger tin, bake for about 6 hours altogether, but keep checking with a skewer or sharp knife right to the bottom to see if it’s cooked through.
See you in January
Last Minute Christmas Cake
- 750g mixed dried fruit
- 150g glace cherries
- 225ml Guinness
- 100ml whisky
- 75ml orange juice
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 tbsps black treacle
- 4 medium eggs, beaten
- 200g butter, slightly soft
- 200g soft brown Muscovado sugar
- 250g plain flour
- 1 heaped tsp (7ml) baking powder
- 1½ tsps mixed spice
- 75g chopped Brazil nuts or almonds
- Place the dried fruits, cherries, Guinness, whisky, orange juice, zest and treacle into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Preferably, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate overnight – but don’t worry if you can’t: just leave it soaking as long as you can.
- Pre-heat the oven to 140°C, (135°C fan assisted, 275°F, gas mark 2). Lightly grease a 16cm square cake tin and line with baking parchment or a shaped silicone sheet.
- In a mixing bowl, place all the remaining ingredients except the nuts, and mix thoroughly (I did mine in the electric mixer because I was feeling lazy). Beat until smooth, then fold in the soaked fruit and the nuts. Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top, making a slight dip towards the centre. Bake for 3 hours, then check and cover the top with more paper or silicone if it is over-browning. Bake for a further ½ – 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so in the tin, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a rack.
- When completely cool, wrap the cake in baking parchment and then in foil, and store in a tin somewhere cool and dry (oh for the days of larders!) until it’s time to decorate it. Every couple of weeks (or more often, if you’re short of time, unwrap the cake, make a few holes in the top with a skewer, and spoon over a little brandy or whisky. This keeps the cake moist – and makes it taste even better. You can use orange juice if you prefer. If you like really moist cake with no ‘crust’, then leave the cake in the tin when it comes out of the oven and feed it with the alcohol in that.
To decorate the cake, you will need:
- A little sieved and warmed jam (or use seedless raspberry jam)
- 500g marzipan
- 500g white roll out icing
- 100g green roll out icing
- 150g red roll out icing
- Icing sugar for dusting
- On a work surface lightly dusted with sieved icing sugar, roll out the marzipan evenly , until it is large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Brush the cake all over with a little jam, then roll up the marzipan on the pin and unroll it over the cake, smoothing the sides with your hands until it fits the shape. Trim around the bottom with a sharp knife.
- Brush the surface of the marzipan with a little cold water (no need to wait for the marzipan to dry out if you are using roll out icing on top). Roll out the white icing as for the marzipan, and apply in the same way. Mark ‘folds’ like paper on two sides with an icing tool or back of a knife.
- Roll out the green icing thinly and cut medium and large holly shapes with plunger cutters. Brush the surface of the cake with a little cold water and stick the shapes in place, adjusting to ‘fit’ the folds by cutting some of the shapes in half.
- Roll out the red icing and cut two long strips for the ribbon. Cut two shorter strips for the ends of the bow, cut notches in the ends then stick to the centre of the cake. Cut one longer strip to make the bow; stick in place in the centre of the cake then fold the ends to the middle and stick with a little water to make the looped bow. Stuff a little rolled up paper in each side to keep the loops open while the icing dries and firms.
- Add a small piece of icing to make the knot.