It is something we would have every year, it almost takes the status of an edible Christmas Decoration - every home has one, you may not particularly like the taste, but Christmas somehow feels diminished without its presence.
Well I took mine out of the pantry on Saturday to ice it and was immediately overwhelmed with the aroma of brandy - hardly surprising giving how much I poured into it!
Now all I had to do was ice it.
First step, turn the cake upside down! It gives you a nice flat surface to decorate and you can hide any flaws at the bottom with icing (sneaky I know)
A traditional English Christmas cake is always double covered. First it has a layer of Marzipan - an almond and sugar paste that was surprisingly difficult to track down. Strange because you can pick up bricks of it all over the U.K. at Christmas.
You cover the top and sides of the cake with warm Apricot Jelly to help the marzipan stick, and then cover.
Not bad for my first attempt since I was 17. After smoothing the top and the sides down I moved on to the next step. When I was growing up we used Royal Icing for this - a mixture of Egg Whites and Confectioners sugar which is notoriously difficult to work with as it dries so quickly. I always wanted to create a nice smooth finish but would always give up in frustration and covering the cake with a stipple effect to hide all the imperfections.
Enter ready made fondant!
So easy to roll and work with, it was glorious! Just stick it to the marzipan by wetting the marzipan slightly.
The cake looked great, although as you can see the bottom edge was a bit ragged because the cake rose unevenly (and it's upside down remember)
Traditionally in the U.K. we would tie a large ribbon around the cake, but I didn't have one handy. I was trying to decide what to do when I glanced at the box that the fondant came in. The cake on the box was surrounded by white fondant balls, perfect for hiding uneven bottoms!!!
I then rolled out some colored fondant and decided to hand carve some holly leaves, always a good festive touch, and relatively easy with a sharp knife.
Emboldened by my success with the fondant I decided to try and construct a rosette (as the instructions were also on the box.
Here is the cake with the pieces of the rosette in front drying.
And here is the finished cake. All ready to be consumed over the Christmas holidays - and probably well on into the New Year!!!