Do you remember back in November when I shared my Christmas Cake baking with you? Well, if you baked a cake, or if you have bought a plain fruit cake to decorate, now is the time to add the marzipan.
You need to marzipan it now to give the marzipan time to dry a little before you ice the cake. Marzipan is made of almonds, and like most nuts they can be a little oily, so by taking the time to dry it out, you ensure that you don't get any marks coming through the finished icing and spoiling your finished cake. Also, if you are about to marzipan your cake it is now too late to feed it with any more alcohol as otherwise that too might seep out and spoil your icing.
So, how to go about this and what are we looking for? This is what you are aiming for. I will take you through step by step to get to this, it really is easy!
To begin, take your cake out of the wrappings and place it onto a cardboard cake board, or, if you don't mind cutting directly onto your cake plate/stand etc then place the cake there. I mind cutting on to my plate so I use a board. Put the top downwards so that you have the nice flat bottom to work on. If your cake has a domed top you have two options, either cut it level - and snack on the cake! - or if it is just a little wobble, prop it up with some little balls of marzipan under the cake so that it holds up level and flat.
Then you need to get some "glue" ready to stick the marzipan down to the cake. I use apricot jam, which I believe is traditional. The reason? It only has a very light taste which will not take away from the other flavours, and it doesn't have seeds or pips or, for the most part, big bits of fruit that might make lumps or bumps! Put a couple of tablespoons in a small saucepan and put to one side for now.
Then take your marzipan. Now, I use the "white" marzipan, which is basically the natural stuff. The yellow marzipan has colouring added. Either is fine, this is just my preference. I use two blocks which I think are just over 450g each - about a pound. This is for two reasons which I will explain as we go on!
Your instinct might be to reach for the flour at this point, but you don't want to add flour, you also don't want to use icing sugar. The best thing to assist your rolling out - because this is sticky stuff! - is cornflour or cornstarch. By which I mean the white powdered stuff, not the stuff you use for polenta.
Squish your two blocks of marzipan together using the heel of your hand and flatten them out a bit before you start rolling. Then cornflour your rolling pin and start rolling. you want a piece that is about 2 or 3 mm thick - as you would roll pastry for a pie - and larger than your cake is wide and tall. By using a larger amount of marzipan you can generally be sure to get a large enough piece!
Then you need to apply your jam glue. Heat up the jam in your pan until it starts to "melt" and go runny. Don't boil it, just make it easy to spread around. Then I use a silicone pastry brush to cover the top and sides of the cake well. You can see below how it goes shiny.
Then wipe of any drips of jam that are on your board. Roll the marzipan onto your rolling pin and slide the cake underneath and allow the marzipan to fall over the cake. It will look a bit like a cake shaped Casper the friendly ghost.
Now, at this point it is easy to get scared. You have a sticky cake, a large piece of marzipan draped over it and you really don't want a ghost, you want a cake. Take your time!!!! Gently, using your clean hands smooth the marzipan over the top of the cake and gradually work your hands down the sides. You are smoothing and easing here.
Slowly and gently does it and before you know it, you will have a cake that has smooth marzipan over the top and sides.
Then, using the back of a knife, which you should hold parallel with the side of the cake, cut around the bottom of the cake to remove the excess marzipan. Then lift off the excess marzipan. Now, depending on how good you are, or how much you love marzipan you have two options. You could make this into something else, marzipan fruits, chocolate covered marzipan balls, or, if you are like me, you can take this as the cooks perk. Pop it into a sealed plastic bag and break off a chunk every now and then and eat it as a snack! That is why I buy extra really!!
The just to finish off, smooth your hands over the cake again, paying attention to the edge that you cut, ease this gently "under" the cake to make a nice neat edge and a good seal.
Take a clean dry pastry brush, I prefer a bristle one here , that isn't the one you used for the jam, and brush off any excess cornflour, it will come away easily.
To dry your cake you need to let the air get to it. You can do this in any number of ways, I have a mesh dome thing for keeping flies off things so sometimes I use that, you could put a cake dome over it and prop it up on one side. Or you could do as I usually do. Put the cake on the inside lid of a large cake tin, then put the main part of the tin over the top, at an angle. This lets a bit of air in, but keeps anything else off the cake, and most importantly stops little - or large! - fingers from poking your flat surface.
Leave your cake until the surface feels dry to the touch, which will be a couple of days. I then just close up the tin until I am ready to ice the cake. I will try and do this later this week so that I can show you the next stage - in case you are following along!
I hope that you enjoy your cake making, decorating and eating!
p.s. if you have a square cake see below in the comments for a suggestion on how to proceed!