Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The icing on the cake

Following on from the making of the cake back in November, the marzipanning of the cake last week, now we are up to the icing of the cake!  The final stage you will be glad to hear before the part where you get to actually eat your cake.

Usually - because I really do usually make a Christmas cake - I use fondant icing.  The ready made kind that Mary Berry would disapprove of if you use it in the GBBO! 

I roll it out in the same way as I did for the marzipan.  Then to attach it to the marzipan you don't need more jam.  Either brush the marzipan very lightly with some water - supposedly freshly boiled - or do what I do and use some vodka.  It doesn't add any taste and evaporates away rather than making things soggy.  Some say you can use brandy, but I would worry about the colour.

Once it is on the cake, ease it over in the same way as you did with your marzipan, trim and then decorate.  You can find some inspiration here with the cake that I made last year.

Now, you will have noticed that I said that I usually use fondant icing and I am not showing you step by step how to use that, so I must have done something else this year.

Well, I did.  I decided to take a jump in proceedings and do something new for me.  I have used royal icing to decorate the cake.  EeeekkK!!!  Yes, I was scared!!  I have never used royal icing before.  I have iced cakes with buttercream, and made sort of water icing with regular icing sugar and water or lemon juice, but no royal icing.

Let me tell you, it is so much easier than you think it will be, and, assuming that it dries OK and tastes alright and doesn't turn out to be as hard as cement, I will be doing it again.  This is the finished cake!


Let me explain how I got to this point.  In England you can buy Royal Icing Sugar which is icing sugar with dried egg white powder already added.  It is the addition of the egg white which makes it Royal Icing instead of any other sort of icing.  If you cannot get Royal Icing Sugar, you can add Meringue Powder to the icing sugar.

Royal Icing dries to a much stiffer finish, can be piped and played with to make the shape you want and it will stay where you put it!


To start I put the whole bag of 500g into the bowl of my stand mixer with the whisk attachment fitted.  Then I went a little off piste.  Because I was worried about the icing being too hard, I added about a tablespoon of glycerine.  You can buy this in the cake ingredients aisle.

My packet of Royal Icing Sugar said to add about 80ml of water.  I was worried about adding too much, so I added cold water a tablespoon at a time while the mixer was on low.  Make sure that you start out on a low speed, otherwise you will have sugar everywhere! 


As I added more water the sugar started to form small lumps, I then increased the speed and added more water gradually until the mixture all came together as you can see above.  I then whisked it on the highest setting for a couple of minutes to make it come together well and add some air to make it fluffy.



I wanted the cake to be quite plain and elegant.  I was looking for something totally different from the cakes that I usually make.  I found these little blue and white snowflake decorations - made of sugar - and decided to use these and only these on the cake.


To begin with I piled a large about of the icing on top of the cake and then using an offset spatula I gradually eased it towards the edge with a swirling motion.  Once it seemed to be fairly even over the top I started to work it down the sides.



As I got further down the sides I was worried about making a mess, so I used a tiny teaspoon to just push it towards the bottom of the cake.

When it was all covered, I used a regular stainless steel spatula to smooth off the top of the cake.  As I smoothed I put the excess icing back into my bowl.  You don't want this icing to be too thick.

Then I needed to smooth the sides.  To make the cake easier to turn, I stood it on a tin can.  I first used the regular spatula to remove much of the excess and to try and get a flatish side. 

After that I took a stainless steel bench scraper that I have.  It is basically a square of metal with three straight edges and one that is folded over for a handle.  I placed one edge on the cake board and the other up against the cake.  Working slowly I then turned the cake board and held the scraper in place, gradually removing excess icing.  Stop and put the excess icing back into your bowl periodically.

Once I had been round, I moved the scraper in closer to the cake and repeated a couple of times.  I then repeated the smoothing of the top.


It is traditional to have the royal icing very smoothly finished.  Then to add piped details.  I knew though that I would not be able to achieve that look on my first go.  Plus I didn't want lots of fussy piped details.  I did though smooth the icing a little more by dipping my offset spatula into some hot water, dried off the spatula and then smoothed over, repeating as you have worked on an area.  This too some of the bigger marks out.


Then I added the icing snowflakes that I had bought to decorate the cake.  I was pleased with it, but at this point I realised two things.  One, the gold cake board didn't really go, and secondly that my big Christmas Cake Plate wasn't going to go with the cake either.  The plate I would normally use is all reds and greens.

Instead I got out this plate which is glass and which I have had for several decades now!  It doesn't get used much so it was a good opportunity to give it an airing.


I put the cake on the plate and then used some of the excess icing to cover the cake board.  It isn't quite the finish that I wanted, but it will be fine!  This is a cake that is going to be eaten, it isn't for looking at!

There you have it.  The Ta Dah! moment, one finished Christmas Cake!


I hope that I have inspired you to make a cake, and perhaps showed you some tips and techniques that will assist you.  It really is easy to do and can be very simple and it is definitely cheaper than buying a Christmas Cake.  I also think that doing this sort of thing connects us to the traditions of our Christmasses which is important.

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Now, this all sounds well and good doesn't it.  I do though have an addendum to this.  I iced the cake when I was home alone.  When Hubby - who is lovely and I love very much! - came home, he was rather nonplussed at the sight of this cake.  After some probing, I found out that he didn't think it was Christmassy enough and was too plain.  So since taking the photo above I have adulterated it and added silver icing dots, some little icing snowmen and a load of tiny snowflake sprinkles.  Apparently it looks better now.  I think it looks hideous so you will not be seeing a photo!  Good job that I love him isn't it!!

Happy Christmas!

Amy

50 comments:

  1. Love the cake Amy. I am all for simple is best. so elegant. The choice of blue and white is different yet perfect. this is the first year I have not make a Christmas (English) cake and I am already missing it. Have the Christmas pudding made, but I do miss the cake x

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  2. It looks wonderful, I am a believer that less is more. The Grandchildren are NOT they would be with your husband the more you can get on it the better, especially if it is edible. I was once again blessed, my youngest daughter did ours.

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  3. It looks lovely, I am doing a cake this week its a chocolate fruit cake and can be made and eaten staight away, I have done this cake for several years now and its very moist and dosent need decorating but neither of us like icing much, if I did decorate it would be of a simple elegant style like yours :-)

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  4. Wow, it looks beautiful Amy. Not only do I not recall making royal icing, I don't think I have tasted it either. But it looks really good to me. Your cake is so elegant, and I love those snowflakes. Happy times, Amy. xx

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  5. Gorgeous cake (very Christmassy) and post. Merry Christmas! xx

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  6. It looks great, refreshing and a bit different Amy. A sort of snow queen all icy smooth. I'm sure you will enjoy eating it. x

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  7. Beautiful, Amy. I love the little snowflakes; very elegant. Enjoy! xx

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  8. What a pretty cake, Amy. Your family will be so happy. Happy holidays.
    Amalia
    xo

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  9. It looks great! You are brave using royal icing!

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  10. Wonderful looking cake; though, being a man, I was puzzled not to see a small plastic snowman, Santa Claus, penguin, festive rhino or anything else on it. Very elegant, Amy. Which icing is it that breaks your teeth when you're off the last of the cake sometime in March? Finally - thank you for all your lovely posts and for popping over to my blog as you - have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! xx

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    1. That should've read "when you're finishing off.." Must be the mulled wine...hic.

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  11. It's really lovely. Understated equals elegant to my way of thinking, though I must admit that I do like to see a cake filled with snowmen and sprinkles too.

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  12. Men are funny, aren't they? I think your cake looks fab - and I bet it tastes good too. I remember the harder-than-rock Royal Icing my mum used to put on her Christmas cake. It was so hard you were too scared to eat it in case you broke your teeth! LOL

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  13. Oh, the things we will do to please our significant other. I thought it looked great as it was.

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  14. Just like Anne above, I can remember the rock hard royal icing mum made with a lump of marzipan underneath to make a slope for the children on sledges decorations.

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  15. It looks lovely! I have never been brave enough to make my own!
    Have a super Christmas and happy 2016!
    M x

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  16. awww dear!! I think look absolutely beauty and stunning ! I love it!!! Look fab!
    Merry Christmas dear Amy!!!
    You always make beautiful things!!!
    much love xoxoxoxoxo

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  17. It's a beautiful cake, Amy. I have loved reading all the steps on how you made it. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, Pat

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  18. Maybe your husband (I can't bring myself to use the word Hubby, sorry!) was non-plussed as blue not often considered a Christmassy colour. I think it looks lovely even though I'd not have thought of using blue.
    Margaret P

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  19. Oh Perfect frosting is amazing to me!

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  20. Men! I think your cake looks delightful and christmassy, too. I like things slightly understated and for me, your cake is just perfect. x

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  21. The cake is beautiful! I love the blue and white combination. That's funny that your husband thought it wasn't Christmassy enough and wanted you to add more to it. You were very kind to do so. :-)

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  22. The things we do for those we love. I like the original look much better.

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  23. Thank you, Amy - this post is really useful. I prefer royal icing to fondant and bought some royal icing sugar last Christmas. I was really disappointed when it turned out to be quite soft. Having looked at your pictures, I realise I didn't whisk it enough. I haven't iced our cake yet, so maybe I'll buy some and have another go. I love your snowflake decorations and will be going for a bit of edible silver glitter this year, I think.
    Cathy x

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  24. Your cake looks fabulous, Amy, and I'm sure even with the new additions it still looks wonderful. I still - ahem - haven't made mine. We don't like alcohol-soaked Christmas cake so it's just a fruit cake which is getting made later and later and for the last couple of years has made for a hilarious communal decorating activity on Christmas Day too. Our Christmas cakes are starting to look rather like modern art these days! :-) xx

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  25. Amy, tis a gorgeous thing you created! I always make Royal icing by whisking plain old icing sugar into 3 or 4 egg whites. My mum always used to do 'snow drift' swirls making little peaks by dabbing it all over with the back of a knife! I suspect royal icing sugar is a 'safer' way than using fresh egg whites

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  26. Your cake looks fabulous Amy. I like to see a 'quiet' way of decorating for Christmas. It seems quite elegant! Happy Christmas! xCathy

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  27. Hello Amy,
    Wow you made the pretties snowflake cake!! Thanks for sharing this at Cooking and Crafting with J & J!!
    We love having you. Wishing you a Merry Christmas.
    Hugs, Julie xo

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  28. Those are darling decorations. Mine is still in tinfoil! Must do something about that...Jo x

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  29. Oh that is beautiful ! Awesome job . Yes we often teased my mum this time of year for her home made fruit cake with the Royal icing as the brick or the door stop but we all ate it up I tell ya . Thanks for sharing lovely post and photos ! Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas hope father Christmas is good to you all !

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  30. your cake is wonderful. I always stop before the smoothing out, and call it a snow scene! the messier it is the stronger the blizzards!

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  31. Well done Amy. Happy Christmas Amy and take care.

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  32. Cracking cake Mrs! Thanks for the tutorial on royal icing. I will try it. Happy crimbo! Xx

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  33. This turned out super cute! Simple, but adorable! :)

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J! Merry Christmas!

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  34. That's the longest cake project I've ever seen. Lots of different layers. When the kids were little a friend would make the royal icing so the kids could make gingerbread houses. It was the only thing strong enough to hold all the pieces on and together. Your cake is lovely but I'm like your hubby, the more the merrier. Decorate away. :) I'm sure it will be delicious!

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  35. I think your cake looks terrific! I am not a very icer so it looks very professional to me! Just started watching Mary Berry over here, I love the Bake show!

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  36. The decoration is pretty and different. Enjoy your cake! Wishing you and your husband a very happy Christmas.

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  37. It is a beautiful cake! I feel inspired to know my limitations so there'll be no cake here for Christmas. Shhhh...don't tell my family. What they don't know and all that. I have worked with royal icing before...that was the year of the gingerbread house.

    Merry Christmas, Amy! Enjoy that cake.

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  38. Pretty cake, my OH makes ours with the children. He made royal icing one year but it was too hard for us so we cheat now with the ready-made stuff. Hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas :)

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  39. Such a pretty cake Amy, I love that shade of blue, sort of wedgewoody! Merry Christmas to you and yours and all the very best for 2016 xxxxx

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  40. Taking a minute to pop in and catch up. Your cake looks just lovely Amy!! I love our time together and feel so blessed to have such a wonderful blogging buddy!! Hope you and your family have a wonderful and very blessed Christmas and New Year!! xoxo

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  41. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas Amy. Your cake looks wonderful with the snow flakes! Sarah x

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  42. Hi Amy,

    The cake looks amazing and love the snowflake decorations.
    Wishing you a merry Christmas and happy holidays.
    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  43. Haha the things we have to do to keep the peace, your cake looked lovely Amy but it will taste just as yummy no matter how you decorate it. I hope you and your family have a very Happy Christmas. :) xxx

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  44. Your cake looks amazing my friend.

    Happy eating!
    Meredith

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  45. A very happy and peaceful Christmas to you and your family Amy! Have a wonderful day!

    Merry Christmas
    Amanda x

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  46. i love your snowflakes. so pretty. trying to find that card swap post. i think i am headed the right direction. i think??! ( :

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