I realized it was Christmas when Lisa sent me a batch of photographs of that most precious of beings, my granddaughter, as she helped her mother to bake the Christmas cake this year. My children in Cologne will probably have a white Christmas while we welcome the day with the sun but for me Christmas begins with the cake and the cake is made, at the latest, in November (although my mother used to make hers in early October so that it could take a decent amount of brandy before icing time).
This evening Lisa mailed me to find about how one puts the marzipan icing on the Christmas cake so I thought it would be a great idea to write it down so that it’s there for future use. The reason I use marzipan is because it’s keeps the cake nice and moist plus it makes it much easier to ice it and this is the recipe I use (and because Lisa has baked 3 cakes, I’m doubling up on my recipe so feel free to halve it if you need to)
- 350 g golden caster sugar
- 560 g icing sugar – it must be sifted, plus you’ll need a little extra for when you knead and roll out the marzipan.
- 900 g ground almonds
- 2 vanilla pods (scrape out the seeds & use those)
- 5 jumbo sized egg whites (or whole eggs), whisked
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 6 tbsp apricot jam that you have warmed & then sieved to remove all the bits
- Mix all the sugars & the almonds in a large bowl & then, using your fingers, rub in the vanilla seeds until it’s well incorporated.
- Now form a well in the middle & pop in the egg whites & the lemon juice; cut the wet ingredients into this mixture with a knife.
- Lisa, at this point you can hand over to Thierry: dust the surface with some icing sugar, and begin to knead the marzipan mixture into a smooth dough – try not to take too long otherwise it can get oily; if it looks as if it’s too wet, add some more icing sugar.
- Shape it into a ball, wrap in some plastic wrap and make sure that it’s well covered & keep in the fridge until you need to use it (you can do this a few days in advance if you like).
- Now you can start icing the cake: first of all, take the marzipan out of the fridge and then thin the jam with a little water until it looks like double cream; now bring this to a simmer and push it through a sieve so that you can lose all the bits.
- Now knead a sizeable piece of the until it’s nice & smooth and then roll it out on your surface (that you’ve dusted well with the icing sugar
- Roll it out until it’s about 1 cm thick and 2-3 cm wider than the diameter of the cake – keep on checking that the marzipan doesn’t stick to the surface.
- Now brush the top of the cake with the jam & wait a bit for the jam to set; next turn the cake upside down onto the marzipan & fiddle it a little so that it sticks to the marzipan.
- Now turn the cake right side up and start working on the sides because the top of the cake is perfectly smooth now – right?
- Next you move to the sides of the cake: as before, brush apricot jam on the sides and onto the piece of icing that’s hanging over the edges.
- Knead some more marzipan until it’s smooth & then roll it into a strip that’s a little wider than the height of the cake (you can even make two strips and join them, if you like)
- Cut one side of the strip so that it’s quite straight and place the icing so that the straight piece runs around the base of the cake & the uneven bit runs around the top; smooth the icing down and join the edges carefully so that you have a smoothish marzipan base covering the whole cake.
- It will take around 5 days for the marzipan to dry at room temperature, after which you can ice the cake.