Growing up, we always had an iced cake every Christmas, and this has meant my idea of a decorated Christmas cake is a layer of marzipan covered with a layer of icing. Without these two toppings, a Christmas cake becomes just another fruit cake.
So that was that, but what about the icing? The past couple of years I had cheated and bought ready rolled icing – as well as being quicker, it gave a smoother, neater surface., and it also stayed softer for longer (not that our cake hangs around for very long after being cut).
I could not find any ready roll icing here whatsoever, which really surprised me. I mean, there are so many pre-prepared items in the stores; anything to make your life easier, but no ready rolled. Actually I could have really done with ready rolled marzipan this year too, seeing as our rolling pin is – hopefully – on a ship in the Atlantic heading for Canada.
But it wasn’t too big a deal, I could always go old skool and *sigh* make the icing by myself, in the complicated process of mixing icing sugar with water.
I made a terrible job of marzipanning the cake. The wine-bottle-rolling-pin was almost as good as a real rolling pin, but there wasn’t that much marzipan to play with, despite us buying two packs – typically, this was the one thing they have smaller packs of than in Europe, rather than the usual giant-sized containers. But I didn’t worry, as the icing would hide all the botched seams.
When rolling out the marzipan, I dusted the surface and wine bottle with icing sugar and, for some reason felt the urge to taste the powder. I don’t know why as I am not really an icing person (unless it is on a cake, that is) but thank goodness I did, as it tasted horrible!
This was not icing sugar as I knew it! A read of ingredients showed the Candian icing sugar contained cornflour, whereas in the UK it is anti caking agent, whatever that is. Cornflour sounds a nicer addition than anti caking agent, but it has a floury taste; not what you want in icing! There was no way I was going to cover the cake in it, it would be like covering it in sweet raw flour. I wasn't feeling overly confident in the cake this year after all the trials involved in the making of it, and the last thing it needed was this.
I now had a really badly marzipanned cake, and no way of hiding my botched job…
I settled on a glazed fruit and nut topping, it looked good, and more importantly relatively easy and using ingredients I already had to hand. Dried fruit: tick; nuts: tick; apricot jam: tick; brandy: tick (although I was eyeing up what was left). Melting the jam with the brandy and toasting the nuts, I then assembled them together with the fruit on the marzipan and then spooned the glaze on top (the recipe said to brush it over, but yes, you’ve guessed it, the pastry brush is with the rolling pin at sea). The sides still looked messy, but after a bit of thinking I found some red ribbon I had bought for something else and this, combined with a sheet of greaseproof paper, resulted in the nightmare marzipan being well and truly hidden.
It’s not the most amazing looking cake I have ever made, but it is better than it was, and the lack of icing has meant I have done something out of my routine, which is always good to try.
And I think I prefer the fruit and nut topping to icing…