Saturday, 10 December 2011

Christmas cake #1

It's nearly Christmas time, and that means time for Christmas baking! I have made two Christmas cakes this year for three reasons: 1) I like baking, 2) I wanted to do lots of cake decorating and 3) everyone in my family loves fruit cake. Christmas cake always goes down well. 

I made my cakes back at the end of October as I like giving them time to mature. Normally they stay in the cupboard until about three days before Christmas when I finally get round to marzipanning and icing them, but because part of my cake icing class involved a Christmas project Christmas cake number 1 is now finished.

As usual, I used Delia Smith's recipe from her Complete Cookery Course book, amended like normal to contain the dried fruit I like best! I also omitted the almonds and used fruit juice instead of brandy. Unfortunately I didn't have (or thought I didn't have) any ground mixed spice when making the cake, so I added ginger and nutmeg in its place. I'm not sure what effect this is going to have on the taste, so am curious to taste the cake to find out. I then found out just recently that I did have ground mixed spice after all, it was just hiding at the back of the cupboard! I could have kicked myself for not finding it (I was sure I should have had it since I had obviously made this recipe before!) and am just hoping the cakes taste okay. They smelled good when I unwrapped them to decorate them, so fingers crossed.

I have learned a few tricks for icing the cake now! Any holes in the cake should be plugged with marzipan before putting the layer of marzipan on. In addition, the cake should be placed upside down on the cake board and if the bottom edge of the cake lies just above the board (due to the way the cake is a bit higher in the middle after cooking) put a long rope of marzipan around the base. Then cover the cake in apricot jam, then marzipan.

Once the marzipan has dried, roll out the icing (I used fondant icing rather than royal icing - I'm not keen on the hard royal icing) and then brush the marzipan with either white alcohol or water. Cover the cake in the icing and smooth. I recently bought a cake smoother and the difference it makes is incredible! This cake is the smoothest I've ever made!

I then left the cake to dry for a few days. I had already started to make some icing penguins using ready to roll fondant icing. Once the heads and bodies were quite dry (I made them separately) I stuck them together using cocktail sticks. I had also previously made some little parcels out of left over icing I had coloured and let them dry out.

So then all that remained was to place all the models on the cake. I put the penguins on first of all, then the presents, but it was still lacking something. Recently I treated myself to a little holly leaf cutter so a friend suggested that I add some holly to the sides. This made it look much more complete!

The final touch was some white, holographic glitter which I sprinkled all over so it looks like snow and frost is sparkling around the penguins. 

Now it's just a case of keeping my fingers crossed that it tastes good!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Fairy cakes

I got an urge to do some coloured icing and cake decoration so I made fairy cakes to take to work. It's years since I last properly made fairy cakes (I have to be honest, they're not my favourite!) and it was great fun! I just used a basic Victoria sponge recipe (4oz caster sugar, 4oz margerine, 4oz self raising flour and 2 eggs) and put it into fairy cake cases. I also added some vanilla bean paste to give them a really good vanilla flavour.

The icing is buttercream - the main reason I don't make fairy cakes very often! I am not a fan of buttercream in general, I find it very sweet and not very tasty. However, it is good for decorating fairy cakes and just because I don't like it doesn't mean that other people don't! I think my team at work will eat anything if it's full of sugar!

In any case, I had great fun colouring the icing and then adding glitter and stars! I have to admit, I left a couple of cakes un-iced so that I could enjoy them too!

Not something I can see myself making very often, but if I get the urge to bake something simple just for a bit of icing fun they are perfect!

Thursday, 8 December 2011


There was no way Halloween could go by without a special cake being made! I made a Devils food cake (as I've posted before, it's such an easy recipe and very tasty). This time, I added icing models I had made.

There's not really a lot more to say about this cake - the cake has been mentioned plenty of times already in other posts. It was yummy, as usual, and the little models were great fun to make :).

Sugar primroses

I have just realised how long ago I last wrote a blog post. I have a backlog of baking to post about now! I may as well get started anyway!

At the cake icing class I've been going to we learned to make sugar primroses. These took a very long time - each flower head needs to be cut out using a primrose cutter, frilled using a cocktail stick (this is when you roll a cocktail stick along the edges of the petals to thin them and make them a bit frilly), bent into shape and attached to a wire. The flowers need to be left to dry (this doesn't take very long if they are made using flower paste). Once you have lots of flowers, each has to be wrapped with florist tape and then eventually all taped together. So they took a long time, but for a first attempt I was pretty pleased with the result.

I then made a Madeira cake so that I could ice it and use the flowers as decoration. Madeira cake is good for making decorative cakes as it is less crumbly than an ordinary sponge cake. It also has a good vanilla flavour which goes well with the jam and icing used to finish it. Unfortunately I can't remember exactly which recipe I used! I googled Madeira cake and after comparing several, just decided to use one of them! They all seemed very similar so I basically chose the one that had the right quantity for the size of tin which I had.

I sliced the cake in half horizontally and put jam in between the two halves, then covered the outside of the cake in jam as well. I coloured some fondant icing pale yellow and used this to cover the cake. The lines are made by a little wheel tool so they are dotted rather than just lines. I added some glitter to add something extra then added the flowers. This cake (as with a lot of the cakes I make) was taken to work. The flowers, however, I have saved!