Icing a Christmas cake is quite fun. You can be as creative or as simple as you want, it all depends on your time and skills. You can buy ready made marzipan (almond paste layer) and fondant icing, add cut out shapes or a sprig of holly and your cake will look just wonderful. If you have the time then you can easily make your own icing.
Most recipes suggest you use boiled apricot jam to ‘stick’ the marzipan or fondant onto the cake, truth is, I don’t like apricot jam, so buying a whole jar just to brush some on a cake once a year seems a bit wasteful. Any jam would do really, as long as it doesn’t have fruit pieces, so strained orange marmalade would be just fine. I use honey because it’s quite sticky, you don’t need to boil it (the boiling of the jam is to stop bacteria from growing and preserve the cake for longer, but honey has antibacterial properties) and it’s always in the cupboard.
Ingredients for an 8 inch/20 cm cake
450g ready to roll marzipan
450g ready to roll fondant icing
4 tbsp honey (or apricot jam)
Icing sugar for rolling
Adding the marzipan layer
1. Brush the top and sides of the cake with the honey, so the marzipan sticks to the cake.
2. Roll out the marzipan into a large circle, about 3mm thin, on a surface dusted with icing sugar to prevent sticking. If your cake tin is 8 inch/20cm, and your cake is 2 inch/5cm high, for example, you’ll want to roll the marzipan to larger than 10inch/25cm in diameter.
3. Lift the marzipan and carefully place it over the cake. Pat carefully all over the surface to make sure it is stuck to the cake.
4. Check that the surface is smooth and even, trimming away any excess with a sharp knife.
5. Leave the cake in a cool dry place for a day to dry out before icing.
Adding the fondant icing layer
1. After the marzipan has dried, brush it with honey to help fix the icing to the marzipan.
2. Roll out the fondant to a diameter slightly larger than the cake, as you did with the marzipan, on a work surface dusted with icing sugar.
3. Once the icing is rolled to approximately 5mm thick, carefully and loosely roll it round the rolling pin, then roll out over the top of the cake.
4. Smooth out the icing evenly over the cake with your hands, pushing out any air bubbles, and smooth the fondant down the sides of the cake.
5. Trim the excess with a sharp knife. If the bottom edge is a bit messy, you can decorate the bottom of the cake with a ribbon of fondant. You can use the excess fondant to cut out decorative shapes.