How to Make and Decorate a Christmas Cake
I make and decorate my own Christmas cake every year. I stick to the traditional fruit cake. Well, almost traditional ... I hate peel and glacé cherries, so instead I add extra of the rest of the fruit to make up for the peel I don't add.
I try to make the cake by mid-September at the latest so that it can "age" for several months. During this time, I give it regular "drinks" - I poke several holes in the cake and, weekly, I pour about a tablespoon of sherry over the cake as it matures. This keeps the cake moist and rich by the time Christmas rolls around. To decorate, the cake, I use marzipan and royal icing.
Below, I have included my recipes for the cake and royal icing. I cheat and buy ready made marzipan and roll it out when I need it. In the UK, you can buy ready made royal icing, which can also be rolled and just laid on the cake when ready. Unfortunately, I've never been able to find that elsewhere. The cake recipe is pretty easy, but your arm will get a work out! Finally, for those of you who do like cherries and peel in their fruit cake, I have included the alternate fruit mixture at the end of the cake recipe.
I hope you enjoy this cake as much as my family and friends do.
Making the Cake
Christmas Cake Recipe
- 500g raisins
- 345g sultanas
- 165g currants
- 225g butter
- 225g soft brown sugar (I now make this with Splenda brown sugar so use half as much)
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 285g plain white flour
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 30ml black treacle (or dark molasses)
- grated lemon zest
- 200ml beer or sherry (I prefer sherry)
- 110g ground almonds
- Set the oven to 325F/170C. Grease and line a 9in round cake tin with waxed, greaseproof paper.
- Mix all the fruit together. If including cherries, cut them up and then mix with the rest of the fruit.
- In a separate bowl, cream the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat together until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs slowly, beating well between each addition. If the mixture curdles, beat in 1 tsp of flour.
- Fold in the flour, mixed spice, black trecle or molasses, lemon rind and beer or sherry. (A little tip, I spray anything I'm going to use with black treacle or molasses with cooking spray. That way, the treacle slides right off and you're not waiting forever for it unstick from whatever you are using.)
- Stir in the ground almonds and fruit.
- Place the mixture in the prepared tin and make a deep hollow in the middle.
- Bake for 2.5 hours or until a skewer emerges clean after being stuck in the middle of the cake.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.
- The cake can be stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place for several months. You can give it regular drinks during this time (as mentioned above).
Alternate Fruit Mixture
- 110g glacé cherries
- 55g mixed peel
- 450g raisins
- 285g sultanas
- 110g currants
Decorating the Cake
I find that decorating the cake is actually quite a bit more finicky and harder to do than actually making the cake. I've tried to include detailed instructions for what I do.
The cake should be covered with marzipan about one week before you ice it. To cover with marzipan, you will need:
- 1 quantity of marzipan
- apricot glaze (apricot jam heated with 1 tbsp of water and allowed to cool)
- icing sugar
- It is best to use the bottom of the cake for the top when decorating (it is smoother). If the cake is not level, shave off some of the top and then turn it over.
- Measure around the side of the cake with a piece of string.
- Lightly dust a clean work surface with icing sugar and roll out two-thirds of the marzipan to a strip the length of the piece of string and the depth of the cake.
- Roll out the remaining marzipan to a circle the size of the cake top.
- Brush the sides of the cake with apricot glaze. Turn it on its side and roll it along the prepared strip of marzipan. Smooth the joins with a rounded knife. Take a jar or straight sided can and roll it around the sides of the cake to smooth it out.
- Brush the top with apricot glaze and, using a rolling pin, lift the other piece of marzipan on to the cake. Seal the edges with the knife and smooth the top with a rolling pin.
- Leave to dry in a cool, dry place on a cake board about 2 inches larger than the cake.
Royal Icing Recipe
For one coat of icing for a 9in round cake:
- 1 1/2 egg whites
- 675g icing sugar
- Mix the egg whites with 3 tbsp of sugar.
- Gradually add the remaining sugar and mix well until the icing is soft, white, fluffy and will hold its shape. More sugar can be added if the mixture is too runny. This depends on how you want to ice your cake ... if you want a smooth finished look, you will want a very stiff icing that can be rolled like the marzipan. If you want a more textured look, for example, a snowscape scene with a christmas tree, snowman, etc. added, you will want your icing to be a lot more pliable.
- Follow the same process as above to add the icing layer on to the marzipan layer, if you want a smooth cake. The icing is put directly onto the marzipan. Do not use glaze of any kind.
Finally, many people decorate their cakes in many different ways. This part is up to you. You can make additional royal icing, add food colour to it and use cookie cutters to cut out different shapes (e.g. green holly leaves with small red holly berries). Decorations can be used to stand on the cake, you can make your own, let your imagination go wild. Also, remember, you can buy a lot of different pre-made sugar decorations, so you don't have to try to make them yourself if this is not your strong suit. I have attached some photos for inspiration.