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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Finishing the Xmas cakes

This past weekend I had to get the Xmas cakes ready for sending to our friends.

So I've include step by step instructions for finishing the cake in the traditional English way...but as usual I vary it because of the taste of my family...so you can too if you decide to make one. As you may remember from last time, the cakes were baked and placed in airtight containers and were being fed with brandy every other day---

First I make cake boards, you can buy them, but you can also cut up a cardboard box & cover it with aluminium foil, like so:

You will also remember I left them in a tiny bit too long so they were a little too black on top, so I cut the top off, who's the wiser? Only me, obviously you will skip this part as you will actually cook your's to perfection and not be off decorating a Christmas tree while they are baking.

What's a great bonus about this is that you can have a little taste of the cake, so you may want to burn them just a bit every year & viola, pre-Christmas treat, great with butter spread over and a little nip of brandy...

After the treat, turn the cake over so that the lovely flat bottom is on the top, makes it nice and level for decorating.

This next bit is spreading jam or marmalade over the cake [except the bottom of course]. Traditionally apricot jam is used, but my lot "no likee" so I've used orange marmalade, which goes very nicely with the spices in the cake, whatever you like the taste of, use, as long as it's sticky, that's the point of this step...sticky like these:

Next we put on a layer of marzipan...which is made from ground almonds [I cheated this year & got the pre-made stuff] I really don't know if you can get this in the USA.

So here's a couple of recipes [not mine but I use one like it]:

Marzipan recipe 1: Uncooked home made marzipan
(this marzipan recipe is good for preparing modelling marzipan)
500g (16 oz) sifted icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
450g ( 1lb) ground almonds
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla flavoring
1 tsp lemon juice
Start a cake decorating business
Sift the icing sugar in a bowl with the ground almonds. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to make a stiff paste. Knead until smooth. (As a substitute to raw eggs it is possible to use a little water mixed with brandy to bind the paste).
Marzipan recipe 2: Cooked home made marzipan
(this marzipan recipe is good for preparing modelling marzipan but it will turn out slightly stickier than the uncooked marzipan)
225g (8oz) granulated sugar
180g (6oz) ground almonds
40g (11/2 oz) icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
pinch of cream of tartar
1 egg white, lightly whisked
5 tbsp water
1\2 tsp vanilla extract
Put the sugar and the water in a heavy based saucepan and cook on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add cream of tarter and bring to the boil until the sugar reaches 116oC (240oF)- soft ball stage. Remove from the heat and mix the mixture until it turns cloudy, then add ground almonds and vanilla extract. Add to the pan the egg white and return to a low heat and stir for a couple of minutes.
Place the icing sugar on to a marble surface and pour over the mixture. Work in the icing sugar with a palate knife. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap until cooled. Once cooled knead the mixture until smooth.

Righto, now you roll out the marzipan to 1/4 inch thickness & lay it over the cake, this is usually much easier with a round cake, but they all taste the same so it doesn't really matter which kind of pan you like to bake in. In England it is typical to get blocks of marzipan and you need to roll it out yourself.

The marzipan needs to be sealed so if you are making a cake with corners, cut off the excess and pinch it all together

I have to use all my pans because I make so many cakes. Also some of the people I make them for don't like the royal icing, so I finish them with marzipan only. First I sprinkle with mixed spice and rub it into the marzipan.

Then I take a cookie cutter [biscuit cutter-UK] and lightly make impressions with it over the top of the marzipan:

Cover lightly again & rub in with clean fingertips, this time with icing sugar [powdered sugar] so it comes up as a snow covered design, super simple.

I wrap them up with cellophane & curly ribbons, then my hubby packs them in boxes and sends them off.

If you want to go the whole hog, then you will want to ice & decorate your cake, again I cheated and bought icing at the store, it's ready to roll, so that's just what I did:

This cake is for my very good friend who I know will appreciate the extra effort, so decorated it with a holly wreath & "Merry Christmas" motto...and that's all, she wrote.

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