Easy Way to Ice a British Christmas Cake

  • 01 of 04

    Icing the Christmas Cake is Easy–All You Need is Time

    Christmas cake frosted in white to look like snow and adorned with tiny faux pine trees
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    When preparing for Christmas, one fun task is icing a traditional British Christmas cake. You don’t have to be a professional cake decorator to do it; in fact, it's quite easy for anyone to create this festive cake to take center stage on the holiday table.

    The easiest route is to simply buy ready-made marzipan and/or fondant icing, brightly colored ribbons, leaf cutouts, or a sprig of holly to make a holiday-worthy cake. However, if you have the time or inclination, you can make your own icing, which is easy to do. 

    The most important factor to note is that each icing step needs at least a day (or more) to set, so for this British confection, you must not leave the icing until the last minute. Begin the icing at least one week, or even better, two weeks before Christmas to allow each icing step the time to dry and set.

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  • 02 of 04

    How to Ice with Marzipan (Almond Paste)

    marzipan almond paste
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    Before any icing takes place, you will need to cover the cake with a thick layer of marzipan or almond paste. As well as giving a lovely almond flavor to the cake, the thick paste layer creates a barrier between the cake and the icing. It's important that once the marzipan is applied to the cake, you let it dry for a few days or up to one week before icing. If you ice the cake too soon, the oil from the almond paste will seep into the icing and spoil the appearance of the finished cake.

    Apply the Marzipan:

    • Stand the cake on a cake board or cutting board and lightly dust with sifted confectioners' sugar. Roll 2 1/2 pounds/1.25 kg marzipan evenly into a circle large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake.
    • Brush all of the exposed surfaces of the cake with 1/4 cup warmed and strained apricot jam. Slip the circle of paste onto the cake and carefully pat all over the surface to make sure it is attached to the cake. Check that the surface is smooth and even and then trim away any excess.
    • Let the cake dry in a cool but not cold place, uncovered, for three days or up to one week.
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  • 03 of 04

    When and How to Use Royal Icing

    christmas cake royal icing
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    Traditionally, glossy royal icing would be used to cover a Christmas cake, but unless you are a skilled decorator, it can be tricky to use. Royal icing can also be used to simply pipe decorative elements on the cake, such as swirls, swags, and snowflakes.

    Apply the Royal Icing

    • Make the royal icing recipe and then spread it over the marzipan-covered cake with a flat palette knife in either a smooth layer or swirled to make little peaks all over the surface of the cake. Decorate as you wish with silver or gold sugar balls, Christmas ornaments, or other festive decorations. 
    • Let the cake dry, uncovered until the icing sets hard, at least overnight or up to three days before serving. If not serving immediately, store in an airtight container.
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  • 04 of 04

    Finishing the Cake with Fondant Icing as an Alternative

    fondant icing christmas cake
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    Instead of using royal icing, the cake can be iced with rolled fondant, which is a quick-and-easy way to create a smooth iced surface for your cake. You can use it alone or with the marzipan layer and even finish with a splash of royal icing if you are feeling a little decadent. Fondant icing is also useful for cutout shapes to decorate the surface of the cake.

    Apply the Fondant

    • Make the rolled fondant, cover the bowl, and let it rest for 20 minutes. Dust your work surface with confectioners' sugar and evenly roll the dough into a smooth circle large enough to cover the cake.
    • Brush a little beaten egg white over the marzipan. Lay the fondant over and gently pat into place. Trim away any excess.
    • Finish by using scraps of fondant to create cutout shapes, such as leaves, stars, and hearts. Apply the cutouts to the cake using egg white for glue. For different-colored shapes, take a small piece of fondant icing, roll it into a ball and flatten on the work surface. Place a tiny drop of food coloring on the surface. Roll the icing back into a ball and knead to create an even color throughout.
    • If you like, tie a large red ribbon around the outside and stick a sprig of holly on top.
    • Let the icing set hard (at least overnight or up to three days) before serving. If not serving immediately, store in an airtight container.