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How to ice a Christmas cake

·8-min read

Wondering how to ice a Christmas cake if you've never done it before? Don’t fret! It just takes a little preparation, a bit of knowledge and some handy tips.

There are many different types of Christmas cake decoration and you don't have to be a cake decorating professional to produce a beautifully iced Christmas cake.

If you are planning on preparing your cake on Stir-up Sunday (the last Sunday before advent starts) then it's on the 21st November this year. We have plenty of Christmas cake ideas for you from a cherry and almond Christmas cake to a buttered rum Christmas cake.

Once you've decided on the fruit cake, the Christmas cake decoration can be incredible simple like this Golden Wreath Christmas cake or this simple iced Christmas cake.

Or you can take it to the next level with this detailed snowstorm Christmas cake decoration.

Whatever Christmas cake decoration you decide, follow our step by step guide on how to ice a Christmas cake below.

What kind of icing is best to cover a Christmas cake?

Here's our top advice on how to ice a Christmas cake. We love the traditional pairing of a layer of marzipan covered with a layer of fondant, although you may prefer icing over marzipan with royal icing, which gives a harder finish. Our easy magical forest royal-iced cake has a textured finish, so you don’t need to worry about getting it perfectly smooth.

I don’t like marzipan? Do I have to ice a cake with marzipan first?

Marzipan is there to form a layer between the cake and the icing, so that the colour from the sugars in the fruitcake doesn’t seep through and stain it brown. If you don’t like marzipan, you can use two layers of fondant instead.

How do I know how much marzipan and fondant I need?

500g (1lb2oz) of marzipan/fondant covers a 20.5cm (8in) cake.

What equipment do I need to ice a Christmas cake?

Mastering how to ice a Christmas cake successfully involves using a couple of tools. You will need a smooth rolling pin (the longer the better) and a little cornflour. A ball of string is also very helpful, as is a dry pastry brush.

If you are thinking of decorating a lot of cakes, you can also invest in a plastic icing smoother or two, which will give your icing a professional finish. They work by rubbing the flat side over the icing to polish it.

Photo credit: Good Housekeeping UK
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping UK

SIMPLE ICED CHRISTMAS CAKE RECIPE

What should I do to prepare for icing a Christmas cake?

Before you start, make sure your hands, work surface and equipment are scrupulously clean and that you aren’t wearing any dark or fluffy clothes that shed fibres - this isn’t just because it’s a hygiene issue, but because marzipan and white icing picks up lint easily, and once it’s embedded, it’s hard to pick out.

Make sure all surfaces and equipment are dry - any drops of water will dissolve the sugar in the marzipan/ fondant and make it sticky.

What should I put the Christmas cake on?

Ice your Christmas cake on the surface you intend to serve it from - either a cake board, plate or cake stand.

How do I marzipan a Christmas cake?

Warm your jam or marmalade and sieve it so it’s smooth. If you’re icing a small cake, you can roll out the marzipan in one sheet (as detailed below for fondant). For a 20.5cm (8in) cake or larger, it can be easier to do the sides and top separately.

Measure the circumference of the cake using a piece of string. Brush the cake all over with the sieved jam. Dust the work surface with a little icing sugar. Divide the marzipan in half, shape one piece into a sausage, and then roll it into a strip the length of the string.

Trim the edges so it measures the same height as the cake. Stick the strip to the sides of the cake. Roll the remaining marzipan out, use the cake tin as template and use a sharp knife to cut a circle the same size as the cake. Stick to the top of the cake. Use a palette knife to smooth over the joins and edges. Allow the marzipan to dry overnight if possible.

How to ice a Christmas cake?

Don’t try and roll out the icing straight away after unwrapping - it will be too hard and may crack. Fondant icing is made from vegetable oil and it benefits from a quick knead on a clean work surface to gently warm and slightly soften it first. Just a few squishes together will suffice. Make sure not to over handle it though, as it will become too soft and tear easily.

Photo credit: Oscar Hather - Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Oscar Hather - Hearst Owned

ALPINE CHRISTMAS CAKE

How do you stop icing sticking to a work surface?

Dust your work surface with a small amount of icing sugar. Don’t add too much otherwise it will dry the icing out fast and cause it to crack. You can also use a small amount of cornflour. Brush any excess off with a dry pastry brush. Some people prefer to run solid white vegetable fat over the surface especially when rolling smaller decorations out.

How do you roll icing to the right size?

Take a piece of string, measure across the cake top and down to the sides to the board, with an extra couple of centimetres added on, and cut the string to this length. You can then use the string to measure and make sure the circle of icing you roll out is big enough to cover the cake.

How thick should you roll fondant icing?

Too thick and it will be hard to mould around the cake/be unpleasant to eat. Too thin and it will tear. We recommend rolling it about 5mm thick.

How do you stop fondant cracking?

Work quickly and don’t allow the fondant to sit out uncovered for too long as it will dry out. You can loosely lay a piece of clingfilm over the rolled out fondant if you need to pause before putting it on the cake.

How do you stick icing to marzipan?

Brush the marzipan with cooled boiled water, or you can use a spirit such as vodka, rum or whisky.

Photo credit: Good Housekeeping UK
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping UK

SILENT NIGHT CHRISTMAS CAKE

How do I pick up the icing to put it on top of the Christmas cake?

Move the cake as close to the rolled-out icing as possible. Flop the icing up and over the rolling pin, then carefully and quickly lift it so the icing underneath the rolling pin is covering the side of the cake closest to you. Make sure it’s in position before lowering the icing down over the top of the cake by moving the rolling pin away from you, letting the icing gently drape over the cake. Try not to stretch the icing as you go as this can lead to tearing and cracking.

How do you smooth icing over a cake so there aren’t any bumps or creases?

Using your hands, smooth the icing on top from the centre outwards over the edges. Smooth down the sides evenly from the top to the bottom. Gently press on the centre of any creases to flatten them so they mould to the sides. Try not to trap any air. If you do, push it downwards to expel it out of the bottom edge of the icing. Use a plastic icing smoother if you have you have one to polish and neaten the sides.

How do you trim excess icing off a Christmas cake?

Make sure you’ve smoothed and stuck the icing as best as you can over the sides before trimming off the excess. If you cut before all the icing is stuck down, you risk the icing not covering all the way down to the bottom of the cake. Once it looks like the cake is covered, place the flat of the blade of a sharp knife against the sides of the cake and press down towards the board or plate. Don’t try to trim the icing by cutting sideways into the cake as you will risk cutting off too much. Once all the excess has been trimmed off, use an icing smoother or a fingertip to gently smooth the cut edge of icing.

Can I decorate a cake straight away?

Allow the icing to dry, uncovered, for a day before adding other decorations. If you try and decorate the cake whilst the icing is soft, you can accidentally mark or damage it.

How do I get rid of air bubbles under icing?

If you have a pesky pocket of air trapped underneath your icing, whilst the icing is still soft and pliable, take a clean pin and pop the bubble in its centre, being mindful not to make too large a hole. You can then work from the outside of the bubble to the inside, pressing the air out with your hand in a smoothing motion. Polish over the pinhole with your hand or a cake smoother to try and close it back up again.

How do I repair a crack in fondant icing?

This is only possible if the icing is still soft. Make sure to repair tears before the icing has any chance to dry. Very gently press the crack together, trying to keep the icing as level as possible, then smooth with your hand. If the crack is large, brush a very small amount of cooled boiled water into the torn area that isn’t covered by fondant, then roll out a small piece of fondant and stick it over. Dust your hand or an icing smoother with a little cornflour and then rub all over the patched area to smooth it level until you can’t see the joins anymore. If any marks remain, you can always cover them up with decorations.

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