Thursday, 22 December 2011

"I Can't Believe You Made That!" Christmas Cake; Time to Decorate!

When I posted the first step to baking my "I Can't Believe You Made That!" Christmas Cake, I explained the reason behind the funny name; that it looks so professional and tastes so delicious that all my friends and family exclaim, "I can't believe you made that!"...and the final step, decorating the cake, will show you why.

Now you've covered the cake in marzipan and icing, you'll have a lovely, smooth base to get started with.  Sometimes there's the worry that you've gone to all that effort, lovingly making, baking and covering, and the decorating will let you down, but I promise this design is super easy and your cake will look amazing and wow your guests on Christmas Day. 

This year I chose a girly Christmas design for my cake as I'll be sharing it with my girlfriends for a special Christmas Eve Afternoon Tea.  All you need is some fondant icing, food colouring, a few cookie cutters and some little extras like mini sugar stars and edible pink balls.  I won't lie, it may take a good few hours, but ultimately it is just a case of cutting out the right shapes and arranging them in the right really is that easy!  Ultimately, the cake is yours, so decorate however you like, check out my top tips below for some extra special ideas.

"I Can't Believe You Made That!" Christmas Cake; Time to Decorate

Christmas Tree Cake

400g fondant icing
Green, yellow, pink and blue food colouring
Mini sugar stars
Edible pink balls
Boiled water, cooled

Divide the fondant icing into 4 100g pieces and colour each one using the different food colourings.  Add a drop at a time, kneading as you go, until the colour is pale and even.  Roll out each piece, you will need the icing quite thin, but sturdy enough to handle without breaking.

Take the cooled water and a pastry brush.  The water will act as your "glue" for decorating, but be careful not to over-wet the brush, you only need a very little to moisten rather than wet the icing.

Cut out a Christmas Tree shape from the green icing and stick this onto the centre of the cake.  Use the star nozzle of an piping bag to cut out 8 stars in the pink icing and stick these to the end of each branch of the tree.  Cut a small star shape from the yellow icing and stick this to the top of the tree, then carefully press some sugar stars into the tree to decorate, a cocktail stick will help you gently push them in place.

Cut out an array of different sized squares and rectangles from the coloured icings and use a knife to cut out thin strips of the icing too, these can be laid across the parcels and gently pushed down to create "ribbons".  Carefully stick the parcels all around the edge of the cake, overlapping as you go, until they reach all the way around.  On some of the parcels use some sugar stars and pink balls to decorate them, using the cocktail stick to carefully push them in place.

Finally, carefully press the pink balls into the rest of the cake to resemble snowfall, again the cocktail stick will help.  Leave the cake for about 30 minutes for the design to set and you're done!

Belle's Top Tip
If you would prefer the same cake, but a little less girly, you can replace the pink icing with red and use deeper shades of the other colours by simply adding a little more food colouring.

If you're short on time just grab some white fondant icing and roll 1 large ball and a slightly smaller one to make a snowman in the centre of the cake.  Give him some eyes and a beaming smile using black icing and a small piece of ribbon as a scarf.  Roll up lots of small balls of the icing to dot around as snowballs and tie a big festive ribbon around the edge of the cake, finishing with a big bow.

You can use red or green icing to pipe a festive greeting on the cake, but only try if you're confident piping letters.  I have spoilt many a cake with wonky handwriting and spelling mistakes!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

"I Can't Believe You Made That" Christmas Cake; Time To Cover!

The time has come!  You've been lovingly "feeding" the "I Can't Believe You Made That" Christmas Cake for weeks now and with just 7 days left until the big day now it's time to cover it ready for the best bit...decorating!

The idea of covering a cake in marzipan and icing can seem daunting if you've never tried it before, but I promise it's not that difficult and it really will give you a fantastic base to wow your friends and family on Christmas Day with your festive creation.  Read through my step-by-step guide carefully before you start so you know exactly what you need to do and for an extra confidence boost check out my top tip below before you begin...let's do this!

You will need

500g white royal icing
500g golden marzipan
3tbsp apricot glaze or jam
icing sugar, for dusting

Unwrap your Christmas fruit cake and place in the centre of a cake board that is slightly bigger than the cake.

Place a saucepan on the lowest heat and add the apricot glaze; if using apricot jam ensure you have sieved it beforehand.  Gently heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until no lumps remain.  Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Lightly dust a clean surface with icing sugar and knead the marzipan until soft and pliable.  Coat a rolling pin in some icing sugar and begin rolling out the marzipan.  After a few rolls move the marzipan and continue until it is about 5mm thick, aiming to keep it in a rounded shape.

Using a pastry brush coat the fruit cake in a layer of the apricot glaze, ensuring it is completely covered, this will help the marzipan stick to the cake.  Place the rolling pin at the top of the rolled out marzipan (the end furthest from you) and roll it onto the pin as if bringing the marzipan towards you.  Now carefully hold the marzipan in place on the rolling pin and lift it.  Place the bottom of the rolled marzipan at the end of the cake furthest from you and gently place over the cake.

Coat your hands in icing sugar and use your hands to carefully smooth the marzipan in place, turning the cake and smoothing as you go.  When covered use a sharp knife to cut away any excess at the bottom, then use the side of a blunt knife to push the bottom marzipan into the cake giving an extra smooth finish.  Ideally, you should leave the cake overnight before covering with the icing, or at least 4-5 hours if you're in a hurry.

To cover with royal icing; lightly dust a clean surface with icing sugar and roll out exactly as you did with the marzipan.  Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the marzipan covered cake in cooled boiled water and then lift and cover the cake exactly as you did before. 

If you notice any air bubbles in the icing carefully pierce with the end of a sharp knife or pin, place some icing sugar on your finger and gently rub over the cut you made to cover it. 

Now your cake is a blank canvas for you to decorate however you wish, but if you keep an eye on the blog in the next couple of days I'll be giving you lots of hints and tips on how to make it look super-professional super-easily!

Belle's Top Tip
If you still feel you need a little help or a confidence boost before covering the cake, the BBC Good Food website has an excellent video showing you basically what I've described above and you can view it here.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Countdown: Crunchy Christmas Cookies

Less than 2 weeks to go!!!  If you've been following my Christmas Countdown series you'll already have your Christmas fruit cake wrapped up and ready to marzipan and ice (not long to go I promise!) and if you haven't already tried them you'll have chocolate in the fridge and dried cranberries in the cupboard ready for the White Chocolate and Cranberry muffins.

The next recipe in my Christmas Countdown series are these utterly delicious Crunchy Christmas Cookies.  What I love about these cookies is that they're so versatile; you can hang them on the tree for a foodie festive paradise, wrap them and give them as extra special gifts, have them on the table when your family and friends pop by, or just keep them as a special "you deserve it" treat after you've spent hours buying and wrapping all of those Christmas presents!

The cookies are crunchy, crumbly and buttery and the almond gives them a light, nutty flavour and an incredible Christmassy fragrance, the kitchen will smell amazing!  You can also decorate them however you like so not only will they taste delicious, they'll look fantastic too!

Crunchy Christmas Cookies


500g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
125g golden caster sugar
2tbsp ground almonds
125g butter, melted
1 large egg
60ml milk
1tsp almond essence

In a large bowl add the flour, baking powder, caster sugar and ground almonds and mix together with a wooden spoon until well combined, make a well in the centre.

Pour in the melted butter, egg, milk and almond essence and stir together with a wooden spoon, then use your hands to bring the dough together.  When the dough is smooth, even coloured and all traces of flour have gone, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper, leave to one side.  Lightly dust a surface with some flour and knead the dough a little until smooth and pliable. 

Roll out the dough to about 5mm thick, take a cutter of your choice, dip in some flour and start cutting out shapes.  Keep bringing the dough back together, re-rolling and cutting until you have used all of the dough, you'll have about 25-30 cookies depending on the cutter sizes.

Place the cookies on the baking trays, evenly spaced to allow for spreading and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.  Leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely...then it's decorating time!

Belle's Top Tip
Once cooled you can decorate these cookies however you like!  As you can see I used various cutters and different decorating techniques.  You can drizzle over icing and dust with edible glitter, use a food colouring pen to draw on Christmas patterns, or how about Christmas trees covered in green royal icing and red icing baubles...the choice is yours!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Christmas Countdown: White Chocolate and Cranberry Christmas Muffins

Ahhh, the first weekend of December; advent calendars have been opened, the tree has been decorated, Christmas cards written and the next bake of my Christmas Countdown out of the oven.  The house smells like Christmas and I love it!

My White Chocolate and Cranberry Christmas Muffins are delicious served warm with a big mug of hot chocolate when you're cosying up on the sofa, or leave them out on Christmas Eve for a scrumptious treat for Santa and his reindeer!  They're super easy and super quick to make so a great bake for kids and they taste amazing...what more could you wish for at Christmas?  Well, that and some Jimmy Choos maybe...

White Chocolate and Cranberry Christmas Muffins


200g self raising flour
100g golden caster sugar
100ml sunflower oil
75ml milk
1 large egg
100g white chocolate chips
100g dried cranberries, plus extra for topping
100g icing sugar
2-3tbsp water
1tsp white edible glitter (optional)
small ball of green regal or fondant icing

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5 and lightly grease a 6 hole muffin tin with butter.

In a large bowl add the flour and sugar and mix well.  Make a well in the centre and leave to one side.

In a small bowl whisk together the oil, milk and egg until smooth and well combined.  Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and mix gently, being careful not to over work the mixture.

Pour in the white chocolate chips and the cranberries, gently fold into the mixture; the batter should have a thick, almost doughy consistancy.

Spoon large rounds of the mixture into the prepared muffin tin, you should have enough for 6-8 muffins.  Place in the oven for 20 minutes until golden.  Leave to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before carefully placing them on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing; sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the water.  Mix together until you have a thick consistancy, then add the edible glitter if using.  Using a teaspoon pour icing over each of the muffins, allowing it to pour down the sides.

Place a couple of the extra cranberries on the top of each muffin, then roll out the green icing and cut out holly leaf shapes.  Place these on top to make the cranberries look like holly berries and dust lightly with icing sugar or a little more glitter.

Belle's Top Tip
For an alternative to white chocolate and cranberries, why not try dark chocolate and two heaped tablespoon of mincemeat (typically used in mince pies) instead!  Just as festive and more importantly...just as tasty!