The Right Tools
The cake you are about to be decorating must be completely cooled before any icing even gets near it. When it's finished baking, let it cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes before placing it on a cooling rack. Following that, it will take several hours to cool. You might even consider baking the cake the day before you decorate it, and then refrigerating it overnight.
When working with any type of icing, you must have clean, moisture-free tools so that the icing flavour and consistency are not altered.
Icing can be applied with a utensil such as a knife or spatula, or it can be applied by drizzling or dipping or by rolling the icing out and draping it over the cake. The method of application largely depends on the type and texture of icing being used. Icing may be used between layers in a cake as a filling, or it may be used to completely or partially cover the outside of a cake or other baked product.
Fondant has to be rolled using a rolling pin. Different cutters and rollers can also be used to give embossed or imprinted effects. A fondant smoother is also helpful to remove bubbles and bumps from the cake after rolling out the fondant and placing it over the cake.
Fondant does not use the tips and piping bags that are used for buttercream and royal icing. To use buttercream or royal icing, you need a piping bag to pour the icing in, and different tips and nozzles to produce designs and flowers. The shape and design of piped decorations depends highly on the piping expertise of the decorator.
Icing your Christmas Cake
Don't leave Christmas cake icing until the last minute. It needs to be at the very latest a week before Christmas, preferably two.
You don't have to be a professional cake decorator to know how to ice a Christmas cake, it is actually quite easy to produce a lovely cake to take centre stage on the Christmas tea table. But decorator or not it is one of the fun jobs in the run up to Christmas is the Christmas Cake icing.
You can make your own or of course buy ready-made marzipan and/or fondant icing.
But before any icing takes place you will need to cover the cake with a thick layer of almond paste (Marzipan). As well as giving a lovely almond flavour to the cake, the thick paste layer creates a cushion between the cake and the icing. It is important once the marzipan is on the cake that you leave it to dry for a few days or up to one week before icing. If you ice too soon the oil from the almond paste will seep into the icing and spoil the appearance of the finished cake.
For decoration you can get brightly coloured ribbons, leaf cut-outs, or a sprig of holly. You and everyone else will be proud of your amazing Christmas cake.
Icing your cake and finishes touches
Brush the marzipan layer with a bit of egg white.
From your made or ready-made icing, put aside 175g of icing and roll out the rest to cover the cake.
Lift it on your rolling pin and slide it off gently onto the cake. Pat it firmly and smooth it out with your hands.
- Use the remaining icing to cut out shapes to decorate your cake. You can buy cutters in all sorts of shapes. Try holly leaves or stars or snowmen. Paint them, or add fine detail with food colouring. To make sure they stay in place, brush the iced cake with egg white first.
- Turn your cake into a Christmas present: paint the 'wrapping paper' decoratively, then add a ribbon and a label - made from modelling paste.