Christmas seems to begin earlier each year (well in the bakery it certainly does, we are planning cakes for Christmas 2015 already!). We began making our Christmas fruit cakes in September-and have been producing 1000’s of seasonal cakes and biscuits of all shapes and sizes ever since-right up to a few days before Christmas Day. Maybe you have baked my delicious fruit cake (see November blog) and it is stored away maturing nicely. If not –as long as you still have a couple of weeks minimum for all the wonderful flavours to mingle, mellow and work their magic, then do bake it if you feel so inclined. This month I describe in detail how to marzipan and ice your cake, and decorate it simply with gingerbread men.
Alternatively make a simple batch of little gingerbread men –wrapped in cellophane bags they make great edible gifts, stocking fillers or hang on your Christmas tree!
These gingerbread men can be baked and decorated now all ready for Christmas-or cut out snowflakes, stars or Christmas trees-whatever takes your fancy!
TIP. If making tree decorations, make a hole at the top of the biscuit(you can use a straw or skewer), and on removal from oven re form, as the holes may have closed slightly. Once cold, thread a narrow ribbon through and form a loop. Alternatively, make the dough, cut out and layer the unbaked biscuits in freezer containers-layered up with baking parchment. Bake fresh as required.
Your home will be filled with the wonderful scent of Christmas!
Happy Baking and Happy Christmas!
Next Month. –a simple Lemon Drizzle Crunch cake. Just the thing after all the excesses of the Festive season.
GINGERBREAD MAN CAKE
A great classic Christmas cake for all the family; there’s always someone who doesn’t like fruit cake, so they can eat the gingerbread men!
Makes 40 slices
1 x Rich Tamarind Fruit Cake
1/ 2 x batch Gingerbread dough (see below)
4 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
1kg marzipan (see below)
1 tbsp brandy or boiled water
icing sugar, to dust
6cm gingerbread man cutter
9cm gingerbread man cutter
6 cocktail sticks
30g bag black royal icing
30g bag red royal icing
60g bag white royal icing
bag of mini chocolate beans
Turn the cake upside down on to a cake stand. A dab of apricot jam will stop it moving around. If there are any holes or the cake is a dodgy shape, correct it now with little bits of marzipan. Once you are happy, brush all over with jam. Knead the marzipan until pliable. Dust a work surface with icing sugar and, using a little more on the rolling pin, roll the marzipan into a rough circle slightly larger than the top and sides of the cake and about 5mm thick. Lift on to the cake, smoothing all over, and cut off any excess. Leave overnight to firm up.
Brush the marzipan with the brandy and, on a clean, flat surface, knead the sugarpaste until pliable. Dust the work surface and rolling pin with icing sugar and roll out the sugarpaste in a rough circle about 5mm thick and slightly larger than the diameter of the cake and sides. Lift the sugarpaste with your hands (or loosely wrap it around the rolling pin) and place it over the cake. Gently smooth with your hands and cut away any excess. Leave overnight to harden.
Preheat the oven to 180.C/fan 170.C/350.F/gas mark 4. Roll the gingerbread dough out to 4mm thick and cut out 12 large and 12 small men. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment and lay out the
shapes; smaller on 1 tray (they take less time to bake) and larger on the other. Press 2 cocktail sticks on to the backs of the legs of 3 smaller men so they will stand up later. Bake for 8–15 minutes, depending on size. The gingerbread will darken. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Pipe black eyes and red mouths on the large men and stick on red mini bean noses.
Pipe black eyes and red noses and mouths on the small. Stick 3 buttons on the large men and 2 on the small. Surround the cake with the larger men, propped against it, dabbing their heads with a little royal icing to adhere. Carefully position the 3 men on sticks on the top of the cake. You will have 9 little men left over to serve separately.
Once you have wrapped the dough in clingfilm to chill, you can store it in the refrigerator for a couple of days or freeze for up to a month so they are ready to bake at any time.
Makes about 40
350g plain flour, plus more
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/ 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
130g salted butter, very
1 egg yolk
150g light muscovado sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp black treacle
zest of 1 orange, finely grated
Sift the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and add the butter, cut into small chunks. Gently rub together with your fingertips – or pulse in a food processor – until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
Add the egg yolk, sugar, syrup, treacle and zest and mix together until you have a firm dough. If it’s too sticky, mix in a little more flour. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 180.C/fan 170.C/350.F/gas mark 4. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 4mm thick, and cut out with a 6.5cm round cutter. Bake for 10–15 minutes. The gingerbreads will have darkened a little.
Remove from the oven and leave to firm up a little for a few minutes, then gently transfer to a wire rack to cool. They will become crisp.
makes about 600g, enough to cover a 20cm cake
190g icing sugar
380g ground almonds
3 tsp lemon juice
3 egg yolks
4 drops almond essence
In a bowl, mix the icing sugar and almonds. In another bowl, mix the lemon juice, egg yolks and almond essence. Add the egg mixture gradually to the icing sugar and almonds and knead everything just until it forms a stiff paste. (It will become oily if overworked.) Store in a polythene bag in the refrigerator (use within a week).