Sunday, 11 December 2011

How to marzipan your Christmas cake

I know Christmas is coming but it's really sneaking up quickly on me this year. I made an 8" circular fruit cake in mid October and have been feeding it brandy when I think of it ever since. I've been battling with my demons this year and wondering if I should make almond paste from scratch, but since I have a block of marzipan in the press left over from doing a friend of a friend's wedding cake a few months ago, I thought I would just use it up. I have no 'real' problem with that, really.  I love marzipan, even from a packet. In fact, I don't even know if I've ever had home-made almond paste in my life. When I was child I would visit my Aunty Anne's house a lot, her presses were full to the brim of all sorts of food. I loved nothing more than a rummage in them as, a) as I was a little bit nosy and b) I loved food. Once I found a block of marzipan so I borrowed it and retired down the bottom of her garden to eat it in peace. The whole block. Yummy. When I was 10, I saw a beautifully packaged box of marzipan fruits and thought they were the height of sophistication. I was a strange child though, when the tooth fairy brought me money I would badger my poor Mam to bring me to Super Quinn so I could purchase a box of Milk Tray. I had notions about myself back then.

As usual there are two ways to skin a cat. I am going to cover my cake with sugarpaste so I will marzipan the cake in one layer. If, however, you are going to royal ice your cake after marzipaning it, you will need to do something different to ensure that the cake has sharp edges, so follow steps for preparing the cake and then skip to the bottom. 

To cover a circular cake with marzipan, to be followed by sugarpaste. 
I have an 8" circular cake, so I will use about about 800g marzipan.

If your cake has domed slightly during baking or if the edges of the fruit that has caught a little during baking, use a serrated knife to trim off the top of the cake. 

Turn your cake over so the bottom is now the top and lay on a sheet of greaseproof paper. 

Start to plug the little gaps between the cake and the greaseproof paper with some marzipan.

Knead your marzipan to make it pliable. Roll the marzipan out into a circular shape, you want it to be big enough to cover the top of the cake and the sides. You can use a little icing sugar to stop it sticking. 

Brush the cake with boiled smooth apricot jam. This will help the marzipan stick. 

Gently ease the marzipan over your rolling pin and place into position.

Start smoothing down the top first. Then you can start easing down the sides, by lifting and shaping with your hand cupped. 

Trim away the excess with a pizza wheel or sharp knife. 

If you have a smoother you can use this to smooth in the sides of the marzipan, otherwise continue using a cupped hand. 

You will hopefully end up with a nice smooth marzipan coating. If you don't, it doesn't matter as it will be covered with icing anyway! 

Leave to dry for a couple of days before adding the sugarpaste layer. 

To cover a cake with marzipan before adding royal icing.

Follow all the steps above until you reach until you reach the stage where the marzipan is being rolled out. Roll the marzipan out into a circular shape and using the cake tin base as a template (using the tin which you baked your cake in, of course!) cut a circular shape out. This will be the top of the cake. 

Re-roll the remaindering the marzipan out into a long rectangular shape. You will need to measure the circumference of your cake, you can do this with a piece of thread. Ensure that your piece of marzipan is the same length as the circumference. 

Brush the cake with warmed smooth apricot jam. Put the circular piece of marzipan in place and then wrap the side with the long rectangular shape. Smooth the seams a little. 

Leave to dry of a couple of days before icing. 

Thanks to Chub for photography today. He was paid in marzipan scraps. He also loves marzipan. See, we're a match made in heaven. 


  1. This looks lovely. Is this something you do for all of your sugar paste/fondant cakes? Or just this particular one?

  2. Peach, it's traditional to marzipan a fruit cake. But all fondant cakes need a base layer, you could also use chocolate plastique or a thin layer of fondant followed by a regular second layer. Some people just use buttercream but I find this makes the fondant look uneven. Hope that helps!