Sunday, 29 December 2013

Christmas Cakes 2013

Happy Christmas everybody!  I hope you all had a really wonderful Christmas week celebrating with family, friends, enjoying delicious food and a having a really great time!
We have had a really fantastic Christmas in Canada (for me this was an in-law Christmas as we were in England last year with my family) - with an actual white Christmas happening, but with that came the Toronto ice storm, and a LOT of power outages.  Jonathan's family were without power right through until Boxing Day evening, but we were one of the lucky ones who were all powered up the whole time (just losing internet and cable for a day!).  So Christmas went a little differently than it had been planned but it was still great!!
I'm so happy to be finally sharing my Christmas Cakes of 2013 with you!  They have been a long time in the making but now they've all been decorated, and given as gifts to my Canadian family (giving them a little taste of the traditional English fruitcake that I grew up with!)... so I can finally show everybody them without giving anything away!
Last year, I made my 'Winter Scene Christmas Cakes', using the same fruit cake recipe but piped all in white.  Read all about their travel adventures from Toronto to England here
The year before that (cakes made before my blogging times!) I made them for Canadian family too, so it seems, as we alternate our Christmases, we do so with our Christmas Cakes as well! 

These fruit cakes are long term projects!  Some people begin theirs right after Summer ends, with the back to school marking the beginning of Christmas Cake season... My Mum does hers in the October half-term from school, (around mid-October) even though her kids are long grown up with no half-terms sadly so I aim for sometime around then as well.  This year, on Halloween I had a day off from teaching thanks to students who chose to trick or treat rather than have piano lessons - I'm actually totally okay with this as it gives me a full day to get Christmassy!
Earlier that week, around the 28th October I bought the mixed fruit and soaked it in sherry.  This 'traditional' fruitcake actually means that everybody has a different tradition with regard to the cake.  Do you soak your fruit in sherry?  Brandy?  Do you make a light fruit cake, or like me a dark fruit cake?  Are you a fondant icing decorator, or a pure royal icing snowy look only!?  SO many different ways to do it...
Here's my way for 2013!
Halloween turned into Christmas for me.  I got right to baking using the fruit I had soaked all week.  This year I made one 9" round cake for us (because I'm crazy and there's only two of us yet I made the largest one for us hahaha, got to do some sharing I guess!)... one 6" round for Jonathan's parents and sister, and then I made a large traybake which was split into 7 rectangles.  2 larger ones for cousins, and 5 smaller ones (3 for Jonathan's Grandmothers and Great Aunt, 1 for a friend and 1 for the choir's silent auction earlier in the month).
I 'fed' the cake 4 times between Halloween and decorating day on 23rd December!  'Feeding' the cake meant a tablespoon of sherry dribbled over the cakes leaving it to soak through and keep it moist and able to mature throughout the early Winter months!

Here are the cakes all cooked, fed, and ready on their cake boards for decorating day :)
I use Ikea's marzipan for my cakes, it's a nice taste and pretty good for rolling out and spreading over the cake.

To stick the marzipan to the cake I use an apricot glaze - 2 parts water to 1 part apricot jam, brought to a boil before simmering the jam and water until it starts to thicken.  Take it off the heat and strain it through a sieve and spread onto cake before coating with the marzipan.

All marzipanned up and drying out a bit before fondant time!  No need for the apricot glaze on this, the fondant sticks to the marzipan really well, I just use a light spread of water on top before adding the fondant.
I chose to completely cover the round cakes but for the rectangles I did just the tops so you could still see the fruit cake down the sides.

So, marzipan and fondant done - they were all ready for some decorations.  I've been so crazy busy with everything I hadn't really had time to think or plan my cake decorations very much so it was a teeny bit stressful as I kind of winged it ...
... Some thoughts and drawing later, and after getting out all of my Christmas cookie cutters out, then inspiration hit!
I used mini cookie cutters to cut out fondant pieces ~ angels painted yellow (using food colouring mixed with a splash of vodka), pine trees painted green with brown trunks, a little snowflake painted blue and then a house that I cut freehand and painted brown, with a second layer of food colouring painted to create a darker colour for the windows and door.
After leaving these to dry for a while I got to work on the royal icing piped decorations.
For Jonathan's musical cousins I placed 3 angels on one of the larger rectangles and piped music notes on around the outside.

For a different set of cousins I used 3 of the trees, and added snowflake sprinkles in the sky, and piped and spread a royal icing lake topped with coarse sugar to give the sparkles of the ice on the lake.  Perfect for the 4 hockey player kids in their family!

For the grandmothers etc, each getting a slightly smaller rectangle I used the snowflake and piped 'Merry Christmas' on each one.  Just something simple!
Small cakes done, it was time to tackle the big guys!  I wrapped some festive wired ribbon around the edge before getting to work on the actual decorating part (my most favourite bit!).
I loved the sparkles on the lake that I did for the forest/lake look cake so I went with that idea, adding another tree, some snowflakes in the sky and a house atop some snow covered hills.
I think this was my favourite of all the designs I painted on fondant and it actually was the first one I got to taste as well at our post-poned Christmas morning with Jonathan's parents and sister due to the power outage, it only happened yesterday!!
So the only one left to show you is ours!!  I loved the white on white icing I did for all the cakes last year (click here to see them!) and so I went with that idea again for ours.  Inspiration taken from the inch thick ice that sat on all of the trees in Toronto I piped big trunks and branches, and added small bits of icing and sugar to give the frosty look.  I love how it turned out, especially the scraping of the icing I did on the tree trunks to give a more bark-like look.
And there's just one more to show you before I'm done telling you all about them!  Earlier in December I cut off a rectangle of the traybake of fruit cake and used it for the choir silent auction.  I did a simple white on white decoration for this too, with a little holly and ivy in the corner (absolutely one of my favourite symbols to design or draw in the holiday season!)


I used small cellophane treat bags for the small cakes, and cellophane wrap for the round cakes and used a twist tie before adding these little labels.  (I forgot to get Jonathan to sign them before I took a photo oops!)


So labels done, cellophane wrapped and my cakes were READY!

A few more photos of them the next morning, and then it was time to be Father Christmas and deliver them to the family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

I realise this is a pretty photo heavy blog post, and you're probably wondering where's the recipe.  I'm in a dilemma about whether to post it or not!  It's my Mum's recipe but I don't know where she got it from - I've adapted it a bit to be a 'Hannah' version but still it wasn't truly mine... I'd love to know - do you share your traditional family recipes!?

I think I will write it up soon, but for now - it's picture time :)

I'd love to see your Christmas Cakes if you made one (or more!) this year... What traditions surround your cakes?!


  1. Absolutely beautiful AND delicious!!!!

  2. I love Christmas Cake, I started mine in October too. Your looks lovely and very festive. Visiting from The Weekly Creative.

  3. These are amazing! Wow! Thanks for sharing at the Blog Strut! Can't wait to see what you bring next week!

  4. I love the tree's cake, so simple but so beautiful. I'm pinning in the hope I might remember it in 11 months time!

  5. Those cakes are absolutely gorgeous!

  6. What beautiful cakes, they look way too good to eat ;)
    Thanks for sharing on Tutorial Thursdays Linky Party this month. Your
    I look forward to seeing you again in the February linky.
    Marigolds' Loft


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