In theory, we all know how to marzipan a Christmas Cake but, in practice, it can be a bit hit and miss, not to mention uneven. This method takes the guesswork out and gives a smooth, even base for icing your creation.
I was taught this method of applying marzipan by a master baker who gave classes locally. It's actually very easy and uses clingfilm to avoid a sticky mess and keep washing up to a minimum.
Homemade or bought marzipan?
Although I prefer to make the marzipan (find my recipe here), you can use ready-made - about 800g. It doesn't take long to make your own though, and the point (for me) is that you know what's in it. (Sugar, ground almonds, eggs, plus a few flavours - take your pick from vanilla, lemon juice, sherry, brandy.)
If you have some left over when your cake is done, use the extra for Marzipan Stars.
What equipment do you need to marzipan a cake?
Apart from clingfilm and a rolling pin, you will need a couple of pieces of specialist kit that are inexpensive and will last forever:
A pair of marzipan spacers - You roll the marzipan out between the spacers, with the rolling pin resting on them. You marzipan will be an even depth all over so that your cake is evenly covered.
My spacers are actually cubic rulers, bought from a stationer about 30 years ago - now it's so easy to get a purpose-made tool!
An icing smoother - You use this to polish the surface of the marzipan once it's on the cake to give a smooth flat finish.
How do you apply marzipan to a cake?
You put the marzipan between two sheets of clingfilm with the spacers either side and keep the rolling pin on the spacers so the marzipan is the same depth throughout. The clingfilm peels off the marzipan (or vice versa) so you get a smooth surface.
You roll the top and 2-3 pieces for the sides separately, cut them to size and stick them to the cake with warmed shredless marmalade, leaving small gaps between the pieces.
Use the icing smoother to pull it all together and round off the edges, giving a seamless, even finish.
If you're using fondant icing on the cake you will have the surface you need for a great finish. Of course if, like me these days, you use rough royal icing it doesn't matter so much. But you will know.
If you like this...
...Why don't you try:
How to Marzipan a Christmas Cake
- If your cake has a domed top, level it up with a sharp knife
- Cut two pieces of clingfilm about 50cm long. Put one sheet of clingfilm on your work surface ready for the marzipan
- Heat half the marmalade in the microwave for about 20s on HIGH
- Brush the top only of the cake with the marmalade. Remove any bits of marmalade from the top of the cake(Ideally - or for a very special cake - you would sieve the marmalade first to remove the bits)
Marzipan the top of the cake:
- Take half the marzipan and shape into a ball. Put it on the clingfilm and flatten with your hand
- Place the spacers about 25cm apart, either side of the marzipan
- Put a second sheet of clingfilm over the marzipan and roll into a round-ish shape using the rolling pin on the spacers. Take away the top layer of clingfilm carefully, keeping it for the next phase
- Put the cake top down on the marzipan and cut around it with a round-bladed knife - a palette knife is ideal
- Carefully pick up the cake, trim if necessary, and put to one side
Marzipan the sides of the cake:
- Gather up the marzipan and add to the rest. Eat or discard any that has crumbs in
- Heat the rest of the marmalade and brush on the sides of the cake
- If the clingfilm is intact you can use it again, otherwise, spread a new piece
- Measure the height of your cake including the marzipan on top. This is the height to roll the marzipan for the sides
- Place the spacers the height distance, plus about 2cm, apart. Take half the remaining marzipan and roll into a sausage shape. Place between the spacers and roll out.You are going to need about 60cm in total so try to make this piece at least 30cm in length
- Remove the clingfilm and trim the marzipan to the height you need and make sure the ends are square, i.e. at right angles
- Put the marzipan on the side of the cake. It should go round about a third to a half of the cake and up to the total height of the cake. Repeat the process once or twice until you have marzipan all around the cake, leaving a small gap between the pieces
Smooth the surface of the cake:
- Take your smoother and polish the top of the cake, getting a feel for how the marzipan movesDon't press too hard or you'll leave dents
- Smooth the sides, pushing the marzipan pieces together to create a single smooth piece. Where the sides meet the top. smooth round creating a rounded edge to the cake
- Run the joint gap between your thumb and first finger round the edge to check that it's even
- Keep polishing until you are satisfied with the surface. The cake is now ready for fondant or royal icing.
Everyday Cooks notes:
- You can use ready-made marzipan - 800g is enough, but it usually comes in 500g packs
- Use any excess to make Marzipan Stars