Bringing the Fruit Cake to a Winter Wonderland

Hard to believe Christmas has come and gone.  So much preparation that goes on then you blink and it’s gone.  It was an absolute whirlwind.  This year it was our turn to have the kids for the day rather than Christmas Eve and morning.   Once they had done the presents at their mother’s they arrived to our round of presents and sticky buns.  Then a dash to my parents where the whole family gets together.  In the years past we usually pass a present out to everyone then we all open and see what each other gets, say thank you , that sort of thing.  I have no idea what happened this year.  It was chaos.  Paper flying, screams, excitement, confusion.  When it was done the adults just sat back and wondered what just happened.  Fortunately it quieted down and all the kids went off to play with their new toys, the adults fortified themselves with wine and beer and we had a breather.   My mum cooked the Christmas dinner and it was a lovely turkey with the sides.  It’s a lot of work but she pulled it off beautifully.  We both made Christmas cakes and she made a trifle.  That was delicious.

I offered to make the cake and mum said that we should each make one as we seem to be the only family stateside that never has enough fruit cake!  Our husbands would be happy to each have one.  🙂  This year I wanted to create a winter wonderland for the kids.  I bought way too much candy for this cake so we have a large bag left over.  What was in my head was much bigger than the cake!  I had to downsize a bit.  Ah well.

The recipe I used was our family’s recipe for the Christmas Cake.

I had seen on pinterest a few times people using sugar cones to make trees so I thought I would give that a try.  To cut down to size just use a bread knife.  Very easy.

Winter wonderland 1 2013

I set this aside and work on the other elements.  Once I start using the Royal Icing I have to work quickly.  I wanted to do a snowman so I used marzipan as the base and stacked them with two toothpicks.

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I then iced the cake and placed the candy where I wanted it.  I used sugar plums as little ponds. Had some gummy bears frolicking in the “snow”.   I iced the snowman.  At first I was obsessed on getting it all smooth but then I realised that real snowmans aren’t always smooth either.  Once I was done with the white I added the green and iced the sugar cone to make a tree and added some sugar pearls to dress it up a bit.

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To paint the snowman I used food colouring gel to draw the face and buttons.  To finish the cake I dusted it with white glitter dust to add a bit of sparkle.

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I was pleased with it and I couldn’t wait to bring it. When we were waiting for the kids to show I made the mistake of putting the dome over it and left it in the sun.  When I got in the car I noticed red puddles on top of the cake.  The peppermint candy canes had melted the red off!  It was a massacre.  Good thing I had taken the photos!  We had a good laugh about it and it didn’t change the flavour of the cake.  🙂

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Easter Cake

Over the years I had wondered about the Easter Bunny and eggs.  I mean, bunnies don’t have eggs.  And having gone to church until I was about 8 or 9 I had a pretty good grasp on what Christians thought Easter was about.  No mention of bunnies or eggs.  Strange.  Recently I’ve discovered the history and it makes sense now.  Original Easter was all about the bunnies and eggs.  Way back when you had Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex.  Woman would put out red eggs about the time we celebrate Easter. There there is the Goddess Eostre and people also celebrated with eggs and also bunnies because bunnies breed like, well you know.  🙂

My Grandma was a huge fan of Cadbury Creme Eggs and she passed that addiction on to me.  Cadbury licensed the eggs to Hershey.  Sigh, not the same at all.  They are smaller and not as creamy.  Fortunately I have a source for the real stuff.  I love the mini eggs as well and as far as I can tell there isn’t any difference.  Yay!

Easter happened to be the day where the whole family could get together to celebrate my birthday and my mum’s so I decided to make an Easter cake as we’d have all the kids together.  I was going to do gum paste eggs but my daughter had a better idea of using the mini eggs.  Smart cookie.  😉

I made the fruit cake ahead of time for this.  And I did the marzipan and royal icing the same as I did it at Christmas.

I wanted spring flowers for this cake so I used gum paste for this step.  I mixed in the colour I wanted and rolled it out thinly and used the cutters to cut out the shapes.  You need to work somewhat quickly with gum paste as it starts to dry out.

Easter Cake 1 2013

Easter Cake 2 2013

I then shaped the flowers and decorate the centers.  I used sugar and sugar pearls for the flowers.  I also shaped an Easter basket.

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Once all the gum paste decorations are done I prepped the cake with jam and the marzipan.  I whipped up a batch of royal icing and spread it on the cake.  I wasn’t worried too much about how smooth it was as it was representing grass.  I placed mini eggs around the base and in the basket.  I then placed the flowers on the top of the cake.  My son picked out the Easter bunny.  🙂

Easter Cake 4 2013

Easter Cake 5 2013

As a finishing touch I dusted the flowers with pearl dust.

Easter Cake 6 2013

It was a hit with the kids.  🙂  It was hard not to eat the royal icing as I did this cake.  I love royal icing!  But the sugar rush is a bit much.  🙂

 

 

Christmas Cake part 2

Brrr.  This morning was 7 degrees F (-14 C).  Had to drag out the snow pants to walk the dogs.  Winter is definitely upon us as we’ve had 2 snow storms since Christmas.  We were spoiled last winter with little snow and reasonable temps.  I think we would be pushing our luck to get that again this year!

Once you’ve baked the Christmas cake it is time to prepare it for decoration.  For the next few weeks the cake has to be “soaked” prior to decoration.  To start cut slits in the top of the cake.

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What I did was alternate between orange juice and spiced rum.  I did make a rookie mistake in how I did the slit and ended up doing this.

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So I learned to take a dinner knife, insert it, and hold it open a bit to pour the liquid down the slits.  Just a bit at a time.  I did it every few days for 3 weeks.  One day with juice then the next time with rum.

A couple of days prior to eating I start the decoration.  I do the marzipan holly leaves and berries the day before.  I cut out the shapes and form them and put them on forms or a cookie sheet. For the berries I just round into balls.  Then I dusted the pieces with pearl dust.

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The next day (and last!) I start putting it all together.  I spread apricot preserves on the top and sides of the cake.

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Then I roll out marzipan to cover the cake.  I made the mistake of using a less expensive marzipan to roll out vs what I used for decoration.  Next time I’ll get the good stuff as the cheaper stuff didn’t roll out very well so it looks like a patchwork quilt.

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Now is the time for the Royal frosting.  Take 3 egg whites and a tablespoon of lemon juice, blend together in the mixing bowl.  Gradually add 1lb 4oz of icing sugar.

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Blend until smooth.  It needs to be spreadable.  It does call for a bit of glycerine but for the life of me I couldn’t find any.  It came out ok though so I didn’t have any issues.  Pour onto cake.  It won’t pour quickly as it is thick.  A trick my mum taught me is to dip your knife into hot water as you go to help smooth the icing.

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Place the holly leaves and berries as you wish around the cake.  I spread a bit of icing on the back to act as a bit of glue.

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I then had to hold the cake in for a 2 1/2 hour drive over mountains and windy roads.  We got to my sister’s in one piece!

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I think the trickiest bit is not knowing how moist you are making the cake.  I think that will take practice.  My family enjoyed it though I may have made it too moist.  Just a smidge over the line.  🙂  But I will definitely make this again.