The big problem I used to have with making large celebration fruit cakes is that the cost of decorating them with the traditional covering of almond paste and icing was prohibitive. This is because someone's labour has been involved and my local organic shop has a mission statement promising fair wages and profits to the producer. This is how it should be, I have no problem with that and so I chose to make my own as my time and labour are for free!
Almond Icing or Almond Paste
This is an amended recipe from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, published in 1865. I use this book, which is a family one and very dog-eared, frequently. Firstly because it is a great read and secondly her recipes are so well suited to quality organic ingredients. With organic food the taste of the individual raw materials is key, so the fewer ingredients in a recipe, the better.
These are the amounts I used for my recent Twelfth Night Cake and which was round with a 25.5, (10") diameter. I only iced the top of the cake, as Andy isn't keen on too much sweetness, although I do enjoy almond paste and icing, so we compromise.
Ingredients1 egg white, beaten to a 'strong froth' (I take this to mean meringue level).
100g or 4 oz of blonde unrefined cane sugar - ground to a powder. (As mentioned above you can buy organic icing sugar but it is so easy and cheaper to make your own).
100g or 4 oz of powdered almonds
A teaspoon of rum or whatever you used in your main cake
I started by adding my egg white to the powdered almonds. I did this a spoon at a time.
Then I added the sugar. Our cane sugar is kept with vanilla pods so already has an added depth of flavour. Having added the rum, I started to gather the mixture up into a 'dough'.
This I then kneaded into a ball and rolled out on my board using a little powdered sugar to stop it from sticking.
I then slid it onto my cake and following Mrs Beeton's advice placed it for a few minutes in my oven with the door open to allow the almond icing to dry and harden.
Of course you can also use this paste to make various sweetmeats such as stuffed dates.
Sugar or Royal Icing
IngredientsAgain from Mrs Beeton with a few omissions and alterations!
1 egg white, beaten to a 'strong froth'.
A little raspberry liqueur for colour and taste (ground organic sugar is light brown not the dazzling white of non-organic, plus the traditional Twelfth Night Cakes were pink!)
For decoration and as this is Imbolic, I added a few fresh violet leaves and flowers, the only plant that is actually blooming in our garden at the moment! It has been cold this Winter here and none of my roses have survived in bud as they usually do.
I used a liquidiser to make the sugar into a powder, be aware of lifting the lid too quickly before the dust settles! I also needed to run my fingers through it just to test that it was fine enough.
I had also added a couple of squeezes, approximately 1 teaspoon, of fresh lemon juice to the sugar before I added it to the egg white. I then added the raspberry liqueur, this was an experiment and I am happy to say it was so delicious and redolent of sunny days that I was pleased to be my own cook and thus able to scrape out the icing bowl all to myself! Andy had to try some off the edge of the cake!
Once I had spread the icing on the cake I again placed it in the oven, with the door open to harden. Mrs Beeton has a great tip in that if you ice the cake whilst still warm, once it is cooled then the icing will be set. This is an excellent solution if you are pressed for time!
I am hoping soon to treat myself to an icing bag kit, so then I will begin experimenting with some interesting flavours and designs. There are so many natural colours you can use, one of my favourites is hibiscus flowers to make a wonderful deep pink. Furthermore, although I do love using real flowers on cakes, this time of year there are so few available and it seems a pity to pick them. The violets opposite I actually removed after Andy's birthday and pressed them in a book, so they will get another life in a frame.
All that needs to said now is Bon Appėtit!
Hope to see you here again for another recipe from an old farmhouse in Normandie,
All the best,
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