Christmas cake decorating for beginners

Christmas cake decorating for beginners

When it comes to putting together a really impressive Christmas cake, the wow factor lies in the sleek and impressive decorations. We called in Chef Sam, our 2011 festive cake icing champion, for a lesson in Christmas cake making and the good news is you don’t need to be sculpturally gifted to create a cake that looks this impressive.

Head this way for a Christmas cake recipe.

Decorating ingredients:

3 packs Nicoletta Ready-to-Roll Fondant Icing for the base of your cake. We chose Nicoletta red – in total approximately 800g for a 20cm cake.

1 pack Nicoletta Ready-to-Roll Fondant Icing for the ribbon. We chose Nicoletta green.

CMC powder – a plant based extract that provides a food safe glue to be mixed with water.

Nicoletta Soft Pearls to edge the base of your cake

Decorating tools:
Icing modelling tools
To stop the fondant sticking and tearing, a fondant rolling mat is useful. You can also use two sheets of large PVC plastic or cornflour puff (see below).
Rolling pin
Icing smoother (optional)
Cake decorating stencils (optional)
Colour food spray (optional)
Edible paper (optional)
Edible ink markers (optional)
Spray and Cook
Cornflour puff – take a clean dish cloth, put a cup full of cornflour in the centre and tie together with an elastic band – you’ll see why later.

Now for the decorating:

1. Prepare your fondant rolling surface.
Sam suggests using a fondant rolling mat or two sheets of PVC plastic.
Just be sure to clean the plastic first and spray lightly with Spray and Cook.
Another option is to dust cornflour on the countertop, the rolling pin and the icing.
The cornflour puff works well for this as it gives a fine and even dusting.

2. Knead together the three packs of fondant for your base colour.
Flatten out into a disc shape and place between the two sheets of plastic.
Pull the two sheets of plastic towards the edge of the counter you’re working on and pinch between the counter and your upper body as you begin rolling out the fondant.
With a rolling pin, flatten out fondant somewhat, then use an outward sliding motion with the rolling pin, taking care to apply even pressure for an even fondant layer.
Keep working your fondant until it reaches a shape of approximately 45cm in diameter.

3. With your pre-frosted Christmas cake at the ready, lift the top sheet of plastic off and set aside.
Now lift the bottom sheet of plastic, your rolled out fondant should be stuck to it.
Position this on top of your fruit cake, fondant facing downwards.
Try to centre the fondant as much as you can before putting the fondant down.
Gently separate the plastic sheet from the fondant.

4. Here’s where it gets a little tricky.
You have to work quite quickly to smooth the fondant over the cake, pressing gently with your fingers because the draping weight of the fondant can tear along the top of the cake.
Press and smooth the fondant over the edge of the cake about 2 cm down ‘the skirt’.
Now gently start pulling the fondant skirt outwards as you continue to smooth it down the sides of the cake.
Continue all the way to the bottom. Patience is key here and perfection as with anything, takes practice.

5. Using a palette knife or a pastry cutter, cut the excess fondant off around the base of your freshly coated fruit cake.

TIP: You can store the extra fondant icing in an air tight container at room temperature to use again for your next cake decorating adventure. It can last up to 1 year when kept like this.
Make sure that no cake crumbs sneak in though as their moisture will cause the fondant to mould.

6. Smooth out your fondant with an icing smoother.
If you wish to create any detail using decorative stencils, such as the Sweetly Does It Decorative Cake Stencils and food spray, like the Wilton Colour Mist Food Spray, now’s your opportunity.

Now to wrap things up with a festive (and edible) ribbon…

7. Knead the block of fondant you’ve chosen to use for your ribbon, in this case the green one. Shape it into more of a roll and flatten slightly.
Lightly dust the flattened fondant with your cornflour puff.If you’ve got a pasta machine, it will work miracles here.
Feed your fondant through the pasta machine on the medium thickness setting, the same way you would with pasta dough.
Of course, a pasta machine isn’t essential here, as you can simply roll the fondant out between the plastic sheets again or even just after a dusting of cornflour (again with the puff).
The pasta machine is simply a handy shortcut.

8. With your now thin, even strip of green fondant on the counter, take a small paring knife and cut the fondant length ways into your desired ribbon thickness, we went for an approximately two fingers width.
Now, halve the strip so that you end up with two equal pieces – these will form two of your four ribbon quarters.
The four ribbon sections need to be placed on in four separate steps so that they don’t overlap in the centre of the cake, causing a bump.

TIP: Place your fondant ribbons on slightly moist, sponge cloths.
The moisture from the cloths helps the fondant ribbons to stick to the base fondant layer.

9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 to create two more ribbon quarters.

10. Decide which side of the cake you want to be ‘the front’.
Pick a side that has as few fondant icing cracks or pleats on it.
Mark the front of your cake by inserting a drawing pin for reference.
Now place your first ribbon quarter on the cake, in the middle and from the centre downwards, preferably covering any snags in your base fondant layer (becoming a snag free fondant fundi takes lots of practice!).

11. Taking your next ribbon strip, start at the base of the cake, perpendicular to the ribbon you just placed and smooth it onto the base fondant until it meets up with your first ribbon.
At the point where they meet, use your paring knife to cut a clean join line.
Repeat this process all the way around the cake until you have a cross effect over the centre. Don’t fret if the pieces you cut don’t meet up precisely, that’s what the big bow is for.

12. Again, take some of your thin, rolled green fondant (or ribbon colour of choice).
This time cut the strip you’re going to be creating the bow with into a slightly wider piece than you estimated for your ribbon cross sections, just shy of double the width should do nicely and about 15 to 20cm long.

13. Mix some CMC powder with a little water to create your edible glue and paint a strip in the centre and along both ends of the ribbon.

14. Using the veining tool in the modelling tool set, pleat the centre as well as the glued edges by lifting the middle of the ribbon and then folding up the outer sides to meet the raised pleat.
Pinch together gently until all three of your ruffles adhere.

15. Ball up some cling wrap and place this on either side of your middle pleat.
Add a touch more glue and the fold the outer pleats toward the centre pleat tucking any edges away with your modelling tools.

16. Roll three, varying length sausages out of some remaining green fondant and curve these over the centre of your bow.
Work away the ends by gently blending them underneath the bow.

TIP: To dry your fondant bow, quickly place it beneath a small desk lamp with a 100 watt bulb. The heat will dry out the fondant, hardening it in place while the cling wrap prevents it from collapsing.

17. If you wish to do so, you can create a gift tag, since this is wrapped up like a present, with some edible paper and edible ink markers.

18. Now to finish off the base of your cake, line with Nicoletta Soft Pearls – use a little glue and press them gently along the bottom edge.

19. For a final realistic touch, use the pointed tool, or a toothpick even, to create slight indentations along the edges our your ribbon.
Doesn’t it look like pretty, stitched fabric now? Neat hey?

Finally, once your bow is completely hard and dry to the touch, place it on top of the cake with a dab more glue.
To put your gift tag in place, simply create a cord with two thin, intertwined sausages of fondant, slip this through the punch hole in your tag and work in the ends beneath the bow.

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