Many celebration cakes have a marzipan base, especially fruit cakes. Marzipan
not only keeps a cake moist, but provides a flat surface ready for sugarpaste or
royal icing. It may seem a bit daunting to start with, but following a few basic
rules will give you a wonderful sense of satisfaction, and a good, flat surface
to work with.
A quick rule of thumb for calculating how much marzipan you will need to
cover a fruit cake is simple - weigh your cake, you'll need approx half of
the weight of the cake in marzipan.
NB: NEVER use flour or cornflour
when working with marzipan, it can cause the marzipan to bloom. Use icing
sugar for rolling out and handling.
Preparing Your Cake
Cakes, especially fruit cakes can end up with small
holes around the sides where the fruit has shrunk or fallen out, or there have
been air bubbles. To keep the contours of the cake smooth, and give you the very
best results, it is best to plug the holes with small pieces of marzipan, large
enough to fill the holes flush with the edge of the cake. Use a little
alcohol to brush the hole before plugging it with the marzipan, to keep it
bacteria free and help it stick.
Once you have filled in all the holes,
you're ready to start covering.
Covering The Cake
Divide your marzipan in two, put one half aside in a bag and work with
the remaining half. Roll out the marzipan to a thickness of approx 5mm
(1/4"), and slightly larger than the width of your cake. Using a work
board or cake board larger than your cake, liberally dust it with icing
sugar to stop the marzipan sticking. Transfer your rolled out marzipan
onto the dusted board. Using the tin you baked the cake in, neatly cut
around the tin. It will be very slightly larger than you need because
cakes tend to shrink a little as they cook.
Brush the cut-out marzipan with alcohol or apricot glaze. Place
your cake on the marzipan, so that the bottom of the cake is resting on the
marzipan. The bottom of the cake is usually very flat, the top can
sometimes 'dome' or even have a slight dip in the centre. The cake
will be flipped over eventually, so that the 'base' becomes the top, with a
beautifully flat surface.
Knead any trimmed marzipan back into your reserved piece and cut
approx 1/3 off to use as the sausage. Place the remaining marzipan
back in the bag. Roll a marzipan 'sausage' long enough to go around
the top edge of the cake. Brush the outer edge of the cake with
alcohol or apricot glaze and lay the sausage around the perimeter. Flatten
the sausage using a smoother and draw in towards the centre. You are
aiming for a nice level edge, with the 'sausage' filling in any unevenness.
This marzipan will also help keep the cake in place on it's final board.
Take your reserved marzipan and roughly form a sausage shape before
rolling it out. This piece is for covering the sides, for a round cake
it will need to be long enough to fit all the way around the side of the
cake in one piece, for a square cake, each face can be covered separately.
TIP: Use a piece of string, ribbon, ruler etc to measure the depth
and length you are going to need.
Roll the sausage flat to a
thickness of approx 5mm (1/4"), measure and mark it to the
length and width you will need and using a long straight edge, cut it to
size. Brush the side of the cake with alcohol or apricot glaze and
carefully wrap the marzipan around the cake (Round), or one face (Square).
Trim off any excess, and smooth the join.
Mark the centre of the cake with a little blob of icing. Mark the
centre of your prepared presentation board with another little blob of
icing. What is the top of the cake, will now become the bottom, so
invert your presentation board and line up the icing blobs so that the cake
is central on the inverted board. Once you are happy that it's in the
correct position, slide one hand under the bottom board, and place the other
hand in the centre of the top board and 'flip' the boards over.
the uppermost board and you should be rewarded with a beautifully level,
marzipanned cake ready to take the next covering!
Allow the marzipan covering to harden overnight before moving on to the