Monday, 26 November 2012

Christmas Cakes 2012 Part 3 :o)

I finally got round to icing the Christmas cakes yesterday :o) There have been various days over the past couple of weeks when I was going to do them, but life has a habit of getting in the way  & I never managed to get them done. However, yesterday I was DETERMINED !! Nothing was going to stand in my way, I said I was going do them & do them I WOULD !! :o)

I got Shaun settled in his husband hut & then gathered everything together - icing sugar, icing, decorations, ribbon, pins, rolling pin, board, scissors, knife, pastry brush, boiling water & cakes :o)

I decided to use ready made fondant icing which is quicker & a lot kinder on the teeth than Royal Icing :o) After breaking one of my mother in law's teeth with an extra hard walnut in a coffee & walnut cake earlier in the year, I think it was a wise decision !! :o)
Well, it was her fault really - I offered to make her a coffee cake & SHE said - *Can you make it coffee & walnut instead ? I haven't had a coffee & walnut cake in AGES !!* So, being the very good & dutiful daughter in law I am, that's what I did !! :o)
Anyway - I digress - as usual :o)

Because I was icing one big & six small cakes, I divided the icing into 7 pieces & then started rolling :o)
To make the icing stick, you have to brush the top of the marzipanned cake with boiled water. Before doing anything, I put the pastry brush & all my decorations & pins - which hold the ribbon on - into boiling water for a few minutes, to steralise & make them clean & safe.

Place the rolled icing on top of the cake & trim any excess.

Put a blob of icing - made with icing sugar & a drop of boiling water - on to a cake board & place the cake. You can buy Christmas cake ribbons, but I wanted to use the decorative ribbon I already had. Once the ribbon's in place around the cake, pin it in place with 1 or 2 of the pins you steralised earlier.

Decorate how you want :o) I like the plain & simple look, personally, but that's mostly because I can't do fancifications :o)  I don't have the ability or the patience, to be honest :o) I'm also old fashioned/traditional. Christmas to me is red, gold & green, so I tend to stick to those colours.
This is the large cake. The small ones were done in the same way, but the only decoration they have are ribbons around them & a small tree decoration stuck in them. I thought the recipients could eat the cake & then put the decoration on the tree as a little keepsake :o) It saves having a drawful of cake decorations that they won't use, doesn't it ? :o)
Today it's steam-the-Christmas-puddings-& panic-about-parents-coming-to-visit-next-week-&-I-still-haven't-got-a-clue-what-to-get-them-day :o)
PANIC !! PANIC !!! PANIC !!!!  :o)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Remembrance Day 2012

Are we ever going to learn from history ?
Wilfred Owen
Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Lest We Forget.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Christmas Cakes 2012 Part 2 :o)

I finally got round to marzipanning the Christmas cakes on Tuesday afternoon. I'd tried to find time on the weekend, but it just seemed to slip away & before I knew it, it was Monday again, the start of yet another week of appointments. It would be so nice to have a week or 3 off, but it seems Shaun is in constasnt demand at the hospital, doctor's or clinic. If I never see another medical person again in my life, it will be too soon !! :o)
But - I digress :o)  Back to the Christmas cakes :o)

First, gather your bits & pieces together - rolling pin, pastry brush, apricot jam, icing sugar, marzipan, board to roll it on & most importantly - the cakes themselves :o)

Spoon some jam into a saucepan & GENTLY heat it till it becomes runny. While this is happening, roll your marzipan on an icing sugar covered board. You could melt the jam in the microwave if you prefer, but I like to do it in a saucepan on a low heat. I can keep an eye on it better that way.

Brush the melted jam over the top of the cake - if you are marzipanning & icing the sides, do the same to them, too.

Place your cake, jammy side down, on top of your rolled marzipan. I used natural marzipan, but you can use the yellow coloured marzipan if you prefer :o) You can also place the marzipan on top of the cake, rather than the way I do it, but I do it that way because I find it easier to cut the marzipan to shape & trim away any excess :o)
The marzipanned cake :o) As you can see, I only do the top. I think too much marzipan & icing makes the cake a little too sweet, but it's a personal choice. I don't like marzipan at all, nor do I like a lot of icing, so IF I liked Christmas cake, I'd probably pull it all off & just munch on the cake itself :o)
Top tip: when storing the cake, it can be difficult to get it out of the tin, especially a big cake like the one above. It weighs a TON !! So, put it on the lid of the tin & place the tin over the top. It still keeps the cake fresh but makes it easier to take out when needed. Just remember that the tin is UPSIDE DOWN, so be careful when moving it !! You could always wrap some duct tape or parcel tape around it, just to be on the safe side :o)
Smaller cakes are easier to lift in & out, so just store them in a tin or a biscuit box on greaseproof paper. I use individual bits of greaseproof because it helps you get hold of the right cake.Grab a corner, slide your hand underneath & lift :o)
So, there we are. All marzipanned & waiting to be iced & decorated. It takes at least 24 hours for the marzipan to dry, but I normally leave them at least a week before icing, if not longer, just to be sure.
Part 3 when it's icing time :o)