Jane Asher's last minute Christmas cake
Traditionally, the Christmas cake should be made months ahead of the big day. This gives it time to mature in taste and texture - and ensures it's dry enough to ice easily. But as cake guru Jane Asher tells us, if you've forgotten or been too busy, you really don't need to panic. Here are her recipes and tips for a fabulous 11th-hour festive centrepiece.
The heating and soaking of the fruit in the boozy liquid, plus using dark brown sugar, gives an overnight appearance and taste of maturity... I also think it's a delicious recipe to use even if you are making it early, and it's my favourite for our family Christmas cake.
Jane's Last-Minute Christmas Cake recipe
Decorating the Christmas cake
Jane will be icing the cake on December 7th, on Great Food Live. For a last-minute cake, she suggests you use roll-out icing as detailed below or - as she's planning to do at home - create a marzipan, fruit and nut topping.
As well as being a very important part of the food over Christmas, the cake is also a centrepiece and a decoration in itself. There are all kinds of options, depending on how much time and energy you have, and on personal taste: I think my show-biz side tends to come out at Christmas, and I love using edible glitter, gorgeous ribbons, snowflakes, bells and so on...
Alternatively, you could do something very effective with a simple, sleek covering of roll-out icing and a few gold stars or silver balls. Whichever way you decide to go - maybe the traditional route of 'snowy' royal icing with a few fir trees and a Santa - there are countless ready-made options to help you out, and nowadays no cake needs to be boring.
To cover the cake with roll-out icing
Unless you're particularly dedicated to the idea of royal icing, I really think this is the best - and certainly the easiest - way to go for a beautiful, white surface ready to be decorated in whichever way you choose.
Knead about 500g of white roll-out icing until smooth, then roll it out on a work surface (or silicon sheet) dusted lightly with icing sugar. Cover in exactly the same way as you did with the marzipan (see Jane's cake recipe), but brushing the surface with a little water instead of jam. Smooth carefully with a side smoother. Use trimmings to model any shapes you fancy, colouring them with tiny amounts of paste colours, kneaded well in.
Alternatively, colour and roll out the trimmings and use Christmassy cutters to cut out various shapes that you stick onto the icing with a little water. Or, for a really quick and easy option, use some of the beautiful ready-made edible or non-edible decorations available - have a look at the sugarcraft Christmas section on my website for inspiration.
This year, to make a change, I'm decorating my cake with glace fruits and nuts and a beautiful ribbon. Apart from being very easy to do, it also has the advantage of there being no need to let the marzipan to dry out and firm up, so can be done at the last minute.