How (not) to ice your first Christmas cake

So.. the cake was there waiting to be iced with an almost perfectly smooth covering of marzipan. I knew from memory that what I needed was Royal Icing. Again mum’s icing was famed from one corner of the globe to another.. but I still didn’t have her recipe book. I silently thanked the powers above for the internet and checked out Delia/Good Housekeeping once more.

Everyone seemed to be of the opinion that for Royal Icing you need icing sugar and three egg whites and glycerine. Unfortunately glycerine is not something stocked by 24/7 corner shops or small convenient supermarkets and on Christmas Eve there was no time for a superstore trip. Fortunately my sister in law had three bottles from several different years so I decided that the cake would be iced on arrival.

She reminded me that the reason she like mum’s icing was its lemoniness – so I decided to just add lemon juice to the recipe – clever I know!

And so it was that after supper ( and putting kids to bed, and writing notes to Father Christmas, and leaving out the mince pie and glass of wine and hoping someone else would feed Santa’s reindeer as I couldn’t find the carrots) at about midnight – I began to ice the cake.

I separated the eggs – no sweat – not a grain of egg shell in sight; combined them with the sugar and glycerine and lemon; and got stirring . All looking good. Then I remembered another trick of mum’s.  To stop the icing looking yellowy she would take  a block of solid blue food colouring and grate a tiny amount into the icing. I searched my in laws baking cupboard. Not surprisingly no solid block of food colouring – but there was a bottle of blue liquid food colouring. I seized it in delight. That would do the trick – this was going to be the perfect icing mix:  the consistency was right – mum would be proud of me. I put a tiny drop of dye into the mix.

It was much darker than I had expected – still once I stirred it in it would go back to white.

I started stirring – it was now a lighter blue, but still blue – sky blue in fact.

So I added more icing sugar and then more… and a bit more water and lemon and more sugar. And the blue got paler and paler.. but it was still distinctly blue.

I went up to the children in bed – “How would you feel if the Christmas cake was blue?”

My children pulled a horrified ” how is mummy going to let us down next” face.

I pulled a ” do not use the words: mummy fail” kind of face.

And then my niece said ” Cool – I love blue it’s my favourite colour!”

“Yes but not usually the colour of snow??”

“It will be cool,” she assured me.

I showed my husband.

“It’s a good job we have plenty of icing sugar”, he said “I would make some more. How do you make it?”

I explained about the egg whites and glycerine which he took to be more complicated than it was. So then he said:

“I’d leave it blue.”

And so I did.

Oh, and the 100 year old Christmas decorations ? They were also at my mum’s house – so I’m afraid we improvised with some figures from the Lego advent calendar! As a friend said – it’s good to follow family traditions- but it’s also good to create your own !!

How to ice a Christmas Cake

Disclaimer: the cake is actually much bluer than it looks in this photo!

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