Tag Archives: marzipan

American style cookies with an English twist

Boy the Elder has been away at Scout Camp this weekend – rather him than me – it’s freezing.  So Boy the Younger and I decided to do some baking to welcome him home and make the most of the oven which was on for the Sunday Roast. We never put the oven on just for one thing!

A year and a half ago I experienced a loss.  I had a small, yellow notebook in which I wrote down and perfected my own recipes and which I had been writing for about five years. It was full up and I was a quarter of the way through a second volume, again handwritten, and I never bothered to commit the recipes to memory because they were written down; I kept meaning to type them up but never quite got round to it. 

You know what’s coming don’t you?  In the last but one house move the book went missing.  Volume 2 made the journey but Volume 1 has never surfaced.  I keep hoping it will turn up, hidden inside another book, or stuffed at the bottom of a box, but I don’t hold out much hope.  It is irreplaceable and I can’t even remember what half the recipes were.  Compound swearing doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I had a great craving for these soft cookies today, so BTY and I did a bit of experimenting and came up with these. They also make a very welcome present, in nice box or tin lined with tissue paper.  Hope you like them.


1 large mixing bowl
1 x electric food mixer
3 x large baking trays – greased and floured
2 x wire cooling racks

6oz / 180g butter
2 large or 3 small eggs
4oz / 120g dark brown sugar
6oz / 180g white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
12oz / 360g self raising flour
12oz / 360g whatever you want to put in – I used:-
          4oz chopped marzipan
          4oz chopped dark chocolate
          4oz quartered glace cherries

Pre-heat the oven to 180 / 360 / 4
Beat the butter, eggs, sugars and vanilla with the mixer until creamy thoroughly mixed
Beat in the flour to form a stiff dough.
Stir in all the remaining ingredients until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough
Form the mixture into balls (about the size of a golf ball) and place on the baking sheets, leaving plenty of space for them to spread – a 12″ tray should accommodate 8 or 9
Bake for 12-15 minutes until pale golden
Leave on the tray to ‘set’  for 1-2 minutes
Transfer to a wire rack to cool


Filed under Food, Food Presents, Life in general, Recipes

Things to Make and Do at Easter: Part 2 – Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake was originally made by maid servants to take home to their mothers on Mothers’ Day.  It was a test of their cooking as to whether it was moist enough to last until Easter.  Traditionally, there are eleven marzipan balls placed around the top with a conspicuous gap left.  These represent the eleven loyal disciples of Jesus with the gap reminding us of the betrayal by Judas Iscariot.  Symbolic or not, it’s a gorgeous cake to eat at Easter.


1 x 7” round cake tin with deep sides – ideally loose bottomed
greaseproof paper
1 x large mixing bowl
1 x electric mixer
1 x rolling pin
1 x pastry brush
1 x wire rack for cooling

6oz / 180g butter
6oz / 180g white or Demerara sugar
3 eggs
8oz / 240g self raising flour
12 oz / 360g raisins
4oz / 120g sultanas
3oz / 90g currants
a pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
A little milk
1 ½ lb / 750g marzipan – cut into three equal pieces
Apricot jam
Extra beaten egg for glazing

Pre-heat the oven to 160 / 325 / 3
Grease and line the cake tin with the greaseproof paper
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
Gradually beat in the eggs
Fold in half the flour and fruit and all the salt and spices
Then beat in the remaining flour and fruit and a little milk if it’s very stiff mixture.
Put half the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth it flat
Take 1/3 of the marzipan and, using the cake tin as a template, roll out a circle to fit inside the tin
Place the circle of marzipan on top of the mixture in the tin
Put the remaining cake mixture on the top and make a small indentation in the middle (to keep it flat as it rises)
Put in the oven for about 2 hours or until cooked through
Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack
If the cake has risen in the middle, just slice the top off with a sharp knife to make it level
Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam
Roll out the second 1/3 of the marzipan and cut into a circle to exactly fit the top of the cake
Pinch round the edge to make an attractive finish
Form the final 1/3 of the marzipan into eleven balls and arrange around the top of the cake leaving one space
Brush the top of the cake with beaten egg and brown very slightly under a medium grill
Put a nice ribbon around the cake to finish it off.


Filed under Food, Recipes, Seasonal

…and now for the Icing on the Fruit Cake

Good enough to eat

This simple Poinsettia design looks lovely and is not difficult.  You will need some holly cutters which should be easily available from any decent cook shop.  The one’s I used had a veining stamp which makes the leaves look a bit more realistic.  Getting royal icing absolutely flat is a skill which has to be learned like any other, and for this cake isn’t necessary.  A few swift strokes with a wet palette knife are quite sufficient as long as you can get it to follow the line of the cake, as the top will be covered with leaves and the sides with a ribbon. 

You need to leave the royal icing to dry on your cake at least over night, so put the icing on, then make the leaves, then leave the both to dry.  The leaves can then be applied the following day.

1 x large mixing bowl
1 x electric hand mixer
1 palette knife
1 x jug of warm water
2 x holly cutters – 1″ & 1 ½”, ideally with a veining stamp
1 x rolling pin
paint brushes
greaseproof paper

1 x marzipanned cake
1 x pack royal icing mix
Icing sugar for dusting
1 x pack of ready made red fondant icing
1 x pack of ready made green fondant icing
a tiny bit of cream or white fondant or some mimosa balls for stamens
1 x pot edible glue
1 x pot edible glitter – disco neon electric lime (or similar)
1 x pot edible glitter – disco red
1 length of ribbon

Make up the royal icing as per the instructions on the pack.  It is important to beat the icing for the prescribed length of time; use an electric mixer or your arm will drop off if you attempt to do it by hand.  And we wouldn’t want that would we?

Using a palette knife, apply the icing to the cake in confident strokes.  Dip the knife into a jug of warm water and it will spread much more evenly.  Make sure that every bit of marzipan is covered and I would recommend a thickness of about 1cm of icing.
Wipe any splodges of icing off the cake board with a damp cloth
Lightly cover your work surface with icing sugar
Roll out about 1/3 of the green icing to a thickness of about 1/8″ / 2mm
Dip the cutter lightly in some icing sugar and proceed to cut out about 20 large leaves and 6 small leaves of each colour
Lay them out on the greaseproof paper
Working on 3-4 at a time, paint each leaf with sugar glue
Using a separate brush, immediately dust each painted leaf with glitter of the same colour
Leave to dry overnight.  Remember to rinse out your brushes.

Paint some sugar glue onto the back of a green leaf and place on the outside edge of the cake, pressing gently into place, then work your way round the edge, placing them at slightly different angles

Apply another layer, slightly further in and overlapping a bit (see photo)
Then do the same with the red leaves, finishing with a few little ones in the middle
Put a few tiny balls of white/cream fondant in the middle to look like stamens
Leave to dry

Finish off the cake with a nice, broad ribbon and glue it in place at the back.  I have just used plain ribbon but you could add a jolly bow.
Place in an obvious place so that everyone who comes to your house can completely unexpectedly admire it


Filed under Christmas, Food, Food Presents, Recipes, Seasonal

How to apply Marzipan to your Christmas Cake

Marzipan is applied to a fruit cake to act as a protective seal and a flat surface between a dark, sticky, potentially leaky cake and a crisp, white icing.  If you really don’t like marzipan, it is possible to apply fondant icing directly to the cake, but you must make it very thick or the cake may start to show through and it will be much harder to get the surface flat.

Like anything else, getting marzipan flat and even is a skill, but if you are just starting out, you can easily disguise any small bumps with icing.  The design I’m going to demonstrate does not necessitate perfect flat icing and is therefore ideal for a beginner or someone who simply doesn’t have time to do something more complicated.

One day, I’ll tell you how to make your own marzipan, but not now.  Life’s too short.

1 x rolling pin
1 x flour shaker loaded with icing sugar
1 sharp knife
1 x ordinary knife
1 x cake board – about an inch wider than the cake all round

2 packets of Marzipan (you may only need one, but better safe than sorry)
Apricot jam (not with chunks of fruit in)
Icing sugar for dusting surfaces
1 rich fruit cake

Spread some jam quite thickly in the middle of the board
Place the cake centrally on top of it

Cover the cake with jam

Cover the cake in a thin layer of apricot jam

Light dust the worktop with icing sugar
Roll out the marzipan to between ½ and 1cm thick – depending on how much you like marzipan

Using the cake tin in which you baked the cake as a template, cut out a circle in the marzipan

Place marzipan neatly on the top

Place it neatly on top of the cake
Use scraps to fill in any gaps between the bottom of the cake and the board

Use marzipan to fill gaps

Knead the marzipan into a ball

Dust the surface with icing sugar again and roll the marzipan into a long strip, approximately the circumference and height of the cake
Trim the bottom edge straight with the sharp knife

Wrap marzipan carefully round the sides

Wrap the marzipan carefully around the cake, making sure it sticks to the jam

Trim with a sharp knife

Using a sharp knife, dipped in water, trim the marzipan so that it forms a neat edge in line with the top

Using a clean, damp cloth, wipe any scuffs off the top and any stickiness off the cake board

Roll the rolling pin gently over the top to make sure it is nice and flat



Filed under Christmas, Food, Recipes, Seasonal

Being Awfully Busy

I’ve kept meaning to put another post on this week, but somehow it just hasn’t happened.  I have two children at different schools and every day there seems to be something else that I either have to do, attend, contribute or pay for; Class Hamper, Secret Santa, Christingle, Carol Service, Own Clothes Day, Decorations Day, Nativity Play, Create A New Organised Religion Day (Key Stage 1), Release a Turkey into The Wild Morning and my personal favourite, Camel Care for the Under Fives.   I also now have choir practices and carol services to go to and I have to make the house habitable in order to be hospitable over the Christmas Season.  Can’t wait for the end of term!

This weekend, I am going to marzipan my Christmas Cakes, so look out for a piece on that, which will be closely followed by instruction on how to do a simple but effective Poinsettia design for the icing.

Tonight, it is Alice’s daughter’s birthday and we are all going to see ‘Nativity’ at the pictures.  Alice and I usually go to the pub while the children are watching some hideous, badly executed, poorly plotted cartoon, and we had found that cinema attendance had become a very expensive sleep – Alice actually snored during ‘Monsters v. Aliens’.  But tonight we are going to ‘sit in’.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tomorrow, having been lent a set of brushes, I am going to clean my chimney.  I’ve been awfully good this year…


Filed under Children, Christmas, Family and Friends

A marvellous Christmas Cake Recipe

Ideally, one should have baked a Christmas Cake a week ago, but there is still plenty of time if you feed it with brandy twice a day instead of once.  I will do two more posts on how to marzipan the cake and a simple decorative icing.  Also do remember that Christmas Cake is full of fruit and is therefore health food.

Also remember that a small Christmas Cake makes a lovely and welcome gift, particularly for someone who doesn’t have the time to bake, or is perhaps on their own and can’t manage a bigger one.  Adjust the quantities accordingly. 

Lining a cake tin:   When baking a heavy fruit cake, you need to line the tin properly with greaseproof paper. 
Lay out your greaseproof paper on a flat surface and trace round the bottom of the tin twice
Cut out the two circles and set aside
Cut a long strip, the circumference of the tin and about 1″ (2.5cm) deeper than the tin.  Make small cuts at regular intervals all along one long edge.
Grease the tin then place one circle of greaseproof in the bottom
Grease this circle of paper lightly then put the long length of paper around the inside of the tin, snipped side at the bottom so that is overlaps the ready greased circle.
Then place the second circle of greaseproof paper on top of that. 


1 large mixing bowl
1 x food mixer
Greaseproof paper

8oz soft brown sugar
8oz butter
4 eggs – beaten
1½ tablespoons black treacle
9oz wholemeal self-raising flour
1½ teaspoons mixed spice
14oz raisins
14oz sultanas
12oz currants
6oz glacé cherries – halved
2oz chopped almonds

Cream the butter and sugar until very pale 
Beat in the eggs, then mix in the treacle
Gradually fold the flour into the mixture 
Once it is all combined, add all the other ingredients.

Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin, leaving a deep indentation in the middle so that it rises flat
Wrap newspaper around the outside of the tin, leaving a good 2” of paper above the top of the tin 
Secure with the paper with string (do not use plastic string as this will melt).
Bake at 150ºC for 2 hours, then at 140ºC for 1 hour
Remove the newspaper, then leave to cool in the tin 
Each day, drizzle half a capful of brandy or rum over the cake until you are ready to marzipan and ice it


Filed under Christmas, Food, Food Presents, Recipes, Seasonal