Cakes, Christmas, General how to's & recipes, Journal, Patisserie / Pastry, Popular Posts

Chef Snowman Christmas Cake

I thought I’d make a friendly dinasaur cake for my showpiece (part of the requirements for the Patisserie exam) but my grandmother suggested I work on a Christmas theme instead (we’d just made a Christmas cake together).  The idea of a snowman cake popped into my head, based on the fact that plastic icing is as ‘white as snow’ as it is. 

Having no particular detail in mind and no references at hand,  it sure turned out to be a bit of an adventure!  I started with a couple of blobs of plastic icing and one thing led to another so that the snowman evolved into snowmen with snow cake & snow candle on snow blanket on snow cake (ENOUGH!!) … 

If you’d like to make a similar cake, start with a Christmas other) cake base and cover it with marzipan

Cover your cake with marzipan


Roll out your plastic icing (no need to colour) and place over the cake (mine turned out to look like an ice table cloth)


Handwork your plastic icing into bodies and heads (I coloured my icing with a touch of blue to create an ice effect) - it doesn't matter what size as long as it is to scale or works for you!


Colour some plastic icing for your scarves, eyes, buttons, hats and carrot noses


Mould your ice cake (3 rounded layers one on top of the other) and your candle (add a touch of orange on the tip) and then mark the faces to position eyes/noses etc


Position the various elements - if moist, the plastic icing pieces will naturally glue together, otherwise use royal icing or edible glue from a baking supplier


Colour some more plastic icing, roll and place freely on top of the cake so that it resembles a blanket before placing the rest of the pieces in position


Place noses (it's easier if the plastic icing is hard) and whatever else you may think of... don't forget the snowballs!


Merry Christmas!

Cakes, Christmas, General how to's & recipes, Patisserie / Pastry, Popular Posts

My Nan’s (Easy-to-Make) Traditional Christmas Cake

With six children and goodness knows how many grand-children and great-grandchildren, my grand-mother has had over sixty years of experience with Christmas cakes! I asked her to show me how she makes her favourite boiled fruit cake – the one she presents to the family every Christmas.


We recently spent a morning together catching up on all the news whilst chopping cherries and measuring whiskey et al… And then we went through my Mom’s recipes together while the cake was baking in the oven (what blissful smells!) … and that’s another story!

Onto the Christmas cake ingredients:

• 1 kg cake fruit mix • 250 grams butter • 6 eggs • 750 ml cake flour • 10 ml mixed spice • 10 ml bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 60 ml milk • 250 g sliced cherries • 250 g sugar • 375 ml orange juice • 125 ml brandy or whiskey • 100 grams of pecan nuts (or whatever nuts you prefer) • Pinch of salt

Step by Step Method:

• Prepare your cake tin: Cut out greaseproof paper to fit the inside of the tin – layer about 3 to 4 pieces on top of each other. Secure with pegs. Cut tin foil to fit the inside of the tin and place it on top of the wax paper. Shift the pegs to hold the foil and paper in place. Butter the foil

• Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius

• Place the fruit mix into a large pot (1 kg of currents/raisins/saltanas/dried fruit)

• Add the butter/sugar/orange juice and bring to the boil SLOWLY – allow to simmer for 15 minutes on a low heat to allow the fruit to soften. Stir occasionally… this is the time consuming part… but who cares when every second smells WONDERFUL?!

• Wash the cherries (to get the syrup off), dry them and cut each cherry in half

• Roughly chop the nuts

• Once the fruit has softened in the pot, place the pot in a sink with cold water until the mixture is luke warm or cool (this will prevent the eggs from cooking immediately in the next step!)

• Dissolve 10 ml of bicarbonate of soda in 60 ml of milk

• Beat eggs – WHISK WELL!

• Gather the flour/mixed spice and a pinch of salt and sift into a mixing bowl

• Add eggs to the fruit mix once it has cooled

• Use a spoon to work the flour mix & other dry ingredients into the fruit mix – ADD TWO TABLESPOONS AT A TIME and mix well before adding the next lot

• Add the bicarb mixture (you’ll notice how the bicarb fizzes the mixture up!)

• Add the whiskey

• Lastly, add the cherries and nuts and mix

• Pour into the tin (it’s a wet mixture so don’t worry if it is ‘sloppy’) and remove the pegs

• NOW COVER WITH TIN FOIL and cook for about 2 ½ hours – remove the top foil covering about half an hour before the end of the cooking time. (Add another 125 ml of alcohol to the cake when it comes out of the oven if you want to keep the cake for some time).

• Allow to cool before decorating with a layer of marzipan (go to followed by a layer of white plastic icing (go to for a detailed description of how to layer marzipan and plastic icing on a fruit cake. Plastic icing is bought ready made).


This Christmas cake can be left for some time as long as it is well sealed. Otherwise use as soon as you wish to.

Thank you Grandmamah!!

POST SCRIPT: To see how I iced it, check out


Cakes, Christmas, General how to's & recipes, Patisserie / Pastry

How to make Marzipan

My dad used to get marzipan every Christmas from his aunt (she gave it to nobody else but him).  He didn’t bother unwrapping it… but would say ‘Thank you Hennie!’ with a sparkle in his eye.  This is not the same recipe but I am sure he would approve!

MARZIPAN INGREDIENTS (yields aproximately 1 990 grams)

  • 910 grams almond paste (see seperate recipe below which is the correct amount for this marzipan recipe)
  • 120 ml glucose/sugar syrup or corn syrup
  • 910 grams sieved icing sugar


  • Mix almond paste with the glucose/sugar syrup at a LOW speed until combined (in a mixing bowl with a hook attachment)
  • Add the icing sugar (add until you have a firm yet malleable dough – don’t overmix or use a high speed as the heat will soften it and you’ll end up adding too much icing sugar)
  • Scrape down the bowl every now and then
  • Wrap in plastic and store in an airtight container in a cool place


  • 285 grams dry blanched almonds
  • 285 grams sieved icing sugar
  • 300 ml stock syrup/simple syrup


  • Place almonds in a high speed food processer and process to a powder
  • Sieve through a metal sieve (scrape through the holes with a metal spoon) to achieve an even finer powder
  • Add icing sugar
  • Gradually add the simple syrup while the machine is running until it forms a paste (add more or less depending on how dry the almonds are – freshly blanched almonds require less syrup)
  • Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature (it will last for a week) or in the fridge (for a longer period) 

NOTE: A paste versus a powder is okay as long as you achieve a smooth consistency!

Cakes, General how to's & recipes, Patisserie / Pastry

How to make Royal Icing / Plain Icing

Royal icing can act as an icing for cakes, as a decorative medium or as a glue.  All you need is egg white and icing sugar – go by feel in terms of how thin or thick you want the icing.

  • Beat egg white in a machine with a whisk (or by hand) until it becomes ‘white’
  • Add sieved icing sugar until you get the consistency you desire

For a thinner icing, work on 1/2 an egg white to 100 grams of icing sugar eg. to ‘flood’ or fill in the filigree spaces as pictured below:

Chef Tim mentioned that adding a touch of blue food colouring prevents the icing from turning yellow (that’s if your eggs aren’t super fresh).

Cakes, Christmas, General how to's & recipes

Christmas cake decor – adding a personal touch

We worked with small Christmas cakes today.  Le Riche, who was in a sad state after hearing of the death of  two of his friends in a car accident, found the sun within and decorated a small cake for me (see above) and another with a heart motif (see below).


It felt like there was a lot of love and care going around at Chef School.  I’m not sure if it was because of the sad news or because our time together is coming to an end… or because we were all quietly pondering on what life is really about… and wondering what we can learn from the death of two young people. 

Life is Soooooooooooooooooooooooo short, it’s over in a flash… and yet, our brains just don’t seem to GET IT… if we knew we were going to be gone tomorrow, how would we behave today?  Would we express our love unashamedly?  Smell the roses more deeply, feel the breeze on our skins, watch the clouds floating by above us, stand in awe of a snail with it’s little feelers and compact home on its back? 

Sorry if I’m getting a bit emotional but I wish we’d all realize this … including myself!


HOW TO PREPARE THE CAKE & ICING (see seperate recipes for each individual item, except plastic icing which is bought ready made):

  • Bake fruit cake in a rectangular tin
  • Cut into same-size small blocks

  • Roll out marzipan and plastic icing (and sides if required) and cut to correct size.  Place a thin layer of warm apricot jam on top of the cake and lay down the marzipan.  Place a thin layer of sugar syrup on top of the marzipan and glue the plastic icing on top of the marzipan

  • Prepare royal icing (to pipe your decoration) and place inside a piping bag
  • Decorate & sprinkle with edible coloured powder

We finished our cakes by wrapping them with tin foil (and placing them on a foil covered cardboard base) but one could work magic with all kinds of materials.

Here’s to those we love and… the rising of another day.


Cakes, General how to's & recipes, Patisserie / Pastry

Profiterole Wedding Cake

Chef Tim's French Wedding Cake - Profiterole Cake

I’ve always been intrigued by the traditional French wedding cake.  It’s an unusual structure – made up entirely of caramel coated profiteroles which are filled with creme patisserie or variations thereof.  I asked Chef Tim how they are made and he gave us a demonstration.

The process is much simpler than I thought (although it is time consuming):

  • Make choux pastry (see how to make choux pastry)
  • Pipe your profiteroles onto a baking tray and pop into the oven (see how to make a Saint Hanore cake)
  • Make your creme patisserie (see how to make creme patisserie/pastry cream)
  • Make your caramel (see how to make caramel)
  • Coat the tops of your profiteroles with caramel and pipe creme patisserie into the undersides
  • Lay your first layer of profiteroles RIGHT WAY UP onto a plate (glue the undersides with caramel to create stability)
  • Glue your next layer onto the base layer SIDEWAYS using caramel as your glue (that was the missing link for me)
  • Carry on layering profiteroles as above creating a conical shape as you go
  • Fill the inside of the cake with loose profiteroles as you go

You could fill the profiteroles with chocolate or coffee flavoured pastry cream or mix the pastry cream with cream for a lighter Saint Hanore cream.

The French often decorate their profiterole wedding cakes with sugar coated almonds or ‘candy floss’ caramel.

It turns out that Chef Tim did, in fact, make a profiterole cake hat for a beauty queen a few years back.  What one can do with choux!

Cakes, Popular Posts

Our Green Monster Children’s Cake

Chef Tim gave us an exciting new project the other day: he broke us up into groups of three and told us to get cracking with a theme cake using plastic icing.  We’ve never done this kind of thing before.

Green Dragon Cake 005

The book ‘Enchanted Cakes’ inspired us to action and my group decided to do The Green Monster (or is it a Dragon?!).  I made the head, scales and body.  Edward made the legs (great aging effect on the skin) and tail.  Kimberley worked on the base.  We all got involved in the prepping:  colouring the icing, making the sponge base etc.

Our first plastic icing cake

Our friendly little wrinkly monster is going to surprise Sara on her ninth birthday.

Dragon/Green Monster Cake

Our classmates’ creations are pictured below : a dragon by his lair, a ladybird and gnome on his home.

Classmates' Dragon's Den Cake

Classmates' Lady Bird Cake

Classmates' Gnome Cake

Since we’re on the subject of children’s cakes, my sister, Natalie,  has just sent me a pic of her Humpty Dumpty Cake.  And this Humpty did have a great fall – it slid off it’s fresh strawberry icing just before this pic was taken. Fortunately all the King’s horses & all the King’s men didn’t have to put Humpty together again!

Natalie's Humpty Dumpty Cake