Holly Leaf Cake Decoration
This is a simple but tasteful design for those who want to go a step further than the quick snow scene.
To get royal icing really flat and smooth has always demanded a great deal of skill, but now that fondant icing has become more popular everything has been simplified down to simply rolling out the icing and fitting it on to the cake. Holly leaf cutters are available at good kitchen shops, shops that specialise in cake decoration or by mail order. If you're using ready-made icing you'll need 1½ lb (700 g).
This recipe is from Delia Smith's Christmas For the fondant icing for a 7 inch (18 cm) square or an 8 inch (20 cm) round cake
First sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, then add 1½ egg whites, which is just under 2 fl oz (55 ml), and reserve the rest of the egg white for later.
Add the liquid glucose. Now start to mix everything with a wooden spoon and then finish off with your hands. As soon as you have a ball of icing, transfer it to a surface dusted with icing sugar and start to knead it in the same way as you would knead bread dough. (I'm afraid it will take 10 minutes or so, so you may need some good music on – or else use it as an opportunity to get rid of all your hidden aggressions!)
If the dough becomes a bit sticky just add a little more sifted icing sugar. When the 10 minutes are up, leave the icing on one side covered with a cloth for 30 minutes.
To ice the cake, first reserve 6 oz (175 g) of the icing for the decoration, then take four or five very small pieces of the icing, dip them in the reserved egg white and use them to fix the cake to the cake board. Now brush the almond icing all over with egg white and roll the fondant out to a square measuring 13½ x 13½ inches (34 x 34 cm). Lift it carefully with the aid of a rolling pin and transfer it to the cake, placing it centrally over it. Use a palette knife to smooth it over the top and down the sides and to round the corners. Don't worry about any gaps or holes because the fondant can be eased back together gently and smoothed over.
Trim the base neatly all round, then, if you need to, smooth the top and sides of the cake by sliding a palette knife all over each surface. Now dust the work surface again with icing sugar and roll out the remaining fondant (including the trimmings). Using the holly leaf cutter, stamp out the holly leaves – you will need 84 altogether so keep re-rolling the trimmings until you have enough.
Brush each one with egg white and arrange on the top and sides of the cake. To fix the silver balls, make up a 'cement' by mixing a heaped dessertspoon of icing sugar with a little cold water, put the merest trace in the centre of each arrangement of holly leaves, and fix three silver balls in place (the best way to do this is to use scrubbed eyebrow tweezers!). Now the cake is complete and can be stored in a container until needed.
If you are decorating an 8 inch (20 cm) round cake, you'll need 58 holly leaves and 116 silver balls. Make a circle of holly leaves, end to end, around the top edge of the cake and around the base, with another circle in the centre as well. Use 2 silver balls between each holly leaf.
Note: this recipe contains raw eggs