The only thing I didn't do is capture any video this week. It's amazing (though not surprising) how, when you're trying to put together final touches in someone else's house (my parents') with 14 other people around, you don't go through quite the same motions as you do in your own home.
Oh. before we jump to the end, I should mention that - as suggested in the recipe - I covered the cake in almond paste about a week before decorating and serving. That kind of went like this:
1) Search the grocery stores for almond paste.
2) Buy the wrong thing.
3) Go back to the grocery store for the right thing.
4) Open the package.
5) Wonder if it's actually the right stuff.
6) Decide to just go with it.
7) Forget to take a picture.
8) Get halfway done.
9) Remember to take pictures.
|I mean, really, does that package look like it's going to turn into what's on the cake?|
One of the packages was older than the other (it had a February 2018 expiration date, while the other had a September 2018 date). The "older" one had a slightly darker color and slightly grainier consistency, but the taste was the same.
|It looks like I'm working with a bar of really expensive almond soap...|
With a little release of aggression, you just warm it up and make it more malleable, so you can mash/spread/roll/press it out to cover the cake.
|Obviously, there is a dark side of the moon and a light side...|
Then, yes, I carted the almond paste-covered cake to my parents' house in South Dakota for the Christmas weekend, and unwrapped it on Christmas Eve. Not much had changed since the almond paste got put on it a few days earlier.
|Okay. Two obvious things changed: The paste had kind of mellowed in color and the cake had been moved from its parchment paper bed to a plate.|
I had been told - both by my friend in England and by my mother - that the cake definitely needed to be decorated. I'm not a fan of fondant (which is recommended in the recipe), so I went with my mother's recommendation of "at least a quarter-inch of buttercream icing" on top.
This meant that I needed frosting - and a way to apply it.
My buttercream recipe is really probably not buttercream. It's just a very basic everyday frosting, with three main ingredients: powdered sugar, some kind of shortening/fat, and milk. (You can add colorings and flavorings if you want - but remember that they may alter the consistency of the frosting.)
I don't really pay attention to the amounts - I kind of do this by "feel" based on how I'm using the final product.
Looking at the picture, I'm guessing I used about 3/4 of a two-pound bag of powdered sugar, about 2 tablespoons of softened butter, and enough milk to get the right consistency (through trial and error - adding more powdered sugar, if needed).
|You can see my food colorings (old school liquids in droppers), and almond flavoring to the left of the bowl.|
Do you remember the Spritz cookie "gun" that I have? I have a matching icing gun, and I love it equally as much.
As with the Spritz gun, you put a tip on the bottom, fill it from the top, and then attach the plunger. In this case, it looks a bit like a huge syringe:
I probably should have enlisted one of the 14 other people in the house to take pictures of me decorating the cake (or at least have done some "in-progress" photos), but instead you have to assume I'm the one who got it from that point to this:
From the side - which remains unfrosted, per tradition - you can see the layer of almond paste and the layer of buttercream on top of the cake.
And, yes, I got that in a close-up:
About an hour after frosting it, we cut into it. My mother guided me on the fact that you cut it "in rings" and so I did that.
How was it? Well, everyone who tried it seemed to enjoy it. I found it to be a little dry (which seemed incredible, considering how much brandy I'd poured onto it in the past month), but I wonder if that was because we were working on the outer edge, and not the center.
Will I do it again? There's a very good change that I will. I enjoyed the overall process - and the flavor was very nice - a dark, "warm" flavor, even though it was a bit hard to really put a finger on.
And so the Christmas Cake story for 2017 brings this year to a close.
As we enter 2018, here's to whatever the new year brings! (Will it be cake? casseroles? cookies? conversation? Only time will tell!)
How are you celebrating the new year? Will you be having a feast of seven fishes? champagne at midnight? cocktail shrimp skewered on toothpicks in a grapefruit centerpiece? Let me know what you're up to - and I'll see you in a week!