With Christmas right around the corner, it's the perfect time to decorate your fruitcake! This recipe is packed with tips for decorating, serving, and storing a traditional British Christmas cake with marzipan and royal icing. This is a festive treat my family always highly anticipates!
Love British Christmas desserts? You'll definitely want to try my recipes for mince pies and brandy butter.
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Fortunately, you don't need a lot of fancy ingredients to beautifully decorate your Christmas fruitcake! Let's talk about the key ingredients.
- Apricot Jam: You can use almost any kind of jam here, but apricot is the traditional choice. It acts as a glue to stick the marzipan on, and helps keep the cake moist.
- Marzipan: Almond marzipan seals in the moisture and adds extra flavor and texture.
- Royal Icing: This fluffy, meringue-like icing dries fairly hard, providing a welcome textural contrast, and makes it look beautifully snowy.
How to Decorate
- Warm some apricot jam in a small saucepan, then strain it in a mesh sieve to remove any lumps of fruit.
- Generously brush the warm, sieved jam on an aged Christmas fruitcake.
3. Roll out the marzipan into a large circle on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Make sure it's at least ⅛ inch thick.
4. Place the marzipan on the cake, making sure it's adhered to the surface with the jam to seal in the moisture. Cut off any excess marzipan from the base, and let it dry loosely covered at room temperature for 5-7 days.
5. Whip up a batch of fluffy royal icing.
6. Spread the icing over the cake with an angled spatula (affiliate), giving it peaks or making it smooth as desired.
7. Let the icing set for 2-3 days, or until it's hardened.
8. Decorate as desired with a ribbon, or place trinkets on top. I used a clean sewing pin to secure the ribbon.
9. Slice the Christmas cake and enjoy its beautiful royal icing and marzipan!
Cover the cake with a layer of marzipan, then let it dry out for 5-7 days. Finally, cover it with royal icing and let that dry. Then, you can add extra decorations, like a ribbon around the edge or festive trinkets on top.
Start by brushing warmed, sieved apricot jam onto the fruitcake. Roll out the marzipan into a large circle on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Keep the marzipan at least ⅛ inch (3mm) thick, then place the marzipan on top and press it onto the surface. Trim off any excess from around the base, and make sure it completely covers the cake.
I like to use a clean sewing pin to secure a festive ribbon around the edge. You can use skewers or toothpicks to insert fun trinkets, like figurines or marzipan fruit, on the top of the cake. Don't add these decorations until the royal icing is dry, however.
The best substitute is fondant. However, I'd recommend using marzipan, as it has more flavor and wouldn't make this dessert as sweet as with fondant. If someone is allergic or sensitive to almond marzipan, you can make your own nut-free marzipan or try a different type of nut, such as pistachios.
- Slicing: Slice into wedges (the traditional way) or into thin fingers, which are smaller portions and are easier to eat. Use a serrated knife with a long, thin blade for the best results.
- Toppings: Brits eat it with the marzipan and royal icing. Canadians usually eat it plain (no icing or marzipan) unless it's for a wedding. Some Americans like to serve it with butter, sharp cheese, and other toppings to make it more palatable. It really doesn't need any toppings, though!
- Short-time storage. Store sliced cake tightly covered with plastic wrap or sealed in a zip-top bag. Keep in a cool, dry, dark place; it will store indefinitely.
- Long-term storage. Wrap in plastic wrap and foil. It will keep in a cool, dry, dark place for 1 year or more if properly sealed.
- Freezing. Cut into wedges for quicker thawing, then wrap in one or two layers of plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil. Seal tightly in a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 year.
- No plastic containers! Avoid storing in an airtight plastic container, as that can make the royal icing weep.
- Warm the jam before brushing it on; it will be much easier to spread.
- Dust the work surface with icing sugar before rolling out the marzipan to prevent sticking.
- Make your own marzipan. It's cheaper and tastes much better.
- Let the marzipan dry out for at least 7 days before covering with icing.
- Don't want raw egg white in the icing? Use meringue powder instead.
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How to Decorate a British Christmas Cake
Marzipan & Icing
- ⅓ cup apricot jam
- 1 ½ pounds marzipan
- Icing sugar, for dusting
- 1 batch royal icing for cakes
- Festive ribbon, optional
- Small, clean sewing pin, optional
- Figurines or marzipan fruit, optional
- Unwrap the aged Christmas cake from its paper and foil and place it flat side up on a large serving plate.
- Warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan with a splash of water, stirring frequently until the jam has melted. Push the jam through a sieve with a spoon to remove any chunks of fruit.
- Use a pastry brush to brush the jam all over the top and sides of the cake. The jam seals in moisture, and will act as a glue to hold the marzipan on the cake.
- On a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, roll the marzipan into a circle a few inches larger than the cake. Keep it at least ⅛ inch (3mm) thick.
- Roll the marzipan onto the rolling pin, then lay it on the cake and smooth the top and sides. Trim off any excess marzipan and patch any places where the marzipan didn't reach. Reserve leftover marzipan for another purpose, or use it to make fruit for decorating the top of the cake later.
- Loosely cover the cake with paper towel and set it in a cool, dry place for 4-5 days, or until the marzipan has hardened.
- Whip up a batch of royal icing, being sure to add 1 ½ teaspoons of glycerine to keep the icing from hardening excessively.
- Spoon all of the icing onto the top of the cake and spread it evenly over the top and sides. Give it swirls and peaks with an angled spatula, or try for a smooth finish instead.
- Set the cake aside uncovered in a cool, dry place for 2 days for the icing to set.
- Wrap a festive ribbon around the cake, using a clean sewing pin to secure the ribbon in place. Place figurines, marzipan fruit, or other decorations on top of the cake if desired.
- Serve the cake sliced in very thin wedges or in fingers.
- Warm the jam before brushing it on the cake; it will be much easier to spread.
- Make sure the work surface is dusted with icing sugar to prevent the marzipan from sticking.
- Don't want raw egg white in the icing? Use meringue powder instead.
- Keep leftovers tightly covered with plastic wrap in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing it in an airtight plastic container, as it will make the icing weep.
- Freeze the cake by wrapping it in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Place in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 year.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.
This post was originally published in December 2017, and was republished on December 3, 2021 with brand-new information, rewritten content, and updated photos.
Is it possible to ship a Christmas cake after the royal icing is applied? Or would it shatter and be a complete mess upon arrival.
I'd recommend shipping smaller cakes rather than one 9-inch round cake. As long as the cake is well wrapped in plastic wrap and foil and cushioned with bubble wrap, it should be fine.
The cake is moist, and the fruit is juicy and the cherries add some color. The cake looks nice and dark. The marzipan has an almond flavor, and the royal icing is sweet. The ribbon on the outside is really pretty!
Thanks for your kind comment, Alex!
This moist, fruity cake is divine! The marzipan and royal icing are unique, but I like having it that way. The cake is beautiful inside and out! The icing and marzipan contrast with the cake's flavor and add a little sweetness.
I'm glad that you enjoyed it so much, Beth!
Hello good morning,
I have 2 kids and I would like to know if the egg whites aren't cooked, what might happen. You say they are going to be dried but I am just afraid they won't be cooked. Any solution please?
There is a slight chance of salmonella in raw eggs. Fortunately, you can use pasteurized egg whites or meringue powder instead of the raw egg whites to negate the chances of foodborne bacteria. Here's an article showing you how to pasteurize eggs: https://www.thespruceeats.com/pasteurize-eggs-in-the-microwave-995505 Hope this helps!