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Decorating a Traditional Christmas Cake: learn how to decorate a Christmas cake in the traditional British way with apricot jam, marzipan, and royal icing. |

Decorating a Traditional Christmas Cake

  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 week
  • Yield: 56 slices 1x


Learn how to decorate a round Christmas cake in the traditional British way.  The apricot jam, marzipan, and royal icing will transform your cake into a showstopping Christmas centerpiece!



For the Marzipan Covering

  • 3 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 1 lb. 8 oz. marzipan (675g)
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

For the Royal Icing

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 5 cups icing sugar, sifted (675g)
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons glycerine

For the Decoration

  • Festive ribbon
  • Small, clean sewing pin


Covering the Cake with Marzipan (30 min + 4-5 days drying time)

  1. Take the aged Christmas cake out of its tin and remove the lining paper.  Place it flat side up on a large serving plate.
  2. 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, reserving the sieved jam.
  3. Brush the jam all over the flat top and sides.
  4. On a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, roll out the marzipan in a circle a few inches larger than the cake.
  5. Roll the marzipan up on 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.  You'll probably have leftover marzipan, so just save that for another use.
  6. Loosely cover it with parchment paper and set it in a cool, dry place for 4-5 days, until the marzipan has hardened.

Making the Royal Icing (20 min)

  1. Place the egg whites in a clean, grease-free bowl and beat on low speed with a hand-held electric mixer until they are foamy and frothy.
  2. Add in the sugar by large spoonfuls while whisking on low speed.  If the mixer's motor is struggling, increase the speed a little.
  3. Once all the sugar is incorporated, whisk in the lemon juice and glycerine and whisk on medium speed until the icing stands up in stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted.  To test it further, place a generous blob of it on a flat surface.  If it holds its shape, it's done.
  4. Use the icing immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and keep in a cool place until needed.

Decorating (25 min + 2 days drying time)

  1. Spoon all of the icing onto the top of the cake and spread it evenly over the top and sides, giving it a snowy look with a small spatula or palette knife.   Get a smooth finish with a clean ruler or palette knife.
  2. Leave it uncovered in a cool, dry place for 2 days for the icing to set.
  3. Wrap a festive ribbon around the cake.  Make a small bowl out of the same ribbon and pin it on.
  4. Serve the cake sliced in very thin wedges.


  • 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 covered with plastic wrap in a cool, dry place.  Avoid storing it in an airtight plastic container, as it will make the icing weep.
  • To freeze, wrap it in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil.  Place in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 year.
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Whisked
  • Cuisine: British

Keywords: fruitcake designs, how to decorate a Christmas cake