At the beginning of this week, with the cake now suitably intoxicated, it was time to go to the next stage and cover it with almond paste. First I had to dig out my old cake-board which the Christmas cake always sits on. It’s a bit old and battered and I’d like a new one, but I can’t seem to find one here in France, so every year I just cover it with foil.

With the board ready I set the cake on it and then start making the almond paste. It’s very quick and easy to make. First you thoroughly mix together the dry ingredients: ground almonds, icing-sugar and castor sugar.

This done you make a well in the centre and add egg yolks, lemon juice, almond essence and brandy. I use bitter-almond essence which I buy from Germany. It’s got a stronger, sharper aroma. Mix everything together until you have a paste. For some reason I completely forgot to take any pictures of the mixing process.

You end up with a lovely big ball of delicious almond paste which you then split into two. Half for the top and half for the sides. I throw a sprinkle of icing sugar on the table and roll out the top first, shaping it to fit. Then I divide the second ball of paste into two and roll out each one individually. It’s easier to apply two pieces as opposed to one long piece. I brush a little jam over the whole cake first to help the paste stick. You should use apricot but I forgot to buy some and had to use strawberry. Sorry to say my mind was elsewhere – senility setting in! – and again I forgot to take pictures. But here is the cake now almond-pasted. Tomorrow is icing day!

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