Tutorial: How to Make a Present Cake

Christmas Present Cake Tutorial

Christmas Present Cake Tutorial

Well… I really should have got this post up before Christmas but now it’s nearly New Year! Hopefully it will still be useful, as a present cake can easily be used for birthdays and other celebrations, just without the snowflakes!

This is the cake we had for Christmas this year and it easily fed family and friends with plenty left over. It’s quite an easy cake to make as long as you give yourself plenty of time to form the bow and let it dry….

To make the fruit cake…

This is my Mum’s favourite fruit cake recipe, and I love it! It’s from a very well used and dog-eared Be-Ro cookbook, although we like to use brown sugar instead of caster sugar for a deeper flavour.

Ingredients / Equipment

12oz self-rasing flour

1 tsp mixed spice

8oz butter

4oz ground almonds

8oz brown dark brown sugar

4 eggs

4T milk

4T brandy

8oz currants, picked through to remove any tiny bits of stalk

8oz sultanas, picked through to remove any tiny bits of stalk

8 oz raisins, picked through to remove any tiny bits of stalk

4oz glace cherries, halved

4oz mixed peel

8″ square baking tin, brown paper and string


1) Preheat the oven to gas mark 2

2) Sieve together the flour, spice and ground almonds

3) Cream the butter and sugar

4) Beat the eggs together with the milk and brandy

5) Add the egg mixture and the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture, a little at a time

6) Stir in the dried fruits and mix well

7) Spoon mixture into the greased and lined 8″ square tin, then wrap a thick strip of brown paper around the outside of the tin and tie it with string to protect the cake while baking. The paper should be a couple of inches taller than the tin

8) Bake in the oven for about 4 1/2 hours (yes, really!) until the top is lightly browned and the cake top is springy to the touch

9) Cool in the tin, then wrap in foil

10) If you have time to wait, “feed” the cake with brandy for a month to make it more moist and boozy. Simply poke a few holes in the top of the cake with a skewer and pour a tablespoon or two of brandy over the top and then cover it with foil and store in a cool dark place. The following week turn the cake over and repeat the process. Do this a few more times before using the cake

To decorate the cake…

Ingredients / Equipment

500g marzipan – you can use more than this for a thicker layer

1500g white fondant icing

50g white flower paste

Purple food colouring – I used grape violet by Sugarflair

A few tablespoons of apricot jam

2 Fondant cake smoothers, or just use your hands!

9″ silver cake board

Small, medium and large snowflake plunger cutters by PME

Rolling pin


Kitchen roll or tissue


1) Plug any holes in the cake with little bits of marzipan – yes, mine had quite a few uneven places, lol :)

Plugging holes with marzipan

Plugging holes with marzipan

2) Boil the apricot jam to kill off any bacteria, then brush over the cake to help the marzipan stick

3) Roll out the marzipan and lie it over the rolling pin to help you get it to the cake without tearing. Smooth the marzipan across the top of the cake using your hands or the fondant smoothers and ease it down over the sides, little by little, easing the folds out, so that the marzipan fits the cake. Sharpen up the edges a little with your hands or smoothers. Trim away the excess at the bottom

Leave to dry overnight…

4) Transfer the cake to the silver board and brush the cake with more of the glaze

Brushing the marzipanned cake with apricot glaze

Brushing the marzipanned cake with apricot glaze

6) Roll out 1000g of the fondant to 1/4 inch thick, wrap around the rolling pin, transfer to the cake and smooth out over the cake as you did with the marzipan

7) Colour half the remaining fondant a deep purple and roll into a long sausage shape. Then flatten this out and roll it until thin. This long strip should then be cut to the width of the ruler (just place the ruler over the fondant and cut along each side) and should be about 16″ long

Making a fondant ribbon

Making a fondant ribbon

8) Roll the fondant strip up to help you transfer it to the cake without tearing, and lay over the centre of the cake and down 2 sides. Attach using a little water and trim the excess ribbon off at the bottom of the cake

9) Repeat this step again, lying the second ribbon at a right angle to the other, so that the ribbons cross over the cake. Pinch the top ribbon in the centre

Fondant ribbon on cake

Fondant ribbon on cake

10) To make the bow, colour the flower paste a deep purple to match the fondant. Roll out the paste to the same thickness as the fondant ribbon and 2 3/4″ wide and 8″ long. Roll up some tissue or kitchen roll and fold the strip of paste around it and pinch the ends together to make a loop. Style the loop to make it look like a real ribbon, with soft folds. Repeat this again to make the other side of the bow. Allow the paste loops to dry over night and then remove the tissue from the centre. They will now be hard and stand up on their own

11) Roll out a fat sausage of purple fondant to the same thickeness of the fondant ribbon strips on the cake, but this time make it 2″ wide and 6″ long – you are making one of the ends of the ribbon that will lie on the top of the cake. Cut a V shape into one end, and pinch the other end together so that it will fit neatly into the bow loops. Repeat this so that you have two strips of ribbon

12) Cut a small strip of purple fondant the same thickness as the ribbon on the cake,  2″ wide and 4″ long – this will form the knot

Making a purple fondant bow

Making a purple fondant bow

13) Now place the strips of fondant with V ends on the cake, with the pinched ends in the centre of the cake. Fold the fondant loosely so that it forms soft folds to look like real ribbon

14) Place the bow loops on the cake, and fold the small strip of purple fondant over the middle to look like the knot

15) If you are decorating with fondant snowflakes, roll out the half of the fondant that was not coloured purple, and cut out snowflakes of varying sizes and attach to the white fondant parts of the cake using a little water

Fondant snowflakes

Fondant snowflakes

You’re done! Stand back and enjoy your hard work ;)

The cake should be stored out of the fridge in a cool, dry place as fondant melts when it is stored in the fridge. Once you have cut into your cake (if you can bear to!) and removed the bow, you can store the cake in the fridge to preserve it’s freshness as the layer of fondant covering the cake will fare OK in the fridge – but never store a newly decorated cake in the fridge or all your hard work will be ruined! I learnt this to my cost when I put a batch of fondant flower decorated cupcakes in the fridge overnight and in the morning found that they had absorbed too much moisture and melted all over the butter icing! Sob.

Christmas Present Cake

Christmas Present Cake

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6 Responses to “Tutorial: How to Make a Present Cake”

  1. Zelda Says:

    This may be silly to you, but being from the United States, can you tell me what caster sugar is? Is it like our granulated sugar? Also do you have a recipe for making your own (mixed peel) and (glace cherries)? This is a beautiful cake. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Gilly Says:

    Hi Zelda! Thank you :) Not a silly question at all! We have granulated sugar over here too, but caster sugar is finer than that – I think it’s called “superfine” in the US.
    I’m afraid I don’t have a recipe for making your own mixed citrus fruit peel or glace cherries as they are preserved fruits, but in the US I think you call them candied citrus peel and candied cherries.
    Gilly x

  3. Kathryn Says:

    This is amazing!! I have been trawling the internet for hours looking for the perfect christmas cake to make my parents this year and this is a definite. Well done, so creative! Hope i can recreate this cake to your standard.
    Thank you for sharing this cake
    Kath x

  4. Gilly Says:

    You’re so welcome Kath! Hope you have fun making yours, and feel feel to post a link here when you’ve made it so we can see your work :) xx

  5. Melissa Says:

    Hey :)

    I love those cakes and also the pictures of it! I used your picture of this gift cake for my blog (hope you are okay with it ^^) naturally I wrote your website under the picture.



  6. Gillyflower Jewellery» Blog Archive » Christmas Cakes Past… Says:

    [...] you fancy making the present cake yourself, you can find instructions on my blog here, and my tutorial for the Christmas pudding cookies and cake in the Winter 2010 UK Handmade magazine [...]

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