I need to decorate a cake - there is another thread on this. It seems I am out of time to buy one from M&S, or indeed anywhere else, sadly. My Leiths bible suggests that sugar paste icing is simple and easy to mould. Would that be true? I am not too worried about anything apart from the cake being smooth on top.
Delia suggests smoothing the icing with a ruler when making a christmas cake, but she does that with royal icing. Leiths seem to think one would need to have a couple of dummy runs with royal icing before presenting anything which might actually look half decent, and I do not think I am that motivated for this particular cake. I've never done royal icing before. Do you think the ruler trick would work with sugar paste icing?
Sugar paste icing all the way if you're short on time, much easier than royal which isn't very forgiving. Roll it out after dusting the surface with cornflour/icing sugar, use rolling pin to lift it onto the cake, smooth the sides down (round easier than square I find) and just use the palm of your hand to smooth/polish it. The ruler trick sounds like it would be easier to accidently mark lines accross the icing. You can buy an icing smoother which has curved edges and a handle to do the same job as your palm. Take off your rings first - DH can always tell when I've done pastry or icing!
Yes, jam of some sort, preferably seedless. Warm it a bit in the microwave, brush all over cake and pray you get the icing in the right place first time! I know mum always used apricot jam on her Christmas cakes but I don't know why. I started out doing that but it was the only time we used apricot so it went mouldy in the back of the cupboard in between uses I've used strawberry happily, the colour doesn't stain the icing or anything scary or obvious like that.
i did my first proper icing a couple of weeks ago - bought fondant/sugar paste icing from supermarket and it was really easy to use - very pliable, and easy to smooth as per yorky's advice. i think apricot jam has less strong flavour and not so big lumps compared to others hence why it is often used, but if you have filled cake with some other flavour jam then just use that, but obviously avoid the lumps. good luck!