When some people hear the words “Royal Icing” they turn pale and shake in their shoes, yes I have seen it with my own eyes. Royal Icing they believe is far too hard to make and also to work with, but I am here to tell you that it is easy if you know how.
My Grandad was a Master Baker and to him decorating a cake was an art form, but one he said that anyone could learn. Grannie used to laugh and say “He taught me Margie enough said?”
His Christmas cakes were always in demand. He used to make so many with each one decorated by him or Grannie. Every year, they would make each of their 11 children and their families a huge Christmas cake, plus Farmer John up the road “Who Never got married” Grannie would whisper to me “Margie we will have him down for Christmas Dinner and he can take a cake back, make him feel special” then one for 3 brothers who lived in a little run down house on a property near Grannie and Grandads “They have no idea Margie, they find it hard to cook and clean, I will make them one, they have no one to look after them the poor dears” and so it went on with the list growing bigger of the cakes to be given away, then added to the list were the ones others paid for. I think you get the picture.
Once the cakes were baked, it was time to decorating the cake and yes you guessed it, Royal Icing was in big demand for this.
Out would come the eggs from the larder which was always very cold, into the kitchen to warm to room temperature, next in line the Marzipanwhich would have been made about a week before and kept soft and moist, ready for action. The cream of Tartar would be placed on the table besides a huge bag of confectioners sugar, commonly known to us now as Pure Icing Sugar or powdered sugar, then the piping bags, colourings and lots of tea towels that had been sterilised by boiling them, these were not used for anything else but cake decorating. A Large jar of apricot jam was also placed beside the marzipan this was to spread thinly all over the cake before putting the marzipan on the cake, then the royal icing.
As soon as the eggs were at room temperature, the yolks and whites would be separated. This was a job in itself, as it took 3 egg whites and 4 cups of confectioner’s sugar to make enough royal icing for 1 medium sized cake, so if you were going to make enough icing for say 20 cakes, then it would take 60 eggs! The confectioners sugar was always sifted 3 times, again another huge job.
In the end, it was like a production line, cake, apricot jam, Marzipan, royal icing, then piped decoration but it was worth it!
I have never forgotten how exciting it was to be taught how to do it all the knowledge has never gone to waste.
I bet you are wondering what happened to all the egg yolks? Well, I know they made a delicious Egg nog Recipe that didn’t involve egg whites, plus baked egg custard, also, if they had little chicks the yolks would be cooked and made into a mash for them. Nothing went to waste; even the egg shells were baked in the oven and made into shell grit for the laying hens.
Memories, how precious they are.