Gluten free Christmas cake decorated with homemade marzipan and royal icing

Gluten free Christmas cake topped with royal icing and tiny Christmas decorations

I have two Christmas cake decorating posts on my blog. This one, where I decorate a gluten free Christmas cake with homemade marzipan and royal icing is my favourite, as traditionally, it’s the way I’ve enjoyed Christmas cake over the years. However, as this recipe uses raw eggs it will not be suitable for everybody, so I’ve also shared how I decorated a Christmas cake with shop bought marzipan and fondant icing as an alternative. I’ve also added a few suggestions at the bottom of the page should raw eggs be off limit for you or your precious people.

Adding the finishing touches to this Christmas cake transported me back to when I used to help my mum decorate our Christmas cake, in readiness for Christmas Day. My mum always knew the best way to keep me out of mischief was to get me busy in the kitchen. I’m forever grateful for her constant patience and for knowing me better than I knew myself.

I grabbed a Rick Stein recipe for the marzipan and royal icing. It was only when I came to type up the marzipan recipe, that I realised the original recipe suggests egg white only, whereas I’d used a whole egg. But as I was happy with the marzipan I rustled up, I’m still suggesting a whole egg within the recipe. Also, as I wanted to be able to keep the finished cake for longer, I used pasteurised egg whites rather than fresh eggs for the royal icing. I picked two chicks pasteurised liquid egg white up from the chilled section of a large Sainsbury’s.


For the rich fruit cake
Click here for the recipe

For the marzipan (almond paste)
250g *ground almonds
125g icing sugar, plus extra for rolling out
125g caster sugar
1 large free-range egg
1 teaspoon *almond extract
2-3 tablespoons apricot jam, warmed and sieved

Flatlay of ingredients for marzipan

For the royal icing
675g (you may need more) icing sugar, sieved
90g pasteurised egg whites or 3 medium free-range egg whites
1 teaspoon glycerine
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 drop *blue food colouring, optional (I didn’t use, as I was jittery about adding too much and ending up with bright blue icing!) 

Ingredients for royal icing


To make the marzipan: Sift the icing sugar into a large mixing bowl, add the ground almonds and caster sugar and stir with a fork to combine.

Dry ingredients for marzipan in a stainless steel bowl

Add the almond extract to the egg and beat to combine. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir with a fork to bring everything together.

Ingredients for marzipan in a stainless steel bowl

Once the marzipan starts to come together get your hands in and form it into a ball.

A ball of marzipan in a stainless steel bowl

Turn the marzipan out onto a clean surface that has been dusted with icing sugar. Spend a moment or two gently kneading it. 

Before rolling out the marzipan, measure up the side of the cake, across the top and down the other side so you know how big you need your marzipan to be.

Brush the cake all over with the melted apricot jam.

Gluten free Christmas cake glazed with apricot jam

Dust your rolling pin and work surface with plenty of icing sugar before rolling out the marzipan

Rolled out marzipan

Give the rolling pin another quick dust of icing sugar before gently wrapping the marzipan around it and lowering it over the centre of the cake. Drape the marzipan over the entire cake.

Dust your hands with icing sugar and work your way around the cake smoothing the marzipan out and pressing it firmly against the cake. Once you’re happy with how it looks, grab a small sharp knife and trim off the excess marzipan. My cake looks a tad messy here, as I used a slightly different method when covering it with marzipan…one I don’t recommend you try!

Gluten free Christmas cake covered in marzipan

I stored the marzipan covered cake (until I was ready to ice it) in an airtight container under the stairs, as it’s a nice cool spot. However, the original recipe suggests that you cover it with a clean tea towel and leave to dry out for 24hrs and up to a week. 

To make the royal icing: Put the egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl. Ideally use a Pyrex or white bowl, as this will keep the icing a nice, bright white.

Egg whites in a pyrex bowl

Using an electric mixer briefly whisk the egg whites until they just turn frothy.

Lightly whisked egg whites in a pyrex bowl

Gradually add the icing sugar, mixing well after each addition. Once all the icing sugar has been added whisk for 5-10 minutes until the icing becomes glossy and forms stiff peaks.

Royal icing in a pyrex bowl

Stir in the glycerine and lemon juice. Give the icing another quick whisk and adjust the consistency with more icing sugar or a touch more lemon juice if you feel it needs it.

If you are planning on eating the cake within a few days, I’d suggest you pop it straight onto the platter or plate that you wish to serve it from before decorating. If you are storing it a little longer, then you may like to ice the cake on the upturned lid belonging to the storage container. This is what I did, and it worked well. As once the icing had air dried, I was then able to pop the container over the cake and seal the lid, before squirrelling it away under the stairs.

Pile the icing on top of the cake and using a palette knife spread it evenly across and around the sides of the cake.

Use the pallet knife or fork to form peaks all over the cake or just on the top if you’d prefer. 

Gluten free Christmas cake topped with royal icing

Place the cake in a cool dark place and allow minimum of two days for the icing to air dry. If it’s safe to do so I’d recommend that you leave the cake uncovered. I popped ours at the back of a cupboard that maintains a nice cool temperature.

I finished our cake by adding a few original Christmas decorations from my childhood. And after I’d let the icing dry out, I completed the retro look with a cake ruffle around the side!

Gluten free Christmas cake with decorative ruffle around the sides

Recipe notes and suggestions:

Once the royal icing is dry, the cake can be stored in an airtight container in a cool spot. I don’t know why, but despite marzipan also containing raw egg, it can be safely stored for much longer than royal icing. In Rick Steins recipe he suggests that if you’re not eating the cake within a few days to use pasteurised egg whites rather than fresh egg whites to make the icing. I used pasteurised egg whites as I wanted to safely enjoy the cake over several weeks. 

Giving the marzipan a minimum of 24 hours to dry out will help prevent oil from the almonds seeping through the icing.

The addition of glycerine prevents the icing from becoming too hard. The optional blue food colouring cancels out any yellow colouring in the icing and makes the icing look super snowy white.

Should you want to top your cake with marzipan and royal icing but would prefer not to use raw eggs, you could use shop bought marzipan and royal icing sugar to make an instant icing instead.

Those who are older, pregnant, living with a compromised immune system, and young children should avoid eating raw eggs and foods that contain them — especially if the eggs have not been pasteurised.

Thanks for being here and happy festive baking! Any questions please do give me a shout.

For now,
Liz x

*Check this product to ensure no gluten containing ingredients or ‘may contain’ or ‘not suitable’ warnings on the pack. If in doubt leave it out. 

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