Make our cake-and-candy “ice” castle
Materials you’ll need: waxed paper, cardboard for patterns, 2-pound coffee can (6 1/2″ high, 5″ diameter); 7-ounce tuna or salmon can (1 3/4″ high, 3 3/8″ diameter); two 12-ounce frozen-juice cans (3 1/2″ high, 2 1/8″ diameter); thin wooden dowels or chopsticks; heavy silver paper (or aluminum foil over heavy paper) for doorway, tower roofs.
Candy decorations: 1 1/2 to 2 pounds rock candy, crushed into pieces about 1/4″; about 30 green “fruit slice” candies; silver dragees.
“Ice” Castle Cake
(You’ll need two batches.)
1 cup all-purpose flour
two 6-ounce packages Zweiback toast, crushed into crumbs
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups California walnuts, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and line all cans with waxed paper (important for easy removal of cakes). Combine flour, toast crumbs, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Beat egg yolks until thick and creamy. Stir yolks into dry ingredients until thoroughly blended. Stir in vanilla and walnuts. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into egg-yolk mixture. Pour mixture into the 2-pound coffee can and one of the 6-ounce juice cans. Except as noted, fill all cans only 3/4 full. Bake juice-can cake 35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean when inserted in center; bake coffee-can cake an additional 20 to 25 minutes.
Prepare another batch while the cakes are baking and pour batter into the remaining cans: five 6-ounce cans, filling one can only 1″ full; one 7-ounce can; two 12-ounce cans. Bake 6-ounce can cakes 35 to 40 minutes, 12 ounce can cakes 40 to 45 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean when inserted in center. Remove baked cakes from oven onto a cooling rack, stand upright 10 to 15 minutes. To remove cakes from cans, run knife around edge of each cake, shake loose. Cool on racks. Cakes will rise above can tops; cut off any excess cake so that it is level with can top.
Cookies for gateway, main-tower top and columns
To make patterns for gateway and main-tower top cookies, trace patterns (outlined on this page) onto waxed paper and cut out. Prepare one batch of Nutcracker cookie dough (page 266) or your favorite gingerbread cookie recipe. Roll half of dough 1/4″ thick onto greased, floured cookie sheet. Dust patterns lightly with flour. With paring knife, cut two tops. Remove patterns and excess dough, bake about 10 minutes or till cookie edges are lightly browned. While cookies are baking, roll remaining dough; cut out one more top, gateway and two “columns” 5″ by 1″. Remove baked cookies onto cooling rack; cool 10 to 15 minutes, remove from cookie sheet and continue cooling on rack.
(4 batches are needed – make one at a time to prevent drying out.)
16-ounce package confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
green and blue food colors
Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth, then beat at high speed until light and fluffy. Cover with damp towel when not using to prevent from drying out. Add food color as required. You’ll need 2-1/2 batches tinted pale blue-green, 1-1/2 batches white.
To assemble, ice and decorate towers
Lay each tower on its side on several layers of paper toweling. Ice and decorate one side; let dry; turn and decorate other side. Leave areas bare where towers will abut.
Main tower with gateway: Cut coffee-can cake to 5 1/2″ high. Spread thin layer of icing on each cookie for main-tower top and on top of cake; stack cookies on cake, with cut-out notches lined up and facing the back (where smaller towers will fit – if notches are too small, cut them a little deeper with sharp knife). Frost back of tower with pale blue-green frosting; pave with rock candy as pictured; turn. With front side of tower facing up, frost with blue-green icing; press gateway and columns into place. Pave with rock candy. Frost gateway and columns with tinted icing; tint 1/2 cup icing dark green and pipe on, as pictured, using bag fitted with small fine tip. Sprinkle on silver dragees. Place fruit slice over doorway. Frost edge of tower-top with tinted icing; following picture, decorate with fruit-slice triangles, dragees. Cut out door from silver paper. With dabs of icing, attach door to gateway.
Tower 1: Cut 2-3/4″ section from one of the 12-ounce can cake, with thin layer of icing in between (reserve remaining cake). Place 7-ounce can cake on top of tower with layer of icing in between. Run dowel through center of tower to give support. Ice tower; pave with rock candy; add windows cut from fruit slices. Decorate tower-top with fruit-slice triangles and dragees, as pictured. When dry, turn and ice other side.
Tower 2: Stack three 6-ounce can cakes and proceed as with tower 1 except, for top, use 1 of 2″ cake section cut from reserved section of 12-ounce can cake.
Tower 3: Stack two 6-ounce can cakes and the 1″ cake section baked in 6-ounce can; proceed as with tower 2.
To assemble castle: Cut an oval about 12″ by 14″ out of heavy cardboard and assemble castle on this, positioning towers around main tower. Secure each with 1 or 2 short dowels.
Castle roofs: Cut half circles from silver paper and shape into cones, fastening with icing; let dry. Frost around edges of tower tops and place cones in frosting.
To finish castle, use additional frosting for “snow” over gateway, windows, around castle. Paint on a green path, dot with dragees. Stand fruit slices in front of towers; frost top edges.