French Fancies have been on my baking bucket list for years, so I thought I would use my moving to France in a few weeks time as an excuse to finally give them a go. Hopefully I will be able to continue my blogging while I’m over there, but since I’ve actually started writing this post before they are even near to being ready, it might not be such a shame if I can’t due to baking-related shame.
Since French Fancies have been a technical challenge on the Great British Bake Off a few years ago, I will cut myself a little slack if they go wrong as they are quite finicky. A few of the more challenging bakes I have done recently haven’t gone quite to plan (note frustration at making macarons for Lauren’s birthday cake this year), so I’m still definitely hoping I can redeem myself on this occasion. Instead of heading to the BBC for recipe inspiration, instead I looked at one from Tesco (which had nothing to do with the fact it had a video to help the blonde side of my brain) and decided to add raspberry and rose. Raspberry and rose is perhaps a combo I use more frequently than I should, but I have a massive bottle of rose water in the pantry to use up so why not! (Middle class problems). I decided to incorporate the rosewater into the cake and the fondant icing, and the raspberry into the buttercream and as a replacement for the apricot jam that is used to stick the marzipan on.
On the whole the flavours worked pretty well. I will admit you could not taste the rose at all in the cake, and the raspberry jam used to sandwich the marzipan was a little more prominent than I expected. However, when you put the other two icings on the flavours balanced really well. Admittedly I put a shed load of rosewater in the fondant: since it’s so sweet you need to add it a lot to pick it up. However it did make the icing quite sickly in itself. Once it’s on the cake it’s fine, but it’s great if your a picker like me because it will definitely stop you in your tracks a little sooner. If you aren’t a fan of rosewater it is really easy to switch out, and this is one of the joys of having a slightly more complicated recipe. It has so many elements to play with the the options are endless really. I use my excuse of being unfamiliar with the whole french fancy process for playing it safe, but next time I will definitely try something a little more unusual.
Surprisingly the recipe wasn’t as tricky as I anticipated. The only bit I had difficulty with was the icing, and to be honest this is the bit which I was most worried about. At the end of the day it’s all about the consistency of your icing. You want it thin enough so it’s not too heavy for the cake and has some movement to pour down the sides, but not so much in that it runs off the cake entirely. I would recommend practising with a few first when the icing is probably on the heavier side, because it’s easier to thin it down than thicken it back up again. I’m sure many people have already mastered a technique that rivals Mr Kipling’s, but hopefully this advice will be helpful! But I’ll stop blabbing as this could easily turn into an essay; either way I hope you enjoy!
Rose and Raspberry French Fancies (Makes approx. 30 cakes)
For the cakes:
- 225g margarine
- 225g golden caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 225g self-raising flour
- 2 tsp rosewater
- 2 tbsp raspberry jam
- 200g marzipan
- Icing sugar
For the buttercream:
- 250g unsalted butter
- 300g icing sugar
- Splash of milk
- 1 tbsp raspberry jam
For the fondant icing and decoration:
- 500g ready-made fondant
- Food colourings
- Icing sugar
- Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C Fan.
- Cream the margarine and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and flour bit by bit and continue to beat until thoroughly combined. Stir in the rosewater.
- Tip into a greased and lined square baking tray that measures at least 20cm and bake for 40-45 minutes until baked and golden. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once cool, melt the raspberry jam in a microwave for a few seconds and spread evenly across the top of the cake.
- Lightly dust your work surface with icing sugar and roll out your marzipan so it is large enough to cover the top. Measure a square that fits exactly, cut it out and carefully place it on top of the jam. Pop in the fridge while you make the buttercream.
- To make the buttercream, put the butter, icing sugar and milk in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk until pale and smooth. You may wish to adjust the levels of the milk and icing sugar to get the desired smoothness and flavour. Add in the jam and beat until it’s fully incorporated. Set to one side.
- Remove the cake from the fridge and carefully cut into even squares.
- Carefully crumb coat the sides of each cake with the buttercream. If the icing is ripping the cake you can make it a bit thinner. Once all the sides are coated, fill a piping bag with the remaining buttercream and pipe small blobs on the top of each cake. Smooth each blob down to give a perfectly rounded shape. Set to one side while you make the fondant.
- Cut your fondant into pieces and place in a stand mixer with the ‘k’ beater. Add a splash of your rosewater and begin to beat so the solid fondant starts to break down. Keep adding rosewater until you are happy with the flavour. If the icing is still too thick then start adding water instead until you reach the right consistency. (You can also colour the icing at this point if you wish).
- Put each fancy on the end of a fork and spoon the fondant over. You can use the sides of the spoon to push it down but try and keep the edges as smooth as possible. You may also need to adjust the consistency of the icing at this point so keep an eye on either whether it’s tearing the sides of the cake off, or running off to much. Once you are happy with the coating place on a wire rack to let the excess drip off. Repeat with the rest of the cakes and leave the icing to set.
- Make a simple water icing with icing sugar and water and dye it the colour you want. Drizzle over the tops of the cakes to finish.