We’re dreaming… of a white… smothered-in-sugarpaste Christmas cake! Oh-ho-ho yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year and we have been busy little elves here at Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft magazine!
Feast your eyes on our ultimate Christmas cake decorating tips – ‘Yule’ wonder how you ever managed the festive season without us! Have s’no’w fear! From marzipan layering instructions to intricate flower decoration ideas, we’ve got you (and your cakes!) covered.
How to decorate a Christmas cake: the basics
Who knew marzipan was so useful for cleaning up crumbs? Be sure to check out Our Favourite Christmas Cake Recipe to make the best Christmas cake and be the envy of all your friends!
If you want to go traditional when you decorate a Christmas cake, it’s time to get the sugarpaste out! Of course, if you’re someone that loves to go back to the very beginnings of Christmas cake decorating, you could always brave covering your cake with royal icing! A finickity way of decorating, you can check out our article on royal icing vs buttercream to learn how to cover a cake with royal icing!
If you’ve got plenty of white sugarpaste around (and let’s be honest, we can all be fondant hoarders!), then this is the perfect time to whip it out and create a stunning smooth base for your Christmas cake decorations.
Rolling fondant: top tips!
- Make sure there's no water on the work surface when working with fondant/sugarpaste/icing in general.
- Use your arms and wrists as well as your hands when rolling fondant, so remove all jewellery.
- Use your forearms or a rolling pin to transfer the fondant to the cake.
- Fondant dries quickly when you stop working it, so transfer as quickly as possible.
- Always smooth fondant upwards, as if you were applying moisturiser!
Check out our blog post on how to cover a cake with fondant for a handy video tutorial!
Fond of fondant?
If you love a fondant flower decoration, make the most of the time of year and create a cake covered in stunning and sweet sugarpaste poinsettias! Using sugarpaste decorations can be a real time saver as well - you can make these weeks in advance and store them in an airtight container. We teamed up with our friends at Wilton to help you with this traditional Christmas cake decoration!
You will need
- Wilton icing colours: Christmas red, buttercup yellow
- Wilton meringue powder
- 600g royal icing
- Wilton leaf decorating tip 352
- Wilton round decorating tips 2, 5
- Wilton lily nail set 4cm (1 5/8in) nail used foil squares
- Wilton disposable decorating bags
1. Line a 4cm lily nail with a 7.6 foil square, pressing no more than halfway into the cup. Prepare medium consistency royal icing according to the directions on the meringue package. Tint a small portion of royal icing yellow; tint the remaining icing red. Fit a decorating bag with the leaf decorating tip and fill ½ full or less with red petal colour icing. Fit a second decorating bag with round decorating tip 2 and fill no more than ¼ with yellow icing.
2. Hold the decorating bag with red icing at a 45° angle at 3:00 (9:00 for left-handed decorators) with the tip in the centre of the nail lightly touching the foil at the centre, the points of the tip lined up vertically. Squeeze with firm pressure, pulling the petal up to the edge of foil cup – decrease the pressure as you reach the edge of the nail. Stop pressure and pull the tip away, drawing petal to a point.
3. Turn the nail ⅓ of a rotation and pipe another petal the same as the first one. The two petals will form a V. Turn the nail ⅓ of a rotation and pipe a third petal the same as the previous two, forming a Y. Repeat to pipe three more petals between the open spaces of the first three petals. Pipe six shorter leaf-shaped petals on top of and between the larger ones.
4. For the centre, hold decorating bag with yellow icing at a 90° angle to the flower centre inside the flower nail. Pipe a cluster of tip 2 dots in the centre. Carefully remove foil from lily nail. Let them dry until set, which will take at least 24 hours.
5. Once dry, decorate your cake with the poinsettias however you please! Feel free to create some luscious leaves to really add an extra level of elegance to your Christmas cake decorations.
Semi-naked cakes are still totally on trend (and why wouldn’t they be?), so why not go against tradition and go for a stunning splash of coverage on your Christmas cake? The rustic look is ideal to create a real ‘snow’stopper of a cake!
So how do you do it? It may seem like a silly question, as the minimalist look would suggest minimal skill. Incorrect! There’s a lot of skill and attention to detail to make sure your cake is more stylish than sloppy.
You will need
- Thin consistency buttercream
- Offset spatula
- Bench/pastry/dough scraper
1. Make sure your buttercream is pure white. Whether you achieve this by beating the butter first (for a good five minutes!), using white food colouring or, gasp, going shop-bought (we won’t tell!), the whiteness of your buttercream is essential to the final look of your cake. The contrast with the dark fruit cake underneath will be 100% worth the effort.
Top tip! Use clear vanilla extract to keep that all-important look - it’s a little style-over-substance but if you’ve got a fabulous fruit cake to show off underneath, it’s worth it!
2. Start at the top. Place a good dollop of buttercream on top of your cake and use the spatula to smooth it to the edges. You’ll want to use enough buttercream so it extends approximately ¼ inch beyond the top edges.
3. Apply buttercream to the sides of the cake, starting at the bottom and working your way up. Try to keep the layer quite thin.
4. Once the sides of the cake are covered, take your scraper and slowly smooth the sides of the cake until they are straight, with some areas of the cake showing through.
5. Don’t faff. Feel free to add more buttercream but remember, less is more here. You can always add more buttercream but it’s far harder to take it away! Try not to press too hard when you’re smoothing over the ‘naked’ areas, as you could accidentally cause the cake beneath to crumble.
Top tip! This is fixable if it does happen - simply smooth over with more buttercream.
6. You will most likely now have a little crown of buttercream around the top edges of your cake. Use the spatula to smooth this inwards. This will create sharp and level edges, so continue to smooth the excess buttercream at the top of the cake until it is entirely level.
7. Time to decorate! Remember, less is more when it comes to a rustic, semi-naked cake. Let your buttercream do the talking and embellish with food-safe real flowers, or simply some winter berries and sprigs of greenery to create an understated but totally stunning semi-naked Christmas cake.
Can’t resist a cupcake?
We couldn’t give you the ultimate guide on how to decorate a Christmas cake without some cute cupcake ideas! Get yourself a small wreath mould (these are available from all good cake decorating companies) and get crafty!
Never used a mould? Check out our guide on how to use fondant moulds to create the best Christmas cupcakes possible!
- Bake your favourite cupcakes - as you can see, both plain/vanilla sponge and chocolate sponges are really effective with the chosen decorations. You can always go all-out on Christmas colouring and opt for a radiant red velvet bake that will ooze seasonal sophistication. Or, we would recommend regular contributor Natalie Porter’s spiced apple cupcake recipe for a true taste of winter!
- Top your cupcakes with a good dollop of buttercream. The frosting used on these bakes is really thick, to make it sturdy enough to hold the decorations firmly and give them some height. Again, flavouring is totally up to you here; just ensure it complements your cupcake recipe!
- Using a variety of coloured sugarpaste, create a series of small fondant wreaths using your mould. Once set and moveable without damaging the design, place the wreaths centrally on top of your cupcakes, using the buttercream to stick them firmly in place.
- Now embellish! You can create a variety of tiny sugarpaste decorations using cutters, moulds and even pre-made packet decorations. Check out our cake decorating video tutorial with Zoe Burmester on how to make a sugarpaste bow to learn how to make larger versions of these tiny bows - simply miniaturise your method for your cupcakes!
A drizzle of melted dark chocolate works beautifully on a white background, or a tiny Christmas fairycake topper can finish your cute Christmas cupcakes perfectly!
All of these top Christmas cake decorating tips are yours for the taking! And if all else fails and you’re really not sure on how to decorate your Christmas cake, don’t panic… icing sugar goes a long way! Simply sprinkle, grab the brandy and put your feet up - now that’s our kind of Christmas spirit!
If this wasn’t enough inspiration for you, we’ve got a plethora of recipes for you as well this festive season, including Christmas baking ideas for kids that are simply brilliant if you want to get the littles ones involved and a nut free Christmas cake for those who can’t (or don’t like to!) eat traditional Christmas cake.