How to Make a Christmas Tree Surprise Cake

This cake would make the perfect centerpiece for your Christmas table, and a fun alternative to traditional Christmas cake. The piñata style surprise will be sure to delight!

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This cake would make the perfect centerpiece for your Christmas table, and a fun alternative to traditional Christmas cake. The piñata style surprise will be sure to delight!  

Recipe by Elise Strachan, taken from Sweet! Celebrations (RRP: £20.00).

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You will need:



  • 3 batches classic vanilla cake batter; click here for Elise's recipe
  • red and green food colouring
  • 3 batches vanilla bean buttercream; click here for Elise's recipe
  • 3 handfuls assorted candies
  • 140g white compound chocolate
  • about 20 Tic Tacs (a mixture of different bright colours)
  • about 40 peanut M&M’s
  • gold sanding sugar
  • 20cm cake board
  • 5cm round cookie cutter
  • small star cookie cutter
  • 1 lollipop stick or wooden skewer
  • piping bag
  • no. 21 open star tip


Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/ gas mark 3. Grease and flour a 23 x 33cm (9 x 13in) cake tin. Line the bottom with baking parchment.


You have to bake three cakes, but bake them one at a time, mixing up the batter only when you’re ready to bake. For two of the cakes, tint the batter green. For the third cake, tint the batter red. Bake each cake until the centre springs back when lightly touched, about 30 to 40 minutes.


Let the cake cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes so the cake becomes firm.


Carve and level the cakes.


Using plates, bowls, glasses or round cookie cutters to trace around, cut the following: from the two green cakes, cut out four rounds: 20cm, 15cm, 10cm and 5cm. Then, from the red cake, cut out four rounds: 18cm, 13cm, 7.5cm and 2.5 cm. Take the round cookie cutter and cut a hole through the centres of the 10cm, 13cm, 15cm and 18cm layers. (Save all the scraps for making Christmas coloured cake pop dough!)


Make the buttercream. Measure out 1 cup and tint it red. Tint the rest dark green.


Spread a little green buttercream on the cake board, lay down the 20cm green cake layer, and spread a layer of buttercream on top./p>


Add the 18cm red layer and repeat, taking care not to frost the inside edges of the centre hole. Continue stacking and frosting gradually smaller cake layers until you reach the 10cm layer.


Fill the core of the tree with the sweets, pressing down a little to compact the treats inside. Frost the top of the 10cm layer and continue stacking and frosting until all the layers are stacked.


Once stacked, take a serrated knife and gently carve away the sharp edges of the layers to form a tall cone shape. Apply a very thin ‘crumb coat’ of buttercream all over the outside of the cake B . Set in the fridge for 30 minutes.


Meanwhile, make the Christmas lights. Melt the white chocolate. Cut the coloured Tic Tacs in half crosswise. Use a toothpick dipped in the melted chocolate to attach a Tic Tac to the end of a peanut M&M of the same colour (the M&M is the bulb and the Tic Tac is the base). You will need about 40 of these.


To make the star for the top of the tree, trace around a star cookie cutter onto parchment. Pipe an outline of white melted chocolate, then fill in the shape. Place a lollipop stick in the centre and cover with more melted chocolate. Sprinkle with sanding sugar and let set at room temperature.


Place the green buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a no.21 open star tip. Starting at the top of the cake, pipe 2cm long strands of buttercream in neat rows around the entire cake, like layers of pine branches on a Christmas tree.


Once the cake is covered, place the red buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a no.21 piping tip and pipe draping lines of tinsel around the cake. Attach the coloured M&M lights directly to the red buttercream. Work quickly here, as it will start to form a crust, which can make attaching the decorations difficult.


Take the star and flip it over. Coat the back with white melted chocolate and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Allow to set. Insert the lollipop stick into the centre of the top of the tree.

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