White Christmas Tree Cake

Christmas baking is definitely my favourite kind of baking. And I don’t think it’s just because I’m a Christmas-a-holic (though it undoubtedly fuels the fire). There’s just something about the whimsical nature of treats, and the sheer quantity of excuses to create them that’s so exciting. The recipients always seem that little bit extra excited to eat the treats when they’re Christmas-themed, too.

I’m kicking it off early this year by bringing you a how to for one of the first cakes I did.  Over the last year I’ve received a number of requests for a tutorial on it, so I decided to make a little version of this old thing to show you how it’s done (also wow, how horrible were my fondant skills back then?)  Here’s the mini version for the tute:

It’s all achieved by carving, so you can use any cake recipe and make it as big or small as you like. I’ve used two of my favourite mud cake recipes to achieve this, but do feel free to use your own if you prefer. Here’s how to do it:

First I started off with the chocolate mud cake. I was using one of my smaller tins (around 5 inches) which I’d extended in height with some al foil. Once it was cool I cut it into 4 layers. You’re going to want to have a bit of a think as to how many levels your Christmas tree inside is going to have, as well as if you want negative space above and below it. I was only making a small one for the tute so I used a minimal amount of layers.
  

While that was cooling I got onto making my white chocolate mud cake. This recipe yields an incredible tasting cake that you will just want to eat right out of the oven.

Fortunately for you, you’re moderately required to. You’ll need to remove the crusts from this cake as the long baking time gives it a thick, sugary crust. We don’t want brown flecks through our Christmas tree, so it’s best to remove the crusts. And someone just has to eat the scraps. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, amirite?

I used half of the cake, crumbed it and mixed the cake crumbs with a little white chocolate ganache to achieve truffle consistency.

Now it’s time to carve your exterior cake. An important thing to do every time you set about carving is to find the middle of your cake. This will keep your internal design nice and symmetrical. I’m using a set of circular cutters to make the job easier, but you could always cut out some circular templates if you don’t have the cutter set.

I always mark the centre with a toothpick before starting to mark and carve the circles.

For the first layer I cut out what will be the trunk of the tree. I ch0se a relatively small cutter, lined it up with the toothpick and cut out the stump.

Next I start on the Christmas tree shape itself. I always start with the smallest shapes as, if you mess it up, it’s easy to turn it into a larger one. But if you mess up a big one you can’t really make it smaller.

First up you need to mark the centre again, then mark a circle as large as you want the layer of your first base to be. You need to think ahead as to how many layers of Christmas tree you’ll be having and how large you want them to be.

Once the base of your first layer is marked, use a serrated knife to cut out a round-based pyramid shape. It’s pretty easy to do if you angle your knife to the centre and follow the base line around.

Now you need to make some decisions about the sizes of your next layers. To get the Christmas tree shape your next layer can’t start from the centre like your first one, but nor can it begin from the same place as your last did. The way I decide on sizes is that if the larger cutter depicted here was the one I used for my base of the previous layer, then I’ll use a cutter two sizes down for the top of the next one.

After finding the centre again I use the smaller cutter to take out the centre of the cake, then I use the larger one to mark where the base of that layer will be.

Repeat this with as many layers as you have opted to do. These layers are even easier to cut than the previous one as you can see the angle you’re cutting at.

Once all your layers are cut you can then fill them with the cake crumbs mixture.

To join the layers I used a little chocolate ganache around the outside. Make sure you don’t get the ganache on the cake crumbs areas as it will ruin the tree silhouette.

Stack the layers being mindful of the orientation of them as you go, beginning with the stump on the bottom, followed by the biggest layers through to the smallest.

Once it was stacked I covered the lot in chocolate ganache, then in fondant.

I made a bunch of Christmas tree silhouettes to stick to the sides of the cake.

And around them I piped little dots of royal icing for snow.

Before serving I dusted the whole lot with icing sugar to keep running with the snow theme.

Despite having made this before I was still super nervous about cutting it open. You never know quite how it’s turned out until you cut it. You’ll wanna cut it as dead centre as possible to get the symmetrical shape appearing inside.

These two mudcakes go really as well together as they do apart. They’re two of my favourite recipes for a very good reason, and it seems no one else in my family can get enough of them either.

Here’s the two recipes I used:

For this cake I used a 5 inch tin rather than a regular 10 inch or so, which increased the baking time by about 15 minutes. If altering the pan size as well it’s best to let it bake for the 35 minutes and assess how long you’ll need from then on.

Chocolate Mudcake
Ingredients
1 1/4 (190g) cups plain flour
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1/3 cup (35g) cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (250ml) tepid water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla essence
Whipped dark chocolate ganache300g (10.6oz) dark chocolate, chopped
150ml (5oz) cream
Method
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  • Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced/350°F). Grease or line a circular cake tin (approx 20cm).
  • Sift all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, mix together the wet ingredients.
  • Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Whisk the flour mixture in until well combined and there are no lumps in the batter (you’ll need to work reasonably quickly as the vinegar will begin to react with the bicarb soda as soon as it meets).
  • Pour the cake batter into the tin; bang the tin on the counter top a few times to release any air bubbles.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cake is well risen (it will bounce back when gently poked, or a skewer inserted into the middle will emerge clean).
  • Leave to cool inside the cake tin for 20 minutes, then remove to cool completely.
  • Layer cake and carve according to instructions above.
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    Whipped dark chocolate ganache

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  • Place the chocolate in a medium sized bowl; heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just reaches boiling point then pour over the chocolate. Allow to stand for 2 minutes, then stir until chocolate has melted.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature, then beat with electric beaters until ganache reaches soft peak stage. Use immediately.
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    Half of this cake provided enough cake crumbs to fill my little cake. I saved the other half for general noms. The ganache recipe provided here is enough for turning the whole cake into cake balls, so adjust accordingly.

    White Chocolate Mudcake
    Ingredients
    250g butter, chopped
    150g white chocolate melts
    2 cups (440g) caster sugar
    1 cup (250ml) milk
    1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
    1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour
    1 tsp vanilla essence
    2 eggs
    White chocolate ganache
    1/4 cup (60ml) cream
    150g white chocolate, choppedWhite chocolate ganache150g (10.6oz) white chocolate, chopped
    75ml (5oz) cream
    Method
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  • Preheat oven to 160­°C (140° fan-forced). Grease and line a cake tin
  • Place butter, chocolate sugar and milk in a medium saucepan; stir over low heat until smooth and well combined. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Whisk in sifted flours, then the essence and eggs; pour mixture into prepared pan.
  • Bake for an hour; cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for a further hour.
  • Remove foil and stand cake inside tin on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then turn it out of the pan to cool completely.
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    To make white chocolate ganache, heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until boiling; remove from heat and stir in chocolate until mixture is smooth and well combined.