Christmas Tree CakesPosted: November 21, 2014
Week 3 of Festive Food and it’s a forest of sweet treats! The previous two recipes have, if I’m honest, been more ‘suggestions for tweaking regular recipes’ than anything overtly Christmassy. That’s all gone out the window this week, however, with these edible, snow-covered Christmas Tree Cakes!
A lot of the traditional sweet treats over the holiday period are rich with dried fruit and spices, and whilst I love them, I can also appreciate that not everyone is a dried fruit fan, especially children. These cakes are a fabulous way for your table to sing Christmas in a non-fruity way.
But first you have to make a decision. I opted for a cake mixture that I knew I liked and which produced a moist and flavoursome cake, the Gateau Nantais – deliciously almond-y and with the slight hint of rum to get into the festive mood. Unfortunately, the Gateau Nantais texture is a little less robust than I had hoped, so great care is needed in removing the cakes from their cone wrapping. I must confess I broke more than one tree ‘tip’ off- however, it’s not the end of the world – the decoration and icing will hold everything together/disguise any mishaps, and the flavour of the cake really is worth all the Faff™.
Then again, you could dispense altogether with my recipe and go with a personal favourite. My suggestions would be for the sturdier kind of plain cake – a Madeira cake or Lemon Drizzle – in order to minimise Cone Breakage™.
To be honest, deciding on the cake mixture was probably the least of my worries, because the Tricksiest part was getting the cone shape to work and stay upright during baking. The method I opted for in the end was a real work-around, based on the equipment I had. If you’re imaginative, and can work out an easier way to do it, I’m all ears!
Christmas Tree Cakes
First, the preparation for baking the cones:
- If you have cream horn cones:
- Awesome. Although this method is about this >< much easier than the other method. The cakes will be baked using the INSIDE of the cream horn tins for support/shaping. The hard part is getting the cones to stay upright during baking.
- Remove oven shelf and place over your sink.
- Tear pieces of foil large enough to wrap around your cone tins AND leave ehough to create a wide foil ‘fuff’ around the top (see pic)
- Wedge the cones between the bars of the oven shelf. I have two different sets of cream horn tins and both are too slim to stay between the bars without the use of the tin foil.
- Crumple the foil collars over the bars as added security.
- If you don’t:
- Wrap the cardboard insides from rolls of toilet paper in foil, then add the foil collar as above.
- Fix securely to the bars as above
- Cut circles of parchment paper of diameter 20cm to line your support shapes. Make one cut from the edge of the circle to the centre and then wrap the parchment around itself to create a cone.
- You can just drop the parchment cones into the supporting shapes and they won’t unravel (much), but if you want to keep them secure, use a couple of paperclips on opposite sides, just to keep the paper from slipping.
For the cake:
200g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter – softened
60g plain flour
200g ground almonds
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
20ml dark rum
100-150g icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line with parchment a round 24cm spring-form tin, or a square 20cm loose-bottom tin.
- Whisk the softened butter and sugar together till light and fluffy – this will probably take about 10 minutes.
- Add the flour and ground almonds and stir to combine.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is fully whisked in before adding the next.
- Add the rum and the vanilla.
- Spoon the cake mix into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain tip (or no tip – the piping bag is just to make filling the cones simpler.
- Pipe the mixture into the paper cones. The mixture doesn’t rise hugely, but still,leave about 2cm of paper cone free of cake at the top.
- Carefully lift your baking shelf from the sink and slide into your oven. Remember, the cones/cylinders extend below the shelf as well as above, so make sure the rail height you choose leaves enough space both above and below.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the centre is firm to the touch.
- Slide the whole shelf out of the oven and place over the sink once more for the cakes to cool.
If you are making these ahead, this is an ideal place to stop and freeze. It also put me in mind of how to overcome the fragility problems of the cooked cones.
- Let the cakes cool completely in the cones – warm cake is notoriously delicate and mucking about with them whilst still warm runs the unnecessary risk of them breaking apart.
- When cold, slide the paper cones out of the support and freeze. Don’t unwrap the parchment, just freeze them as is.
- Once frozen, you can put them in a zip-lock bag and keep them until required, OR you can decorate for (almost) immediate consumption. It struck me that freezing the cakes makes them more sturdy, and so they can be removed from their wrappers and decorated, then left to gently thaw out and the Cone Breakage™ will be significantly reduced.
Exact quantities will depend on the size of your cakes, but the following will be sufficient for even the largest of batches.
200-300g white chocolate – melted
100g Pistachio nuts – finely chopped
Icing sugar and rum/lemon juice/water to mix
Icing sugar for dusting
Silver and gold balls for decoration
seedless raspberry jam for decoration
piping bag and tiny plain piping tip (if using jam for decoration). Alternately, a syringe medicine dropper is ideal
- Scatter the chopped pistachios onto a plate.
- Unwrap a frozen cone cake from its parchment and paint it with melted white chocolate.
- Roll in the chopped pistachios to coat. Set aside.
- Mix together some icing sugar with the liquid of your choice and use to ‘glue’ silver and gold balls onto your trees as decoration.
- If you’re using jam, warm it and maybe add a little water to thin it slightly, in order to make the piping easier. The dots of jam should be tiny.
- Once decorated to your satisfaction, top each tree with a cap of icing ‘snow’ and dust with icing sugar to finish.