There’s now just 2 weeks until Christmas everyone. Two weeks. 14 days! Crazy right? It doesn’t feel too long ago that our 100 days countdown began (yes we do that). Anyway, we’ve had some fun festive recipes and tutorials on our blog so we thought we’d create a quick round up of our favourite and most popular ones. We’re not done yet though. Oh no. There are still two more weeks after all… we’ve got a few more little things up our sleeves!
Our top 5 Christmas recipes and tutorials
01: Have a cute Christmas!
Make your own Candyland themed Christmas dessert table with the help of our adorable gingerbread character tutorial! You can create this little cutie to add to buttercream swirled cupcakes, or iced cakes. A few of these would even be great added to a gingerbread house or village. Want to create your own sweet little gingerbread character? Check out our tutorial!
02: Homemade luxury!
Adding a little extra oomph to hot cocoas or seasonal coffees doesn’t have to mean a splash or several of festive liquor. Whip up some homemade vanilla marshmallows with our easy recipe, pile them on top and wait for them to melt a little. It is amazing! You can fancy it up too with whipped cream, sparklers and even edible gold leaf!
03: Make it a-DEER-able!
Invite a few reindeer to the Christmas party! We created one a-deer-able (sorry) tutorial for a little fondant reindeer cupcake or cake topper. We love the golden antlers and of course the finishing touch of the tiny bow and fondant bell! Create eight, nestle them on top of a buttercream cake with a golden picket fence to create Santa’s reindeer enclosure. It’s bound to be an instant hit during the party season!
04: Everyone loves a classic!
Of course offering up the traditional gingerbread cookie ever Christmas is going to be a crowd pleaser. We love making them so this year we’ve posted up our go-to gingerbread cookie recipe! We’ve tried lots of different recipes and methods over the years, but this one was by far our favourite. We like our gingerbread fairly dark and with a good amount of spice so it was perfect for us. It’s also one of the best recipes for sturdy gingerbread houses too!
05: Everyone also loves a little twist…
Christmas is definitely cookie season. For anyone who doesn’t whip up trays upon trays of cookies on a regular basis a drawer full of cookie cutters may not exist in their kitchen. With this in mind we thought of putting together a cool recipe and tutorial on candy cane cookies that don’t need a cutter! Check out our Candy Cake Twist Cookie recipe here!
Keeping on top of things during the Christmas period seems near impossible every single year especially for the home baker with a project list full of treats! The secret is to keep it simple, plan in advance and utilise a few handy baking hacks for Christmas. There are a few stress-reducing tips and tricks that are so going to help in the run up to all the festivities. From baking cookies in advance and freezing them to using blitzed candy canes in every recipe for an instant Christmas feel you’re bound to find a time-saving idea to get you ready for December 25th!
5 stress free baking hacks for Christmas!
01: Bake in advance!
This is definitely one of the handiest baking hacks for Christmas! To a novice baker this might sound crazy. Seriously though, baking a little in advance and freezing your bakes not only saves time, but it makes things like cake easier to carve/level/work with. For cake once baked leave to fully cool then wrap in cling film, then foil and place level in a freezer. Try not to set your cakes on a wire rack in the freezer though as this will indent your cakes. You can freeze cakes weeks in advance to get you ready.
Freezing cookies? Bake them, leave to fully cool down, set inside an airtight container and freeze for up to a month! Remove the shapes you want to decorate when you need them (put the rest back in the freezer), ice and box/bag when dry. Easy!
NOTE: We wouldn’t advise this tip for cupcakes, however, as the extra moisture in the freezer will make cases peel away.
02: Reach for the candy melts!
Not necessarily a baking hack BUT it’s too good to not list. Some of the easiest cake and cupcake decorations can be made using candy melts! They’re perfect. All you need to do is melt them, pipe a design and they should set in a matter of minutes. Plus if they’re just not setting quick enough you can place them in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Pipe fun Christmas trees with coloured candy melts on a cookie tray lined with parchment or greaseproof paper. Add cool sprinkles or candy and leave to set. When ready carefully peel the paper from under each and then nestle into buttercream swirled cupcakes or attach to the side of a frosted cake. Instant Christmas cheer!
You can even make super easy festive bark using candy melts, crushed candy canes and super fun Christmas themed sprinkles too. Just melt down your candy melts, pour and smooth onto a lined cookie tray (make sure not to smooth it out too thin) and throw on the candy and sprinkles before leaving it to set! When hard break into shards and add to cakes and cupcakes.
03: Marshmallow heaven!
Marshmallows are the perfect winter treat, plus they can help add a touch of cosiness to anything really. Instead of stressing out over time consuming cake pops use giant marshmallows! Turn a simple chocolate cupcake into a winter favourite by adding a giant toasted marshmallow on top. Once you’ve frosted your cupcakes add large marshmallows to a cookie baking tray (make sure each is around 2 inches apart so they don’t melt into each other) and place in an oven for a few minutes until they soften and begin to melt and flatten a little. Remove and blow torch the tops to toast.
Why not even dip a cute retro stripe straw in some melted chocolate then half skewer into a large marshmallow, dip halfway into chocolate or candy melts, add sprinkles and once dry tie a pretty bow onto the straw.
You can also toast marshmallows and blitz them to add into buttercream. Gently heat up and add on top of sugar cookies for a melted snowball design. Or even bake into goey brownies with broken pretzel pieces!
Sprinkles don’t have to just go ON a cake or cupcake. They can get mixed into the batter too! You can instantly jazz up a bake to make it fit in with your festive party by just adding in a handful or two of coloured sugar sprinkles into the batter before you bake it. Try red and green confetti sprinkles for a traditional Christmas look, add blue for Hanukkah or try purple, pink and blue for a popular Frozen themed treat!
When it comes to decorating you can even create a message or pretty shape on top of your frosted cake by popping a cookie cutter on top and adding sprinkles inside of it. Remove the cutter and you should be left with a fun and festive shape or greeting!
05: Keep it simple and sweet!
This tip isn’t so much a hack, but a piece of essential advice! Try not to overwork yourself by picking out recipes you’ve never tried before (unless you have time for a practice run). The easiest and simplest thing you can do to make baked treats this season stress free and fun is to tweak your go-to recipe a little. If you have a basic cupcake recipe you use for plain or vanilla flavours why not try adding some festive mixed spice into it with a little gingerbread spice for a fun gingerbread-style cupcake swirled with vanilla buttercream? Amp up some of your usual chocolate cookies or biscuits with some mini fudge pieces, smother with thick salted caramel sauce and add a sea salt pretzel on top along with some gold star sprinkles!
The exact same rule goes when it comes to decorating your homemade treats. It’s great to challenge yourself, but new techniques are going to need some prep and practice. To avoid tearing your hair out stick to simple yet effective designs. To make our 24k gold Salted Caramel macaron more festive (as if the gold didn’t already do it) we added a little royal icing and some fondant features to transform it into a cute Christmas Pudding style macaron! See? Simple yet seasonal! Why not create winter-y themed vanilla cupcakes into snowballs by carefully rolling the butter creamed tops in sanding sugar and snowflake sprinkles?
Buttercream is one of those things that seems oh so simple until it comes to making it. It’s too easy to mess up and get the balance of ingredients terribly wrong. Too much butter can create a runny mess in the summer and taste a little too savoury. Too much sugar means stiff and gritty buttercream that looks unappealing. For silky smooth frosting follow our top 5 tips for perfect buttercream that’ll make your cakes the cream of the crop!
5 tips for perfect buttercream!
01: Softened butter only!
Make sure to use room temperature / softened butter to make your buttercream. It makes sense. Chilled butter just won’t cream or mix to a lovely silky texture. Room temperature translates at around 20 degrees C (that’s 68 degrees in F) for those of us in a chilly or insanely hot climate. If you live in the Yukon and your actual room temperature is 8 degrees C still aim for 20 degrees C butter!
02: Don’t over whip!
Mixing or whipping your buttercream way too much can mean lots of unsightly bubbles. Not only are these not so nice on an otherwise pretty bakery style cake, but they’re a nightmare when it comes to piping on top of cupcakes. Imagine bagging up all that buttercream and piping all your cupcakes only for those swirls to get messy and interrupted just because of massive air bubbles in the frosting. Tsk. Tsk. Two essential tools for whipping up perfect buttercream that we couldn’t live without are *drumroll*… a KitchenAid Stand-Up Mixer and our Mason Cash spatula!
03: Avoid artificial flavourings!
Not only are artificial flavourings quite icky and chemical in taste (seriously, they’re called artificial so they’re going to taste pretty fake compared to the real deal), but they just don’t help with buttercream texture. You want to use a flavourant that does help cultivate a silky look and feel to your frosting. Extracts are generally oil based which adds a little extra lubricant to your buttercream; perfect for smoothness! Things like vanilla bean paste can really help too as the paste is generally the texture of runny honey; also perfect for adding some smooth factor (plus those tiny flecks of pure vanilla just scream luxury). Essences, if they’re good quality, can also help keep your buttercream silky!
Don’t buy whatever is on offer just to save money. Not only will you not understand the butter you’re working with, but you’ll end up changing brands and being insanely inconsistent all the time. Test lots of butters or buttermilk based spreads (steer clear of low fat as they contain higher ratios of water which is a definite no for buttercream as water takes away stability when means floppy and curdled looking frosting) to find the perfect butter for you.
05: Less sugar!
The last of our 5 tips for perfect buttercream is simple. You can tell bad and overly sweet frosting by just looking at it. It’s stiff as a rock and the edges aren’t smooth they’re ragged. Adding way to much sugar into your buttercream not only makes it sickly sweet and almost inedible it also makes it hard to pipe and just plain ugly. Cut back on your icing sugar. Taste test it too. We generally add in around 1 part icing sugar to 2 parts butter for our silky buttercream. To keep a track on all the ingredients you’re using in your buttercream we’d strongly recommend investing in a good pair of digital scales!
If your sweetheart is a whizz in the kitchen and just LOVES to whip up all kinds of treats then they’re bound to fall head over heels with our list of perfect Valentine gifts for bakers! For novice bakers and even more advanced cake artists getting a fun gift they’re sure to use on their next project or even just to bake up a weekend sweet with is perfect. Our jobs entail everything to do with cake and we’d love everything on this list! So for some Valentine gift ideas for bakers read on…
Valentine gifts for bakers!
01: Novelty sprinkles!
Seriously, it doesn’t matter if you or your loved one is a novice baker or pretty advanced sprinkles will always be a quick and cute way to add instant colour and design to home bakes. These utterly adorable mini sprinkles are teeny tiny hearts that look a little quirkier than the normal full sized ones. They’re perfect to top dainty macarons with, add to generously swirled cupcakes or even use as details on iced cookies (the pink ones would make great button noses on animal figures).
Sometimes a fun novelty themed mixing spoon or spatula can help bring a smile to someone’s face. We’re pretty sure this one may do just that. Plus, it’s available in a gorgeous powder blue and even more lovely pistachio green shade as well as soft pink. It’s perfect for mixing colour or flavouring into cake batter or even silky buttercream, adding chocolate chips or fudge pieces to cookie dough and spooning cupcake mix into cases.
Who can resist this gorgeous vintage style glass cake stand? Not only does it feature a glass base that reminds us of antique perfume bottles, but it comes with a matching dome to help protect those homemade cakes in the most stylish of ways! You could assemble tempting cupcakes, easy macarons and freshly baked cookies underneath the glass dome too for a rustic yet glam bakery look.
Measuring spoons are pretty essential when it comes to baking and even cooking. Dolling out the right amounts of cinnamon, vanilla or allspice can obviously be even more fun and chic with this subtle novelty set of ceramic spoons. Nestle these in a gold gift box with heart shaped sprinkles, a handy cookie recipe book and some Valentine’s themed Hershey’s Kisses for a truly sweet gift!
We have these scales (in cream) and they’re used pretty regularly. Design-wise they’re just the right amount of vintage chic and practical prowess. We’ve also had these scales for some time and they look and work just like the day we bought them! The fun retro red is sure to brighten up any kitchen too.
Good heart shaped cookie cutters not only make cute Valentine themed gifts, but they’re an essential for any baker! You’re sweetheart can whip up heart shaped cookies, lovely fondant cupcake decorations or use to indent designs into sugar paste work. For a really sweet idea tie up the cutters with a big bow and pop into a Valentine gift bag filled with the perfect ingredients for cookie baking (especially these Valentine themed M&Ms!).
Cupcakes are always a classic sweet to whip up in the kitchen and for years now they just seem to get more and more popular. Why not treat your Valentine to these gorgeous love themed cupcake cases? Featuring heart prints and vibrant pinks and reads they’d help make the most stunning cupcakes.
This class is fabulous. We signed up for this video lesson on Craftsy some time ago. Even though we’ve been making macarons for years now we even picked up a few extra helpful tips and explanations on how to mix them perfectly and even niggly reasons why they can sometimes fail. It’s a great class for both beginners and advanced bakers plus your Valentine can chat to the instructor whilst watching, pause it when it’s time to shoot off to work or even check out how other students are doing!
Of course every baker needs a break or two during a hard day’s work! This amazing cupcake shaped mug is perfect for your Valentine to enjoy a hot cup of tea mid-baking session or even get their morning coffee fix before work! We love this design because of the cute red heart on top, but there’s several different colours and styles for you to choose from too.
Last but not least here’s a fun heart shaped truffle mould for you or your Valentine to whip up deliciously tempting chocolates! Simply melt tempered chocolate, fill the moulds and leave to set. If you’re feeling ambitious you can fill each with salted caramel or fruity raspberry centres!
We love love LOVE our KitchenAid Artisan mixer. Love it. We’ve used others, but they’ve just not kept up with our demands. They’re also pretty beautiful as well as being incredibly robust and reliable. We love ours so much that we’ve already convinced a fair few people to buy a KitchenAid (one person even changed their kitchen to match their mixer). We don’t work for them we swear. Anyway, everyone has their own preferences though so shop around, if you can try some out or really look at the parts in store before you succumb to KitchenAid desires (JOKE… seriously though they’re perfect).
Scales are important. They’re so important we capitalised the title for this section. Cups just don’t do it. They’re not as accurate, convenient, professional or even worldwide. Most recipes list ingredients in weight measurements so if you do use cups you’re then going to have to faff around converting the amounts. Invest in some good scales (digital are best) and you’re ready to bake!
Don’t scrimp on any tools or you’ll regret it later. A well made spatula and a cheap spatula can make all the difference between a perfect macaron or the a butt-ugly macaron sent from Satan’s yard sale. Our top brands for utensils are Tala, Mason Cash and KitchenCraft. Depending on where you live in the world you’ll find brands and styles that you prefer to work with, so shop around and find what you’re most comfortable with!
We’ve amassed a small collection of thermometers that help us run our kitchen pretty efficiently. Two main thermometers you will need to invest in are an oven thermometer and a candy thermometer. Use your oven thermometer to check your oven temperatures are accurate. They’re handy as not many people realise that oven temps drop every time you open the oven door. Candy thermometers can be used for making Italian meringues or Sucre Cuit method macarons as well as for candies, chocolates and sauces.
Cheap or bog standard (British for ‘average’) baking pans and tins just won’t do. Instead spend a few extra pennies on some good, durable, straight-edge cake tins. Our absolute favourites are by Silverwood. They are amazing. They’re well made, sharp, strong and seamless. Alongside this tip we’d also recommend opting for loose bottom pans and staying away from springform which can cause odd shaped sides on a cake.
Whilst most people use wire racks to help set their bakes out of the way to cool we prefer a good marble slab or marble pastry board. It’s permanently cold, sturdy and won’t leave annoying wire lines across your cakes and cookies. The last thing you want on a naked cake are those wire indentations running along a cake you aren’t covering up!
It happens. You put a cake in the oven and you think you’re going to remember when to take it out, but someone calls or you have work to do. You forget about the cake until the distinct smell of burning finds its way to your nose and the panic sets in. You can pick up a small kitchen timer from most grocery or department stores. You can even find some really cute novelty timers out there too. If you’re more tech-y then utilise your iPhone or tablet. We use our iPads to mainly keep track of things in the kitchen because we’re often on ours replying to emails, managing social media or playing Plants vs Zombies. There are apps to time multiple activities too such as Timer+ which is perfect for a busy kitchen!
Sometimes a recipe calls for a teaspoon of this or a tablespoon of that. It seems like it’d be OK to just use an actual teaspoon or tablespoon right? Wrong. Different designs and companies tend to yield different sized tea and table spoons which is pretty annoying. Grab a good quality set of stainless steel measuring spoons to help make all your bakes more accurate.
We have three main rolling pins in our kitchen. Three. Main. If we counted all our rolling pins then we’d have around 7. Crazy, but at times essential. We have a heavy 6lb Kingpin rolling pin, a long PME silicone rolling pin and a super SUPER long silicone rolling pin by The Little Venice Cake Company. Each have different jobs… the Kingpin is perfect for quickly flattening out stiff fondant (or a lot of it) or cookie dough. That 6lb in weight is so useful. The long rolling pin is good for cookies and rolling fondant / sugar paste for small to medium cakes. The super long rolling pin is ideal for covering both large and deep cakes. Then there are smaller rolling pins for cupcake work, florals and sugar craft.
Good quality knives of varying sizes that are kept in tip top condition are a must in any kitchen. For baking you’ll find them handy for a whole list of things from chopping and transferring ingredients, freeing the sides of cakes from baking pans, cutting custom shapes from rolled cookie dough and tidying up the edges of fondant / sugar paste cake boards. Make sure to have a selection of styles, sizes and edges to help you out with different tasks!