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!