Christmas cake decorating ideas

Forget fruitcake this Christmas – bake one of our layered sponge cakes, then choose your favourite festive decoration. Whichever style you go for, it's sure to be a showstopper.

Red and white layer cake with gold frosting, topped with green chocolate trees, on a cake stand

We love an incredible-looking layered cake, especially at Christmas. If you're not a fan of traditional fruitcake, you've come to the right place. We've devised two base sponge recipes plus a few ideas for customising their decoration. The first is a festive white chocolate & orange sponge with zingy cranberry compote and the second is a vanilla & mixed spice cake. Both are guaranteed to wow a crowd if you're entertaining.

Keep it simple; you don't have to do everything in one day. You can make the batter for your chosen sponge in advance and stick it in the freezer until you're ready to bake (just make sure to defrost the mix thoroughly before putting it in the oven).

Once your cake is baked and cooled, apply a crumb coat of cream cheese frosting and pick your favourite design.

If you've decided on the white chocolate & orange sponge, you can decorate it with a playful candy cane explosion, a frosty icicle cake or a pretty topping of golden snowflakes and meringue kisses. If you've gone with the vanilla & spice sponge, you can get creative with edible gold spray to make a dazzling showstopper complete with white chocolate drip. For a snowier look, skip the gold spray and layer white on white before decorating with our gingerbread star biscuits or chocolate trees. 

White chocolate, orange & cranberry Christmas cake

White chocolate and orange layered cake with white chocolate icing

The white chocolate, orange & cranberry cake base includes four layered sponges, but you could halve the recipe if catering to fewer people and still serve up an amazing dessert. The cakes for this recipe aren't difficult to make, but they are softer than some sponge recipes, so you'll need to handle them carefully.
 

Design 1: Golden snowflake & meringue naked cake

Decorating time: 1 hr

Meringue topped Christmas cake
Add extra sparkle to the Christmas table with this gloriously gilded, meringue-topped masterpiece. You'll need fondant icing stars, a spritz of edible gold spray, gold leaf and some decorated meringue kisses. 

Ingredients

White fondant icing
Edible gold spray, or lustre powder
White chocolate icing (see the full cake recipe)
Gold leaf (optional)
Assorted meringue kisses (homemade or shop-bought)
Edible gold glitter, stars and sprinkles

Christmas cake decoration

  1. Roll out the fondant icing and stamp out snowflake shapes with a cutter. Leave to dry on baking parchment. Once dry, spray them gold or brush with lustre powder. 
  2. Apply a thin layer of the white chocolate icing over the crumb coat. This is to create a neat finish and a naked cake effect, rather than to cover the cake completely. 
  3. Use a paintbrush or knife to gently lift pieces of the gold leaf, if using, then carefully press them onto the sides and edge of the cake. 
  4. Arrange the meringue kisses to cover all or some of the top of the cake.
  5. Add the glitter, gold stars, snowflakes and sprinkles to the cake, using a little icing to stick them down. Arrange more meringues around the base of the cake, if you like. 

Design 2: Candy cane explosion cake

Decorating time: 30 mins

Candy cane cake
We're confident this red-and-white burst of broken candy canes would make Father Christmas proud. Add the sweets no more than a few hours before serving to prevent any colour from bleeding into the icing. Candy canes come in peppermint, cinnamon or fruit flavours, so be sure to choose your favourite. Use crushed candy to cover the bottom of the cake for extra pizzazz. 

Ingredients

White chocolate icing (see the full cake recipe)
12-14 candy canes (fruity ones go well with the cake)
Assorted red & white sweets (we found these sold individually in local sweet shops)

  1. Apply a final layer of the white chocolate icing over your cake's crumb coat, giving it as neat a finish as possible. 
  2. Put the cake on a stand, if you like. Smash a couple of the candy canes and some sweets, and press shards around the base of the cake. 
  3. Stick the remaining candy canes into the cake at angles, arrange any remaining whole sweets on top of the cake and sprinkle over the rest of the crushed sweets. 

Design 3: Frosty icicle cake

Decorating time: 30 mins to 1 hr

Icicle cake
For a whimsical wintry scene, try this icy cake decoration. Use a selection of white and silver sprinkles to create a snowy effect and add homemade or shop-bought meringues for extra crunch. Your decorations can be made up to five days ahead to save time. Grab your apron and let it snow!

Ingredients

Blue food colouring
White chocolate icing (see the full cake recipe)
Meringue icicles, kisses and snowflakes
Silver and pearl balls
Icing sugar

  1. Add a tiny amount of the blue food colouring to your remaining icing and beat well. Be very careful adding the food colouring or you might end up with icing that's too dark in colour. Note that the base icing is yellowish, so it'll actually end up a greeny blue.
  2. Apply a final layer of the icing over the crumb coat, giving it as neat a finish as possible. Put the cake on a stand, if you like. 
  3. Use some of the icing to stick the meringue icicles carefully around the edge of the cake so they look as if they're dripping down. 
  4. Arrange the meringue kisses and snowflakes on top of the cake. Push silver and pearl balls into the icing, then dust the cake with a little icing sugar for a snowy effect.

Vanilla & spice chocolate drip cake

Slice of red and white layered sponge cake

We’ve dyed two layers of this vanilla & spice sponge a vivid red colour for a hidden slice of festive magic, but you can skip that step, if you like. If you are dying it red, use a food colouring gel in the sponge mixture – a natural liquid colouring won’t work, as the colour will fade as it bakes.
 

Design 1: Gingerbread star tree

Decorating time: 45 mins plus chilling

 

Gold-sprayed cake white white chocolate drip, topped with gingerbread star

Dazzle your guests with an elegant gold showstopper topped with a towering gingerbread biscuit star tree. Use the edible gold spray to cover the surface as evenly as possible in a thin layer of shimmer, then create the chocolate drip as detailed in the cake recipe. If you'd rather have a snowy scene, simply leave out the gold spray step and pour the chocolate dripping straight over the white icing. Add a gingerbread star tree for an impressive cake topper; make individual star shapes using a range of different sized cookie cutters or get creative with homemade paper templates.

Ingredients

White chocolate icing (see the full cake recipe)
Edible gold spray (optional)
200g white chocolate, chopped or grated
Gingerbread star tree recipe

  1. Cover your cake's crumb coat with a final layer of the icing, then chill in the fridge for 30 mins. 
  2. Meanwhile, make the chocolate drip by melting the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of lightly simmering water or in the microwave in short bursts.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate into a disposable piping bag and set aside to firm up a little – you want it to be pourable, but not too runny.
  4. Remove the cake from the fridge. Use the edible gold spray to cover the surface in a thin layer of shimmer, if you like. 

Gold cake with white chocolate being poured on top

5. When the white chocolate is the right consistency, snip off the end of the piping bag and pipe drizzles down the side of the cake. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining chocolate.

Ginger stars being piped with icing

6. Follow the gingerbread star tree recipe for step-by-step instructions to making this beautiful biscuit topper. Ice the stars individually and pipe a blob of icing in the middle of each biscuit before stacking them to make a tree. Stick the smallest star on top, standing upright.
 

Design 2: White (& green) chocolate trees

Decorating time: 20 mins plus cooling

Gold cake with white chocolate dripping and white chocolate tree topping

Create a wonderfully wintery forest landscape atop your cake, complete with delicate white chocolate fir trees and sprinkles. Although these look intricate, the sideways piping technique is easy to master and you'll have a miniature chocolate tree collection in no time.

Piping white chocolate trees with edible gold sprinkles

Ingredients

White chocolate
Green food colouring gel
Edible sprinkles (we used metallic stars and balls)

  1. Follow our recipe for the winter spice cake with white chocolate trees. This uses the same cream cheese and chocolate drip icing as the previous design, but with a white chocolate tree topping. If you'd prefer to have green trees, stir a spot of food colouring gel into the melted white chocolate mixture before piping.
  2. Decorate the white chocolate Christmas trees with your choice of edible sprinkles, pushing them into the white chocolate before it sets. Make sure to create your trees before you've piped the white chocolate dripping to allow them time to cool and solidify, then assemble your forest scene by pushing the upright trees into the white chocolate topping before it sets.


Like these cake decorating ideas? Get more tips for entertaining at Christmas...

How to make Christmas cupcakes
The best ever Christmas cocktails
Our easiest ever yule log

What are your top cake decorating tips? Leave a comment below...
 

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