Creating a beautiful Christmas cake is easier than ever with our Christmas cake decorating ideas and smart buys.
Here, Woman And Home's deputy food editor Katy McClelland demonstrates 10 ways to decorate a Christmas cake, which are surprisingly easy but will make a seriously impressive Christmas centrepiece. These simple decorating ideas show you how to take classic white fondant icing to the next level, using simple techniques and decorations that you can find in any supermarket.
Everyone wants to create a Christmas cake that wows guests when it's served on Christmas Day, but it's often not the baking itself that can be intimidating - it's usually the decorating that's the tricky part. This needn't be the case, as we show you just how easy it is to decorate your Christmas cake so it not only tastes delicious, but looks stunning when set at the dinner table too.
Make your own using our traditional fruit cake recipe, or cheat and buy one - we got ours from Waitrose; it's a richly fruited Christmas cake.
How To Decorate A Christmas Cake
Start by turning your Christmas cake over so the flatter underside is the top, which makes it easier to decorate with a neat finish. Brush your cake with warmed, sieved apricot jam. On a surface dusted with icing sugar, roll out a layer of marzipan to the thickness of a £1 coin. Roll up around a rolling pin, then unravel onto the cake. Smooth around the sides with your hands and guide neatly into the edges. Trim any excess with a sharp knife. If you want to just cover the top of the cake, cut the marzipan to size using a round cutter the same width as the cake.
Still on the surface dusted with icing sugar, roll out fondant icing to between ¼-½cm and either cut to fit the top of the cake or make sure it's wide enough to cover the whole cake. Roll up around the rolling pin, brush the maripan layer lightly with water then unravel the icing onto the cake. Smooth and guide into the edges neatly with your hands, then trim to fit with a sharp knife.
To give fondant icing the professional look, use a cake smoother. This simple plastic tool is inexpensive, but will make such a difference to your finished cake.
Or to cover with royal icing for a snow effect, make according to packet instructions then spread over the cake with a palette knife.
If you're using royal icing, cover it up to a week before Christmas. If covering the whole cake with fondant icing, you can do the marzipan layer up to 7 days before you cover the cake with fondant icing - and you can cover the cake with fondant icing up to 2 weeks before Christmas. If you're just covering the top of the cake, 2-3 days before is enough. Keep it in an airtight container.
Psst! Getting ready for Christmas? Take a look at all our Christmas recipes.
Then comes the fun part. Take things up a notch with these simple Christmas cake designs that are so easy to recreate at home.
1. Winter woodland Christmas cake
Top with pine cones sprayed white or with glitter to create a pretty winter scene to bring to the table. Clean the pine cones carefully first, then spray them - if you don't have spray paint, you could even use non-toxic emulsion paint. Tie a ribbon around the base of the cake, secured with a little icing sugar mixed with water to make a glue. All you have to do is set aside the pine cones before you slice into the cake.
2. Chocolate Christmas tree cake
Make royal icing according to packet instructions and spread it over the cake with a palette knife, but don't make it too neat - you're aiming for a rippled snow effect. When the icing is still soft, stand up Christmas tree-shaped chocolates, which should be easy to find at most supermarkets at this time of year. We used Enchanted Forest chocolates from Hotel Chocolat, £7 for 105g. Sprinkle with edible glitter and sugar snowflake decorations, which we got from Waitrose.
3. Driving-home-for-Christmas cake
We went for a novelty bauble because we couldn't resist this Christmas car with a tree on the roof from Talking Tables, £7, but you can use any baubles you like - even the classic kind would work. Pipe a border around the edge of even small dots of icing and stand mini icing decorations - we've used trees to complete the coming-home-for-Christmas scene, but you could use stars instead. Add edible shimmer sprinkles, such as Magic Sparkles in white from Lakeland.
4. Let's Party Christmas cake
This star effect on the icing is made with a star pattern rolling pin from Amazon, £4.99 - it's so easy to use; you just roll it over rolled our fondant icing, pushing down firmly, and it leaves a star print behind. You'll also find them in in specialist cake shops. Make a 3D effect by sticking on icing stars with a little icing sugar mixed with water. The cake is finished with a quirky cake topper - our Let's Party sign is from Talking Tables, £14, and can be reused. Of course, with a cake like this, sparklers are a must when you bring your cake to the Christmas table.
5. Marzipan snowflake Christmas cake
Skip the icing altogether by making a feature of your marzipan layer. Use a snowflake cutter to stamp out marzipan stars and glue them to your marzipan later with a little water. Use a cook's blowtorch to pick out the snowflake edges and sprinkle with edible glitter.
6. Floating star Christmas cake
Take simple icing to the next level with this easy trick. Cover just the top of your cake with a layer of marzipan. Roll the fondant icing and either cut one very thick round to fit the top of the cake or stick to medium sized rounds of fondant to each other with a little water. Use a star-shaped cutter to stamp out stars. Set the layer of fondant neatly on the top of the cake, using water to help hold in place. Fill the star shapes with edible silver balls and smaller star cut-outs of stars from any remaining icing, which will have effect of floating stars. Finish with a ribbon round the edge, secured with icing sugar mixed with water.
7. Fruit and nut Christmas cake
Keep your Christmas cake simple but sophisticated by glazing a plain Christmas cake with apricot jam and arranging rows of Brazil nuts and pecans in stripes across the top, in between rows of dried cranberries. Use a pastry brush to glaze the top with apricot jam for a shiny finish.
8. Gingermen men Christmas cake
It's so easy to make this novelty cake, which is perfect if you have young children visiting at Christmas. Make up some royal icing according to packet instructions, then smooth it over the cake with a spatula, without being too precise - it's a snow effect you're looking for. Mix icing sugar with a little water to form a sticky paste then use it to secure a ribbon round the side of the cake and to stick chocolate shapes to the ribbon. We used chocolate gingerbread men from Hotel Chocolat, £7 for 120g, and candy canes, which you can find in most supermarkets. Sprinkle the top with edible snowball decorations - we got ours from Squires.
9. Marzipan fruit Christmas cake
Simple but effective, it's so easy to decorate this cake using shop-bought marzipan fruit arranged round the rim of a simply iced cake. We got ours from M&S.
10. Chocolate box Christmas cake
This Christmas cake decoration idea couldn't be easier. Crack open a box of Christmas chocolates and arrange them round the base of the cake. We used truffles from M&S, as well as candied orange and ginger dipped in chocolate from Daylesford and a handful of nuts. Pile as much as you can around the edge of the cake stand, for an abundant effect. You can even work in some icing stars on twine, which we picked up from Cakes, Cookies & Crafts.