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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Oh Christmas tree....

The start of the Christmas baking season is the school Christmas bake sale, so here we go. I use a simple cake recipe with seasonal touches, which is based on the wonderfully versatile cake recipe I was given when I went to the NEFF head quarters with the Bake it yourself experts  :

170 grams of butter, sugar and self raising flour.
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
100 g sultanas
100 g chocolate drops.

Oven temp 160.
Beat together the butter and sugar until they look pale and fluffy, then add the eggs and fold in gently. Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices and fold into your mix, then fold in the fruit and chocolate (dried cranberries and white chocolate work well also) spoon into the cake cases and bake. It should make 12 and they should rise well, which is what you want as the pointy shape helps form the tree.
 When the cakes are cool, make your butter cream - I used 450 grams of icing sugar and 200 grams butter. I whisked the butter really well first, then add half the sugar and a splash of milk and whisk again, flavour as you like ( I just went for vanilla, but lemon is always good, or use brandy if it's for adults) then whisk in the rest of the sugar and colour green with food colouring.
Your need a medium star nozzle on your icing bag, though most will work, experiment with different shapes to get different effects with pleasure!

To decorate - first pipe a ring of icing round the cake like this. Remember to not over fill your bag and squeeze from the top, keeping the bag pointed over your right shoulder.
 Then pipe a second row on top of the first, think of it like building a coil pot, swirling round and round as you go. You might find you create a hollow at this point, with the icing building up higher than than cake. I'd fill this in with icing - give it a good squirt to fill in the hole,  release the pressure but keep the bag in place and when the icing has stopped coming, lift the bag away smartly and you should make a nice point for your tree.
 And there is it, ready to decorate. If I had thought ahead more, I'd have bought some star shaped cake decorations and put one on the top of each cake, but I forgot!
 Here's a whole forest, ready to decorate. I stand them on a baking tray, the one I used to bake the cakes in but I turn it upside down, giving each cake a little plinth to stand on, which makes it easier to pick them up and also catches any fallen sprinkles.
 I dusted each cake with green glitter first - I think we're meant to use luster dust now but hey, I've got glitter to use up! You can also dust with white luster to create a snowy effect.
I topped each swirl with a gold ball and dropped silver balls on the lower parts to look like Christmas balls. If you were being really creative, you could make tiny packages from cubes of fondant with fondant bows, but let's not go mad on your first attempt!
And here we go, a whole forest!

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