Let me tell you right up front that I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about any baked good that I’ve ever created as I am about this cake. I’ve recently become obsessed with baking and decorating three layer cakes, and I basically need to talk myself off the cake ledge every weekend because otherwise my kitchen would be an neverending mess and my bank account and waistline would both be moving in undesired directions.
Having said that, it’s Christmas, and I tend to get crazy and go overboard about holiday themed cooking. I’m also trying to get build up traffic to my blog, so it’s really perfect storm of excuses to go all out and start making some goddamn candy Christmas trees! My greatest fear is that I will start making videos in which I dress up my pets in people clothes and pretend that they’re sitting at the table having Christmas dinner, so this is a very healthy outlet for me to get this out of my system. The pursuit of online fame is a slippery slope, people.
In any case this was a fun cake to make and for the most part wasn’t technically difficult. Preparing the trees takes a bit of a delicate touch, and you should have some basic cake frosting techniques down, but your cake doesn’t have to be three layers or have perfectly smooth sides, or even be made from scratch. Take shortcuts where you need to!
Important tips for candy tree making:
Make twice as many as you think you will need- they are delicate and will break as you are handling them, and you will want to have your pick of the nicest looking ones.
You will need to cut the skewers down to a shorter size to fit the cake - to do this I simply snapped the skewers in half and singed the loose wood threads with a lighter to avoid any fine wooden threads from making their way into the cake. Do this before you make the trees.
DON’T USE REGULAR FOOD COLORING! If by chance you would like to give your trees more interest and depth with different colors, you will either need to mix different candy melt colors together or choose Wilton brand candy color, otherwise your candy will seize and become unusable.
Triple Layer Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten
Butter or Crisco, for greasing the pans
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, minus 2 tbsp, plus more for pans
3 cups sugar
1 ⅛ cups good cocoa powder
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cup buttermilk, shaken
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl and stir just until combined.
In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Batter will be very thin, whisk immediately before pouring into pans to make sure everything is fully incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out and place in freezer until you frost them.
Basic Vanilla Buttercream, from Add A Pinch
1 ½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
5 - 6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 teaspoons vanilla
Large pinch salt
3-4 tablespoons whole milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half
½ -¾ cup sweetened flaked coconut for "snow" topping
Cream butter in a large bowl on medium setting until it is smooth and has lightened in color, about 3 minutes.
Add confectioner's sugar, ½ a cup at a time. After each cup has been incorporated, turn the mixer onto the highest speed setting and for about 10 seconds to lighten the frosting.
Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and combine until well-incorporated.
Add milk or heavy cream or half-and-half until the frosting has reached the preferred consistency. For a firmer frosting, add more confectioner's sugar, a ¼ cup at a time. For a softer frosting, add more milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time.
Wilton Green Candy Melts
Wilton White Candy Melts
Multicolored Nonpareil sprinkles
Melt candy melts in the microwave on 50% power until smooth. Transfer to a plastic baggie and snip a very small corner off. Starting at the top of the skewer, make widening passes to make tree shapes. Use nonpareil sprinkles or melted white candy melts to decorate trees immediately.
Cut each cake layer to be level. Ice the cake with a crumb layer and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. After the crumb layer has set, finish icing, smoothing out sides with an icing smoother. Sprinkle shredded coconut on top and insert each candy tree to the desired height. Take lots of pictures to impress your friends.
Cake inspired by Country Living.