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Christmas Wreath Layer Cake

Christmas Wreath Layer Cake

christmas wreath cake

christmas wreath cake

I’ve never been a fan of the traditional rich Christmas fruit cake, but it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without a cake! So every year I whip up a big ol’ layer cake for the family to enjoy that’s a bit more modern in style. This year I decided to emulate my buttercream flower wreath cake and create a wintery version as I loved that cake so much!! Its the proudest I’ve ever been, so I knew I wanted to try the style again. I did downsize slightly and kept the flowers to one side. I love how it makes it look a little more elegant and so so festive!

So that’s how my Christmas wreath cake was born.

Flavours wise I decided to create an earl grey sponge with a vanilla swiss meringue buttercream. The bergamot flavour from the tea gives it a lovely subtle festive note, without being too overpowering. I also created an earl grey cake soak to enhance the flavour and ensure the cake stayed moist and flavourful throughout. I really think cake soaks are worth taking the extra time to create, especially if you’re not serving the cake on the day you baked it.

christmas wreath cakechristmas wreath cake

The earl grey sponge is really the star of this christmas wreath cake, but swiss meringue buttercream is my absolute favourite for layer cakes. It’s so luscious without being too sweet, and is so smooth making it the easiest buttercream to get a crisp finish. It also works really well for piping flowers as they keep their shape so well. I always pipe mine onto small squares of parchment paper attached to a flower nail, that way you can then place them in the freezer to harden which makes your life ten times easier when placing them on the cake.

For decoration I also added cinnamon sticks to look like twigs, and small dots of buttercream to act as holly berries. I really love the look and taste of this Christmas wreath cake, its subtly festive and super pretty.

christmas wreath cake

Christmas Wreath Layer Cake

Christmas Wreath Layer Cake

Ingredients

    Earl Grey Cake
  • 6 earl grey teabags
  • 6tbsp just-boiled water
  • 160g unsalted butter
  • 560g caster sugar
  • 480g plain flour
  • 2tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 400ml whole milk
  • 4 large eggs
    Earl Grey Cake Soak
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 2 earl grey teabags
    Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 150ml egg whites
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 450g unsalted butter
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • dark green food colouring
  • light green food colouring
  • brown food colouring
  • dark red food colouring
    Decoration
  • 4 small cinnamon sticks

Instructions

  • Firstly preheat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5 and grease and line three 8" baking tins.
  • In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then add the flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until the mixture is the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
  • Pour the milk and eggs into a jug, and whisk until combined. Then add the brewed tea squeezing each tea bag to extract all of the moisture.
  • Pour three-quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low-speed until combined. Add the remaining milk mixture and mix again until smooth and thick.
  • Divide the mixture between the three prepared baking tins and bake for 22-25 minutes or until springy to touch. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes, before removing from the tins and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Whilst the cakes are cooling, make the cake soak by placing the sugar, water and tea bags into a small pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Then remove the tea bags and set aside.
  • Whilst the cake soak is steeping, begin the swiss meringue buttercream by whisking together the sugar and egg whites in heat-safe bowl until combined. Then over a bain-marie, heat the mixture, stirring occasionally until it reaches 155-160F on a candy thermometer. The mixture will be very hot and the sugar will have dissolved.
  • Once the mixture has reached the right temperature, take the bowl off the heat and using an electric mixer whisk the mixture on high speed for about 10 minutes until you reach medium-stiff peaks and the mixture has returned to room temperature.
  • With the mixer on low, add in the butter a tablespoon at a time ensuring each piece is fully incorporated before adding the next. The butter must be at room temperature for it to be properly incorporated.
  • Once the butter has been mixed in, add the vanilla extract and mix again for a few minutes until the buttercream is silky smooth and light.
  • Put 2 tablespoons of buttercream into a small bowl and mix in the light green food colouring, and then another 2 tablespoons into a separate bowl and mix in the dark green food colouring. Then put 1 tablespoon of buttercream into another bowl and mix in the brown food colouring, then finally put another tablespoon of buttercream into a separate bowl and mix in the dark red food colouring. Set aside the remaining buttercream to use later.
  • Using a flower nail and piping tips create an array of flowers and leaves on squares of baking paper, then place the squares onto baking trays and place in the freezer to harden.
  • To assemble the cake, place one sponge onto the cake board, brush on half of the cake soak and a layer of buttercream. Repeat with the second sponge layer and then place the final sponge layer on top.
  • Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of the buttercream and then place in the fridge for 20 minutes to set.
  • Then cover the cake with the remaining buttercream and using a bench scraper, scrape off the excess to leave a smooth exterior.
  • For the decoration, put the brown buttercream into a piping bag and snip off the end so you have a small nozzle. Then pipe lines in a crescent shape to create 'twigs' for the flowers to sit on.
  • Remove the buttercream flowers and leaves from the freezer, and peeling off the baking paper squares arrange them on the cake with the cinnamon sticks.
  • Finally, put the dark red buttercream into a piping bag and snip off the end again so you have a small nozzle and pipe 'berries' onto the cake.
  • Notes

    I used Wilton tips 104 and 70 to create the flowers and leaves. Tips on piping the flowers can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyDaS4napa7fgQ-pdZ68ifGMIRmWC9JRL

    http://bakingwithaimee.com/2017/12/13/christmas-wreath-cake/

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Candy Pretzel Rods

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Candy Pretzel Rods

    candy pretzel rodscandy pretzel rods

    For the last in my edible gift series, I give you candy pretzel rods! Probably the most American sounding and tasting treat on my blog, its the perfect combination of salty and sweet. I’ve seen these on Pinterest for a few years now, but have never been able to find pretzel rods in the UK – until now! I found them in Whole Foods a few weeks back and was sooo excited! You absolutely could make these just by dipping regular shaped pretzels, but I just think the rods look so cute.

    candy pretzel rods

    candy pretzel rods

    I feel abit of a fraud calling this baking, when its literally just melting some chocolate and dipping the rods. But that does make it the perfect lazy afternoon bake, especially with kids in tow! I decided to just stick to milk chocolate and white candy melts, though with candy melts or even food colouring you could really go to town! Red & green pretzel rods would look super festive!

    For the decorations I bought festive sprinkles and shapes, but again you could coat them in anything you fancied! The American pretzel rods that I’d seen on pinterest are sometimes covered in M&M’s and all kinds of small candy, but I could only find thin rods and they looked a little ridiculous! Please do let me know if you happen to find fatter pretzel rods though, the possibilities would then be endless!

    candy pretzel rodscandy pretzel rods

    The salty pretzel rod perfectly complements the sweet chocolate coating, making these ridiculously moreish. You can easily eat 3-4 in one go without really thinking! And as they’re only small, and it is Christmas you definitely don’t need to feel guilty about it.

    Wrapped up with some twine and popped in a treat bag I think the pretzel rods are such a cute treat, and they look so festive! I also love that in the UK its not such a traditional sweet, making them all the more interesting and unique.

    Let me know if you make them!

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Candy Pretzel Rods

    Yield: approx. 50 pretzel rods

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Candy Pretzel Rods

    Ingredients

    • 2 x pack of pretzel rods
    • 250g milk chocolate
    • 250g white candy melts or white chocolate
    • 4 x packs of festive sprinkles

    Instructions

  • Firstly, lay all the sprinkles flat onto separate plates and lay a large sheet of baking paper onto a flat surface.
  • Break the milk chocolate up into small pieces and place into a heat-proof bowl. Then put the bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring every now and then until the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and individually dip half of the pretzel rods into the chocolate, then roll in the sprinkles to completely coat. Place onto the baking paper to set and repeat until all of the milk chocolate is used.
  • Then, place the white candy melts into a heat-proof bowl and melt like the milk chocolate. Dip the remaining pretzel rods into the candy melts and roll in the sprinkles to completely coat. Then place onto the baking paper to set.
  • Leave the pretzel rods to set for 30 minutes, before keeping in an air-tight container or wrapping in twine and placing in treat bags to gift.
  • Notes

    Any flavour chocolate, any colour candy melts and any kind of sprinkles can be used - the recipe is more of a guideline!

    http://bakingwithaimee.com/2017/12/10/edible-christmas-gifts-candy-pretzel-rods/

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Strawberry Jam

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Strawberry Jam

    strawberry jamstrawberry jam

    The second in my edible Christmas gift series is dedicated to the art of jam making! Strawberry Jam is a favourite amongst adults and children alike, and I don’t know anyone who’d turn down a jar of the homemade variety! Like most edible gifts it’s actually really easy to make, but looks so impressive! And you can really go to town with festive decoration on your jars.

    strawberry jam

    This recipe makes ALOT of jam, so you will need a large pan to make it in! I didn’t anticipate quite how much jam, and ended up in catastrophe. I took my eye off the pan for literally a minute – rookie mistake! – and next thing I know, its boiled over and lava-like jam is running down the side of my oven…all over the halogen hobs…into my oven gloves that were hanging on the oven…and all over my decorative tea-towel. ….Yes that’s a thing!

    It was a disaster. And obviously, with it being so hot I was pretty much helpless until it’d cooled down a little. Lessons learnt here? Use the biggest pan possible, and DON’T take your eye off it!

    strawberry jam

    Making jam is a simple concept; boiling sugar and fruit over a high heat until you reach the setting point. What you need to take into account however is the amount of pectin contained in your fruit of choice. Pectin is a gelling agent that causes jam to set, it occurs naturally in some fruit and is absent in others. Strawberries in particular are quite low in pectin, whereas apples and pears have a high count. Thankfully, nowadays our lives are made really easy with specific ‘jam sugars’ that have pectin included!

    That’s not to say that you couldn’t make a jam using normal sugar and low-pectin fruits, but you’d have to boil it for so long to get to the right setting consistency that you’d have to sacrifice yield and flavour!

    strawberry jam

    strawberry jam

    For my strawberry jam, I use a 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar, with the addition of the juice of one lemon. It makes enough jam for 4 standard jam jars – I used two large and one standard…but that’s because I lost a fair bit in the aforementioned jam disaster :(.

    You will need to make sure to sterilise your jars before pouring your jam in as this ensures you kill all bacteria. I find the easiest way is to pop them in the oven for 20 minutes at Gas Mark 1/140C/120C Fan. You’ll need to time this, so that the jars are still warm when you fill them with your freshly set strawberry jam. The only other prep you need to do, is place a few saucers into the freezer. You’ll use these later to test if your jam is set.

    I love this strawberry jam recipe, its perfectly set and just sweet enough. Please do let me know if you gift any jars!

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Strawberry Jam

    Yield: 4 standard jars

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Strawberry Jam

    Ingredients

    • 1kg fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and dried
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    • 1kg jam sugar

    Instructions

  • Firstly, place a couple of saucers into the freezer. Then wash your jam jars thoroughly and place on a baking tray. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 1/140C/120C Fan.
  • Place the strawberries and lemon juice into a large pan, cutting any large strawberries in half. Meanwhile, put the jam jars in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Place the strawberry/lemon mixture over a low heat for a few minutes to soften, then add the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Once the liquid is no longer grainy, boil steadily for six minutes or until at setting point. To test if the jam is set, spoon a little onto one of your frozen saucers, leave for a minute and then mark a line through the jam with your finger. If the jam crinkles and separates without flooding back, your jam is set. If it floods, re-boil the jam for 2 minutes and then test again. Repeat until your jam is set.
  • Set your jam aside for a few minutes to cool, and skim off any scum that's appeared with a slotted spoon. Pour your hot jam into your freshly (and still warm!) sterilised jars and seal immediately.
  • http://bakingwithaimee.com/2017/11/30/edible-christmas-gifts-strawberry-jam/

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Salted Caramels

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Salted Caramels

    salted caramels

    I’m BIG on Christmas. I have about 9 Christmas jumpers waiting patiently in my wardrobe until its acceptable to wear them and I had my first Christmas sandwich in October… But one of my favourite festive activities in the run up to the big day is making edible gifts. And salted caramels always feature heavily.

    I think a handmade gift is such a lovely thing to treasure, and if you’re a bit strapped for cash (which who isn’t around this time?!) its also really handy as you seem so thoughtful without making yourself bankrupt in the process. Go you!

    salted caramels 2

    Salted caramels especially always go down a treat. I mean, who can resist the salty sweet combination? Definitely not me!

    Now I know salted caramels can seem a little intimidating, and you do need to be prepared before you start with all your ingredients measured and ready. But! They really are so achievable, and once you’ve mastered the basics you can begin experimenting with different flavours. I’ve made chai-tea caramels before, and tried passion fruit caramels in Paris this year that I’d love to recreate. So please don’t be put off by the thought of boiling hot sugar… just keep calm and carry on.

    You will need a candy thermometer for this, as you need to heat the sugar to an exact temperature to ensure they are set but still chewy. I have a Salter digital thermometer and its honestly the best I’ve tried. It was under £15 and can also be used as a meat probe, which also comes in really handy at Christmas time!

    salted caramels 3

    The biggest problem I think people have with making caramel is that they can’t resist stirring the pan, which results in crystallised sugar and a big old mess. RESIST the wooden spoon! Honestly, your sugar is fine sat there by itself with only a few swirls of the pan every now and then. If you know there are major heat spots on your hob, you can turn the pan every now and then to distribute the heat more evenly. Just don’t stir it!

    Whilst your sugar is dissolving you need to be gently warming the double cream, butter and sea salt flakes in a small pan. Then as soon as the caramelised sugar has turned a warm golden brown colour you need to (slowly!) pour the cream mixture in. I say slowly, as it will boil up at this point so please be careful!

    Now is your exciting chance to use your wooden spoon that I know you’ve been itching to get out! Stir in your vanilla and then cook for 5-10 minutes until you reach 120C on a candy thermometer. This is extremely hot (obvs!) so again, please be careful! As soon as it reaches 120C you need to pour it into a prepared pan – see what I mean about needing to be organised?

    Then you can pop it in the fridge to set, and await praise from your friends and family over your culinary delights!

    salted caramels 4

    Once they were cool, I wrapped my salted caramels up in parchment paper and then popped them in brown paper bags to give them a cute old-fashioned sweet feel. You could buy festive sweet wrappers and bags if you really wanted to go to town though!

    I hope that’s enticed you to try making salted caramels gifts for Christmas, or just for yourself!

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Salted Caramels

    Yield: 30 Caramels

    Edible Christmas Gifts: Salted Caramels

    Ingredients

    • 300g caster sugar
    • 60ml golden syrup
    • 120ml water
    • 225ml double cream
    • 75g unsalted butter
    • 2tsp sea salt flakes, plus more for sprinkling
    • 1/2tsp vanilla extract

    Instructions

  • Firstly, grease and line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with baking paper, then grease on top of the paper lightly. Make sure the baking paper drapes over at least two sides.
  • Then in a deep pan combine the sugar, golden syrup, 120ml water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel is a warm golden brown colour. Don’t stir – just swirl the pan every now and then to mix, being careful not to let it burn.
  • In the meantime, bring the cream, butter, and sea salt flakes just to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Then remove from the heat, and set aside to keep warm until needed.
  • When the caramelised sugar is the right colour, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel – be careful as it will boil up violently. Then stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and boil again over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 120C on a candy thermometer. As soon as its reached 120C very carefully pour the caramel into the prepared pan and place in the fridge until firm.
  • Once cooled and firm, cut the caramel into small rectangles and wrap in baking paper.
  • http://bakingwithaimee.com/2017/11/22/edible-christmas-gifts-salted-caramels/

    P.S. Apologies for the slightly sporadic posting! I’m currently moving flats which has taken over my life. Hopefully I’ll be back to Sunday posting soon 🙂