Christmas Wreath Layer 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.
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 Layer Cake
Earl Grey Cake
6 earl grey teabags
6tbsp just-boiled water
160g unsalted butter
560g caster sugar
480g plain flour
2tbsp baking powder
400ml whole milk
4 large eggs
Earl Grey Cake Soak
250g caster sugar
2 earl grey teabags
4 small cinnamon sticks
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.
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