This year Santa might like something a little decadent than a plate of cookies. Or maybe you’d love to show up at a party with a super-glam desert. Or it could just be the time of year, but while you’ve got that stand mixer on the counter, you might as well whip up some buttercream frosting. So we asked Union Hill Studio Business Director Bernard S. and Hallmark Designer Kelly C. to grant us some new cake decorating knowledge. Now we’re equipped with amazing holiday cake ideas that you can use together or mix and match with other techniques. Read on to find out how to make fondant wreaths and add some serious sugar sparkle to the side of any cake.
HOLIDAY CAKE IDEAS: WHAT YOU’LL NEED
TWO CAKE LAYERS (USE YOUR FAVORITE RECIPE OR MIX)
BUTTERCREAM FROSTING (WE LIKE THIS RECIPE)
ROTATING CAKE STAND (OR LAZY SUSAN)
CAKE BOARD CIRCLES (IF YOU WANT TO BE ABLE TO MOVE YOUR CAKE FROM STAND TO PLATTER)
COARSE SANDING SUGAR
GREEN AND RED FONDANT
CLEAN EGG CARTON
HOLLY LEAF COOKIE CUTTER
ROUND PIPING TIP
How to make a fondant holly wreath
You’re going to want to let your fondant creations dry for at least about four hours—or ideally, overnight—so it’s a good idea to prep them first.
- To make the holly leaves, roll out green fondant to about 1/8″ thick. Use cookie cutters to stamp out leaves. For our 6″ cakes, we used about 36 leaves to make a wreath.
- To give the leaves a natural curve, drop them in an egg carton to dry.
- For the berries, roll out the red fondant. Use a small round piping tip to cut out little circles, and let them dry in the egg carton. If you’d rather, you can roll tiny pieces of fondant into balls.
- You’ll cut the ribbon for the wreath in pieces, each about 3/4″ wide. You’ll need two strips of red fondant to make the loops, two for the tails, and one shorter one for the knot. Use the egg carton to help shape each piece for drying.
Pro tips for making holly leaves
- Knead a little bit of white or light green fondant into the green to make variegated leaves.
- Use a knife to cut veins in the leaves before you let them dry.
- Or mix some green petal dust or luster dust with a teeny bit of vodka, and use it to paint the veins.
- Try different colors for a modern look, like the white leaves near the bottom of this post.
How to frost a layer cake
Follow Bernard’s instructions and tips in this post to torte and crumb-coat your cake. Then use the offset spatula to cover the top and sides of the cake with a smooth layer of buttercream frosting.
After you’ve added the top layer of frosting, you’ll want to get right to adding the sugar before a crust forms.
How to add sugar to the sides of a layer cake
This is one of those gorgeous techniques that seems much more complicated than it really is. Here’s the best way to do it:
- Be sure to use coarse sanding sugar. (You can also try this technique with jimmies and nonpareils.)
- Pour your sugar on a paper plate.
- Cut a piece of wax paper about 4″ wide and as tall as your layer cake.
- Lightly spray one side of the wax paper with cooking spray.
- Place the spray-side of the wax paper down into the sugar on the paper plate to cover it.
- With the sugar facing the cake, hold the wax paper in place. Press it gently into the frosting. We got the best results by pressing against the bottom and smoothing it up.
- Repeat until your entire cake is covered.
- You can fill in spots by scooping sugar against the cake with your fingers.
- If you’d like to cover the top of the cake, you can simply sprinkle the sugar until you get the coverage you want.
How to add the wreath to the cake
After the fondant has had four hours (or more!) to dry, you’ll be ready to add your wreath.
- Start with the bow. Add the loops and the tails, then cover the place where the ends meet with the knot.
- Add the holly leaves in a circle around the edge of the cake.
- Drop or place the berries among the leaves.
Pro tips for placing your leaves and berries
- For more precise placement, lay out your fondant on a cardboard cake circle. Or trace the cake pan on wax paper and decide where everything goes.
- Or you can start by placing a few leaves at equal distances around the cake. Then continue to add more, going evenly around the edge.
- You can free style it, too. Who says it even has to be a wreath?
(We love this bunch of white leaves—and how beautifully simple they look with the silver sugar.)
Don’t forget to check out our other cake decorating post for tips. (The watercolor ombré technique is beautiful using a wintry mix of blues. Here’s an Easter version for inspo.) We’ve got cake topper ideas, too.
Photography by Briana Bosworth.