Holly Jolly Christmas Cake

Serves 24
For the sponge:
525g unsalted butter, at room temperature
525g caster sugar
9 eggs
525g self-raising flour
4½ tsp baking powder
120g Cocoa powder
180ml boiling water
2 orange, zest

For the orange syrup:
2 orange, zest and juice
3 tbsp triple sec, (orange-flavoured liqueur)

For the buttercream:
1.2kg icing sugar
45g Cocoa powder
375g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 orange, zest and juice
5 tbsp triple sec

To decorate:
2kg ready-to-roll red icing
1kg ready-to-roll white icing
500g ready-to-roll green icing
Assorted ready-to-roll icing, in pink, blue and yellow
Edible ball sprinkles

1 Preheat the oven to 180˚C/160˚C fan/gas mark 4. Grease the bottom and sides of two 15cm and two 25cm tins and line with parchment paper.

2 Beat the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Slowly stream in the eggs, mixing between each addition. Sieve in the flour and baking powder, folding until just incorporated.

3 In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, boiling water and orange zest. Stir into the butter mixture until just combined.

4 Divide the batter evenly among the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Leave to cool completely.

5 Combine the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the sponges with the syrup; this will add to the flavour and keep the cakes moist.

6 For the buttercream, sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Beat in the butter and orange zest until smooth. Stir in the orange juice and triple sec until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

7 Place one of the 25cm cakes onto a cake board; use a teaspoon of buttercream on the board to help the cake stick.

8 Spread over some of the buttercream and add the next 25cm sponge on top. Using a palette knife or offset spatula spread the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake, making sure to fill in any gaps. There will be crumbs in the icing, so place the cake into the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

9 Once set, spread over more buttercream to cover any crumbs. Refrigerate the cake until set.

10 Repeat Steps 8 and 9 for the smaller cakes, placing them on a 15cm cake board.

11 Cover each of the tiers with ready-to-roll fondant, trimming to fit (see step-by-step guide on p.62-63).

12 Use wooden or plastic dowels (available from a baking supply shop); you’ll need these to support the top tier. Insert a dowel straight into the large cake, taking care to go right down to the cake board. Use a knife to mark the exact height at the top of the cake, then carefully pull dowel back out. Cut the dowel to the correct length, then cut three more dowels using the first a guide. Insert the dowels into the large cake, spacing them evenly apart and underneath where the smaller tier will rest.

13 Rest the top tier over the bottom tier.

To decorate the cake:

  1. Smooth buttercream to have a smooth base.
  2. Knead fondant until elastic.
  3. Roll fondant for both cakes on a dusted surface, working quickly to stop it from dying out.
  4. Lift fondant and drop onto the cake.
  5. Smooth fondant around the top edge first, stretch and pull the fondant around the edges until all the sides are smooth.
  6. Use a cake smoother to smooth the rest of the cake.
  7. Cut off the excess fondant around the bottom edge.
  8. Insert dowels in the bottom tier and cut them so they are level with the cake and evenly spaced.
  9. Place the 6” cake on top of the dowels.
  10. For the boarder, roll out two sausages of red and white fondant. Twist the two sausages together to form a rope.
  11. Stick the ropes onto the bottom edge of the cake using a small bit of water.
  12. Roll out white fondant on a dusted surface and cut our various sizes of snowflakes. Stick on the snowflakes onto the bottom tier spacing them apart.
  13. Roll out some white fondant and cut around the edges to make an uneven round. Stick to the top tier to resemble a blanket of snow.
  14. Roll out some red fondant and cut out a circle. Stick to the top tier in the middle to resemble a rug.
  15. Using a toothpick, stick the Christmas tree (see below for step-by-step) down into the middle of the red circle. Top with a fondant yellow star.
  16. Cut out sprigs of green holly from extra green fondant to stick to the sides of the 6” cake.
  17. Stick the presents (see below for step-by-step) on either side of the tree.

To make the tree:

  1. Roll five different sized balls of green fondant. Flatten four of the balls and make the final one into a pointy triangle.
  2. Stack each layer, topping it with the pointed piece.
  3. Using a knife, stagger cuts into the sides of the tree.
  4. Stick edible ball sprinkles into the tree for the decorations.
  5. Using a knife cut a small line in the top of the tree.
  6. Stick a small star on top.

To make the presents:

  1. Roll out a small ball of white fondant. Pat all sides flat to make it into a square.
  2. Roll out three small sausages of coloured fondant and stick two of them in a cross form for the ribbon onto the square.
  3. Cut the last piece in half, make each into a small loop and stick them to the top to make a bow.
  4. Repeat using various colours for the string.