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Edible vegan Christmas cake decoration tutorial

Hallo lovelies,

Holly in pitcher
The hedgerows surrounding Honeybuns HQ here in Dorset are full to bursting with cheerfully coloured berries. The birds are having a field day and sage locals warn (with a touch of dark drama), “if branches are heavy with hips and berries it’s going to be a hard winter”. This past week, there’s definitely been a discernible drop in temperature and things are starting to feel increasingly festive. A hard winter does indeed seem to be knocking on our Dorset-ey door. I propose the best response is to pop a brew on and crack open the cake tin. Gluten free, naturally.

I got to wondering how we could use this gorgeous hedgerow bounty to best effect? We’re fond of decorating the Honeybuns office and team room with boughs of festive greenery. Could we look to decorating cakes for Christmas using the same idea? By using all natural leaves and berries we could create sustainable, fully compostable cake decorations  Sadly, after a little research it turns out that the gorgeous traditional Christmas favourites; holly, ivy and yew are all toxic.

I was chatting this through with my team mates in the office and we each came up with our own non toxic, edible suggestions: bay leaves, rosemary, glace cherries and star anise. So far, so rustic. I searched online and discovered some fabulous gluten free and vegan glitters to bring a bit of bling to the project.

The plan was to:

Step by step guide to making eco cake decorations from scratch

1. Assemble your bits and bobs:

- You need a cake to decorate. I baked a gorgeous gluten free Ginger Hippo cake (not vegan though) and the recipe is from our first Honeybuns baking book. You can bake either as a tray bake or use 2 x 20cm sandwich cake tins.

What ingredients do you need for the Ginger Hippo Cake? 

  • 175g butter, melted plus extra for brushing
  • 100g stem ginger in syrup (drained weight), finely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 175g Demerara sugar (or a sugar of your choice)
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 100g sorghum flour (tapioca, polenta or Doves farm (link) plain gluten free flour will all work well)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp gluten free baking powder

You will also need a tray bake tin measuring approx 30cm x 23cm x 4cm

Step by step guide on how to make your alternative Christmas cake

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C / Gas 4
  • Brush a tray bake tin with melted butter and dust with a gluten free flour
  • Pop all of your ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend well using an electric hand held mixer. You can mix using a wooden spoon - just whisk your eggs separately first and fold them in at the end
  • Spoon your mixture into your tray bake tin and smooth over with a spatula
  • Bake for 25-30 mins until the top is firm and springy. It doesn’t matter if it rises in the middle compared to the outer edges.
Traybake on craft paper with spoon

- For a vegan cake how about our vegan dark chocolate brownie? This works best as a tray bake. Alternatively feel free to cheat by buying one of our Dark Chocolate Brownies tray bakes online. Everything we do if gluten free and we have a decent choice of vegan cakes too.

vegan dark chocolate brownie traybake with knife

- I collected the following bits and bobs from the garden plus a couple of bits online: fresh rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, star anise, glace cherries. Happily no plastic in sight (apart from the cherry tub)

Buch of rosemary, laurel and bay

- The gluten free and vegan food safe glitters were all from the excellent The Cake Decorating Company. They have a great range of “Sugarflair” gluten free and vegan glitter sprays and lustre powders.

- I used: Sugarflair powder puff glitter dust in finishing sparkle. Plus Their lustre powder in edible gold. The pump dispensers are aerosol free and re-useable.

- I also used the rainbow dust range of glitters in holly green and rose

- You will also need: butchers string, scissors, cocktails sticks, sticky jam, a pastry brush (small one) and a cake board/plate or whatever you want to serve your cake on. To finish you’ll need icing sugar and suitable sieve/dredger.

2. Guide to making your own easy, eco friendly decorations.

- Place your unpackaged tray bake or round cake on your chosen platter. I popped my cake onto some lovely parchment paper.

- Decant your loose glitter powders into shallow bowls.

- Lay out a piece of clean baking paper.

- pop some jam in a shallow bowl.

- Brush jam around the perimeter of your cake - this will be the fixing glue for your natural decorations.

To make your red glittery berries: skewer one cherry at a time with a cocktail stick and dunk and roll in the red glitter. Lay each cherry on the baking paper.

For the green glittery holly leaves: place your single bay leaves, glossy side down into the jam. Shake any excess off. You just need to make them sticky enough for the glitter to stay on.

To make your gold stars: pop them upside down in jam and then dunk in the gold lustre powder.

Finally, to make your rosemary glittery: simply spray with finishing sparkle. For the little central rosemary bunch, simply tie a mini sprig of rosemary with butcher’s string.

Edible gluten free christmas cake decorations
Top Tips to making your eco decorated cake simply irrestible:

- If decorating a tray bake, start in the corners and create a cluster of: red glitter cherry x 1, green glitter leaves x 3 and gold star x 1. Fill in the space around the edge with sprigs of glitter rosemary

Edible cake decorations for christmas

- With a round cake pop the same arrangements at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock and fill in the rest of the edges with rosemary, as above.

- Gently dust the middle of the cake with icing sugar, taking care not to smother the edging decorations

- For your central decoration use your mini bouquet of rosemary, tied with string, plus a glitter cherry, leaves and star anise.

edible natural cake decorations arranged on a traybake

- For beautiful eco ribbon which is biodegradable try Kudos.

- You can also use rose leaves instead of bay leaves. They are non toxic.

- I’m not advocating eating the rosemary, bay leaves or star anise raw but they can always be rinsed off and used for cooking or pop them in the compost. The cherries are delicious!

edible cake decorations on a christmas cake with glitter

For more foodie fun, take a look at our blog for an easy and fun (plus gluten free of course) alternative to the traditional Christmas cake - this Christmas tree cake is a wonderful activity to do on a festive afternoon with the kids. 

Happy Baking,

Em x

Comment below and share what your favourite part of this recipe is! Be sure to share this recipe with a friend too! Thanks for reading!

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