It's the most wonderful time of the… baking year. The show-stopping event of our annual baking calendar has arrived. So you've made your cake in advance, you've lovingly fed it with brandy and it's time to prepare it for your family festivities. Whether you're looking for traditional decorations or a more modern finish this year, get ready to find inspiration.
I've been making my own Christmas cake for most of my adult life. It's a process steeped in family tradition. My mother used to make our cakes when I was a child and her recipe became a firm part of our Christmas celebrations. She handed it down to me in the form of a photo-copied recipe from a 1970s housekeeping magazine, complete with her hand written notes for when to add the brandy and which type of sugar she recommended.
Now I have a young family of my own, I still make her recipe each year. In fact I make two as I make enough for my wider family to eat as well – such is the popularity of my Mum's Christmas cake. When it comes to the decorating I'm something of a traditionalist – I usually opt for royal icing made with egg yolks and glycerin and then top it with a little Santa cake topper and a sprig of holly. But in a quest to mix things up I'm planning big things this year when the time comes.
No matter what recipe you are making, I hope the decoration ideas in this round-up come in handy for you. I've included a selection of my favourite simple Christmas cake decorating ideas alongside more complicated ones using fondant and buttercream. We've also got some great tutorials for other festive crafts if you're going all out handmade this year, from How to make a Christmas wreath to How to make a Christmas stocking.
Happy decorating, and Happy Christmas, everyone.
Main image © dfphotonz
Easy Christmas cake decorating ideas
1. Top it with foliage
Let's start with one close to my own heart – Domestic Gothess has got a delicious recipe for a Gingerbread Christmas Fruitcake and a super simple but stylish way to decorate it. This cake looks like it belongs in a fancy cake shop but in reality it's just covered in royal icing and topped with a rustic mix of sugared cranberries, herb leaves, dried orange slices and pine cones. Give it a go.
2. Opt for an easy colour boost
If you're ready to break away from the traditional snow-inspired white cake icing, why not switch it up and opt for red fondant, then add a fondant bow? This is a pretty simple icing idea to put into practise but it looks stunning. Learn how over at Yuppie Chef.
3. Gingerbread house cake
Love this super cute idea by Liv for cake. We especially enjoyed 3 things about this fun Christmas cake decorating idea – firstly the cake is covered in a base layer of cream cheese frosting (so a nice alternative if you're not a fan of royal icing), secondly those rosemary spring Christmas trees are so clever but easy, and thirdly this is one of the most honest baking tutorials we've ever seen – down to the bits that were challenging.
Want to try making your own mini gingerbread house to top your tree? You can get some great cookie cutters and kits online to get you started…
4. Top it with stars
Short of time? Gluten Free Alchemist has loads of great Christmas cake decorating ideas and tips on their website including this simple but effective star-topped cake. The stars themselves are made from fondant icing, rolled and cut out with star cookie cutters, then giving a sparkle boost with some edible glitter.
5. Decorate with Christmas lights
This bright and merry Christmas cake decoration idea from The Pink Whisk shared this simple but eye-catching deign – all you need is an edible ink pen and some fondant icing for the baubles. Kids will love it and it will taste pretty sweet too.
6. Add simple tree toppers
These super simple and speedy to make Christmas cake decorations involve cutting three trees from sugar paste and then decorating them with cake sprinkles. Children in the family will especially love helping you with this bit! Find the tutorial over at Good to Know.
Buttercream Christmas cake designs
7. Reindeer cake
Make a light-hearted cake for chocolate lovers this Christmas with this fun DIY from Love Crafts. With a chocolate buttercream coating and chocolate antlers, it's sure to be a family favourite.
8. Top it with a buttercream wreath
Cake by Courtney has this beautiful idea for topping your Christmas cake with a piped buttercream wreath – simply add some green food colouring before you get piping. This cake uses red chocolate peppermint candies for berries but you could also use red M&Ms or smarties.
9. Top it off with buttercream Christmas trees
We love this idea from Wilton for piping buttercream trees to make a frosted forest to top your cake. Finish with a scattering of sprinkles for a snowy effect.
10. Make buttercream holly leaves
Mix fondant red icing berries with piped buttercream holly leaves for this eye-catching but easy to recreate Christmas cake decoration idea from Cake by Courtney.
11. Decorate with buttercream Poinsettias
One of the more traditional Christmas cake ideas in this round-up, we love a festive Poinsettia and love this idea for piping your own from buttercream to create a wreath around the edge of circular Christmas cakes. Image and idea is from Cake Angel on Flickr.
12. Eggnog Buttercream Christmas tree cake
Yep, you heard us right. Get on over to Curly Girl Kitchen for this show-stopping recipe, but it's the stylish piped buttercream cake on the side that first caught our eye. What a neat idea
13. Make a Santa Christmas cake
Ho ho ho, ok this one is next level festive but if you love to go 100% Christmassy, and you're confident with a piping bag and batch of buttercream, then it could be the one for you. Get the tutorial over at Desserts 101.com.
Christmas cake decorating ideas with fondant
14. Snowflakes Christmas cake
It wouldn't be a Christmas cake round up without featuring an idea from the complete icons of domestic goddessery, Good Housekeeping. True to form they've got a beautiful cake decoration idea with fondant that won't take you hours and hours to master. This snowflake cake idea only needs two colours of fondant plus some edible glitter or sprinkles of your choice to make a really eye-catching cake.
Plus some snowflake cutters of course…
15. Knitted mittens Christmas cake
Roll out your fondant into thin strings and then shape them into knitted mittens to top off your Christmas cake! This is probably one of the more technical Christmas cake ideas int his round-up but with a bit of practise you can create the effect of knitting with your icing! Thnaks and image credit to cakesdecor.com for the idea – head over to their post for more pictures and inspiration for this cake.
16. Build your own fondant Frosty
Roll small balls of fondant icing into a pair of Snowman Friends with this cake decoration tutorial from BBC Good Food. They show you step by step how to make our own mini snowmen and how to decorate them. We are smitten with the super cute details of this idea – the snowman's buttons are cloves!!
Read more Coolest Homemade Star Wars Cake Ideas
17. Snowy santa
For a humerous take on your Christmas cake that kids will love – acupformycake.com has this fun idea for how to make a snowman in the snow cake. The cake itself is decorated with a snow-effect base of buttercream and coconut, then the Santa shapes are modelled out of fondant.
18. Holly wreath and baubles cake
Another traditional cake idea that's really effective – i make a taller, tiered Christmas cake, then decorate with fondant holly leaves and baubles hanging down the edges. Priya over at Decorated Treats shows you how to recreate this design in her detailed tutorial.
19. Christmas parcel cake
Wrap it with fondant gifts. Sandra Manger made this beautiful cake for Cake Decoration Heaven Magazine.
Awesome cake decorating ideas
Just throwing these in there for those of you who want to really go to town because they are the Christmas cake showstoppers of our dreams…
20. Make a shadow Christmas Eve cake
This absolutely beautiful Christmas cake idea from Great British Bake Off's Cathryn Dresser for BBC Good Food, involves cutting out silhouettes of Santa on his sleigh, then topping them onto a blue base layer to look like the night's sky. It will take a while to recreate but will be worth it for the wow-factor!
21. Make a Christmas tree stump cake
Valya's Taste of Home has this amazingly realistic tree stump cake tutorial – the bark around the edges is actually chocolate frosting made using Valya's recipe. One to give a go if you want to make a table centrepiece that your Christmas guests will love.
22. Elf jumper Christmas cake
Er yes we all need an elf-themed cake in our lives. This cake idea is the gift we all deserve after living through 2 years of a global pandemic. Find out how to make your own over at Delish.
23. Stained glass Nativity cake
There are a lot of Christmas cake ideas out there, and many involve snowflakes, trees, Christmas characters etc.. but there are surprisingly few traditional cakes which have a religious theme at their core. We love this idea from Cake Central both for it's nativity theme, and for the really unusual idea of creating a stained glass effect. You can do this by piping chocolate and then flooding the areas in between with coloured icing. Beautiful. Find more pictures for this cake idea over at cakecentral.com.
For more Christmas craft inspiration, check out our other round-ups for the holiday season – the best crochet decoration patterns, Christmas crafts for kids and how to make a fabric advent calendar.