Here are six festive Christmas cake designs to make your season jolly and bright! I’ll show you step by step how to decorate each of these without fancy tools so anyone can make these.
For all of these designs I recommend letting the frosting set before decorating. I put these cakes in the freezer for 15 minutes, until the frosting was firm. If you prefer you can put them in the fridge for an hour.
Christmas Tree Cake
For this first Christmas cake design we'll pipe an easy Christmas tree. Use a star shaped piping tip like a 1M to pipe a tree trunk with brown frosting. I'm using my 4 Minute Buttercream for all of these Christmas cake designs. Then outline a triangle with a toothpick to guide you for the rest of the tree.
Now use green frosting with an open star tip like this #199. Start at the bottom of the tree, squeezing the piping bag to make the frosting bulge out into a dot. Then pull away as you release your pressure on the bag to make these little wave shapes.
After each row, move up to pipe another row, piping in the gap between the two waves below. Overlap the tips of the waves from the previous row to cover them up.
Straight away, while the green frosting is still soft and sticky, push sprinkles into the tree to decorate it. Super simple but very Christmassy!
I teach everything about piping in my online course, The Basics of Buttercream. If you’re struggling with buttercream consistency, how to use piping bags, getting smooth frosting and sharp edges on cakes, or how to colour and flavour buttercream, the course will help you perfect your buttercream skills.
By making your own stencil you cake make a very easy reindeer. Draw a simple outline onto parchment paper or trace a picture if you prefer. Cut it out, leaving the rest of the parchment intact to use as a stencil.
Press the stencil onto a cake after chilling the cake to set the frosting. Spread light brown frosting on top, peel the stencil off and voila! You can tidy up any smudges with a toothpick.
This cake has been in the freezer for 30 minutes so the frosting has set and it’s firm. That way it won’t be damaged by the pressure of the parchment paper on it. Using parchment paper is a cheap and easy way to make your own stencils like this reindeer.
Now use darker brown frosting to pipe antlers and two eyes. This is a small #3 round tip. You can use the same tip or a slightly larger round tip with red frosting to pipe the nose. Then use a toothpick to score the lines for a smiling mouth.
To make this more festive, pipe a black squiggle all around the cake. This will be a string of Christmas lights. I looped mine around a few times to fill in the available space around the reindeer. Pipe little black dots along it which will be the base of the coloured lights.
For the lights, squeeze the piping bag while holding the tip still for a moment. That makes a bulge at the base of the light. As you pull the tip away, stop squeezing the bag and that makes a neat point at the tip of each light.
I used the same small round piping tip for the lights as I did for the eyes, nose and antlers. Check out my tutorial on couplers to learn how to pipe quickly with lots of colours AND three other reasons to use couplers!
This design is so cute and colourful!
Christmas Present Cake
For one of the quickest Christmas cake designs, turn a cake into a present in less than a minute! You’ll need a petal piping tip like a #125 or #104. Squeeze the piping bag and pull the tip slowly up the side of the cake. Pull it over the top edge and pipe across to the middle of the cake.
I have super shaky hands so I find it easiest to rest the edge of the tip against the frosting. This holds the tip steady and it's the reason I chill cakes before decorating. By chilling the cake, the frosting gets firm and I won’t damage it with the piping tip.
You can use a toothpick to smooth the frosting if it’s uneven anywhere. Do this straight away, before this frosting sets. Now use the same piping tip with the narrow part pointing upwards to make a bow. Squeeze the bag and pipe a loop that joins in the center of the cake. Then pipe another loop to meet it.
Keep the narrow part of the teardrop shape of the piping tip pointing up and pipe two squiggly lines for the ribbons of the bow.
Going back to a trusty toothpick, you can manipulate the bow to make it wider or tidy up any messy parts. I love how quick and simple this design is!
Now for a wintery design with a sparkly snowflake. Hold a piece of parchment paper over the cake and mark the edges of the cake on it. Now you know how much space you have to work with.
Draw a simple snowflake within those markings. You can trace a picture instead if you like, but something fairly simple works best for this. Cut the snowflake out to leave the rest of the parchment intact to use as a stencil.
Place the stencil on a cake after the frosting has set and spread more frosting on top. Use back and forth circular motions so that you don’t pull the parchment up with your offset spatula. Scrape off the excess frosting to flatten and smooth it.
Then peel the parchment off to leave a snowflake outline behind. Optionally, pour sprinkles into a bowl to decorate the snowflake. Nonpareils work best, or hundreds and thousands as they’re called in the UK. Pour a bit of water into another bowl and dip your finger into the water. Tap off the excess and then press it into the sprinkles and the sprinkles will stick to your finger.
Then push your finger gently into the snowflake and the sprinkles will stick to the frosting. Even after chilling the cake, the sprinkles may still stick to the frosting if condensation has formed. (For help with this, check out my tutorial on everything you need to know about condensation!) So after pressing the sprinkles onto the snowflake, use a toothpick or a paintbrush to nudge the sprinkles onto the stenciled frosting. This makes a neat, sparkly snowflake!
You can add a border if you like, like I’m doing with this open star tip. I'm using the same technique as I did for the Christmas tree, squeezing the piping bag while holding it still to allow the frosting to bulge out and then as you pull the bag away, stop squeezing to leave a little tail. You’ll overlap the tail with the next dot.
Poinsettias are gorgeous red Christmas flowers and you can make them with buttercream frosting. You’ll need a leaf tip for this like a #352. Hold the tip so that it looks like an open Pacman mouth, with the two points above each other.
Squeeze the piping bag and wiggle it from side to side and up and down to make a ruffled leaf. Pipe a few of these around the outer edge of the cake.
Then switch the tip to a piping bag with red frosting to pipe the petals of the flower, making a ring of them to overlap the leaves you piped. The petals will look really long and skinny at this point but you’re going to cover the bases up in a minute.
Pipe another ring of petals inside the first ring, overlapping the first ring of petals. If there are any gaps in the flower you can add more petals to fill those in. For the middle of the flower, pipe a few yellow dots using a small round tip.
You can make these flowers much smaller if you want to pipe several of them onto the cake instead of one large one, which in hindsight I think would have looked even prettier.
Christmas Cake Designs with Messages
Writing on cakes can be tricky but here are two easy ways to make lettering neat. First, layer your letters. Choose two star shaped tips, one wider than the other. This is a #32 on the left and a #199 on the right.
I like to outline my word with toothpick first, to check that it fits. Start with your larger tip and write your word. The smaller your cake is, the smaller your piping tips will need to be so that the letters aren’t so thick and close together that they’re impossible to read. Now switch to your smaller tip and a different colour and pipe over the top of these letters.
Cursive is a great option for lettering because it’s very forgiving. By layering the letters you’re creating more texture and colour and detail.
Using an '&' instead of writing out the letters is a quicker and way to write the word 'and'. It looks fancier, too!
The second easy way to write neatly on cakes is to use dots instead of lines. Again, you can outline the letters with a toothpick first if you like. I like to start with the first and last letter and work my way to the middle. This makes spacing them easier because you can make the final letter, the one in the middle, as wide or narrow as necessary to fill in the space that’s left.
If your hands are shaky it’s much easier to pipe neat dots than neat lines!