3 Easy Christmas Cakes Icing Tutorials

Christmas cake iced with tree and snowflakesEvery year, starting around the end of October, my kitchen smells of Christmas cake. I bake 4 big ones, cut them up into different sized cakes, ice and decorate them, let them dry out, then send them off to brave the Royal Mail to reach relatives. So at any one time in November and early December you’ll find a glass dish full of dried fruit steeping in brandy, foiled-wrapped cakes occasionally being ‘fed’ with more brandy, and chopping boards laden with little cakes in various stages of sugar-covering, all hiding underneath a protective ceiling of foil. Oooooo, the smell is delicious!

1-xmas-cake-present11-hat-tutorialEvery year I do it and every year I mutter darkly that this’ll be the last year. But truth be told, I really enjoy making Christmas presents that I know will be eaten and not add to a mountain of plastic or clutter; I love thinking about the recipient as I finish off each cake. I know I’m not that great a cake-maker, but I think my relatives know that I make each cake with a lot of love. The trouble with me, though, is that I always leave the decorating to the last minute, so inevitably start applying royal icing before I’ve any clear idea of what I’m going to do. Trust me, inspiration rarely strikes at the right time…

This year, though, I had the foresight to look through Pinterest for ideas before I got out the marzipan. I thought I’d share my take on the ideas with you and tips on how I did them in case you’re tearing your hair out icing 9 cakes, too.

1. Tutorial to Ice a Knitted Hat Cake

Christmas Cake with Mittens by Alina Vaganova

Christmas Cake with Mittens by Alina Vaganova

I thought these little mittens on a cake looked sweet, but I’d no time to make intricate little decorations: a big hat would fit my timescale better. Here’s how I did it:

Start with your fruit cake iced already. I put a layer of marzipan and a layer of ready-to-roll icing on top of mine because I wanted to be able to smooth out the edges. If I had time (and the skills!) I’d have applied a layer of royal icing and left it to dry.

The knitted hat decoration is just coloured fondant icing. You can make your own or buy it ready-coloured and ready to roll.



Knead the coloured icing really well until it’s soft and pliable.

Take 2 golf-ball sized chunks of it and roll them into long sausages.

Twist them together into a long twirl.

Take another 2 chunks of icing and repeat, except this time twist the sausages in the other direction.

Lay the 2 twirls side by side, on a piece of baking parchment or a silicone mat. Pat them up close together until the twists match up.






5-hat-tutorialCut the pairs of twists to the length you want, then lay the off-cuts alongside. Cut a hat-shape out of the twists.


Take some white fondant icing and form it into a fat sausage, which will become the brim, and a round ball, which will become the pompom. Cut the ball in half so that you have a nice flat surface to stick to the cake.

Brush the top of your cake lightly with some cooled, boiled water. Then carefully, using a fish slice or spatula, slide the hat onto your cake. Gently pat it to shape. Put the brim at the base, covering the ends of the hat, and place the pompom half at the top. Make sure the flat side was well-moistened with water to help it stick. Either leave the white icing as it is, or mark it in some kind of texture – I pricked mine all over with a toothpick to make a vaguely furry texture because I’d no other bright ideas. (Please add a comment with your ideas so I can do a better job next year!)

9-hat-tutorialFinally, I added a little fondant icing snowflake I’d stamped out. Do this at the last minute so that it’s pliable – if you leave the snowflakes to dry out, they’ll crumble when you press them into the hat.

Leave the icing to harden for a few days before you try to post the cake.

2. Tutorial to Make a Christmas Tree Cake

The Pink Whisk's Stars and Sparkle Christmas cake

The Pink Whisk’s Stars and Sparkle Christmas cake

I was inspired by this beautifully-decorated cake from The Pink Whisk. I’ve linked to their very comprehensive instructions on how to ice and decorate a cake. If you’ve got the time, please go there – if not, then here’s how I did a much-less perfect variation:

Again, start with a fruit cake that’s already iced. I used a layer of marzipan and a layer of white ready-to-roll icing, the same as the knitted hat cake above.

Take a good chunk of coloured fondant icing and knead it until it’s very pliable and soft. Roll it out till it’s around 5mm thick. Cut it to size and shape. Lightly moisten the white icing with some cooled, boiled water, then place the coloured icing on top  (My blue icing was originally a beautiful square, but I have to tell you that I was a bit slapdash about taking it off the rolling mat and putting it on the cake – it stretched. I’d no more blue icing and it stuck a bit too well to the white icing, so I just left it and covered up the wonky edges with snowflakes).

2-xmas-cake-treeNow gently scatter whatever decorations you want on top. Get them into the places you like, using cold clean fingers (!) or the end of a paintbrush or even tweezers, then gently press them into the coloured icing. When they’re pretty well secured, use a rolling pin to gently roll over the top into a more level layer and press the decorations in even more. I used tiny white chocolate stars and some sugar stars in my Christmas tree.

Cover the edges of the coloured icing with whatever you have to hand – I stamped out some snowflakes from more of the white fondant icing. If I’d had more time, some silver balls would have looked great, or best of all, some piped swirls. Aye, maybe next year!

3. Tutorial to Ice a Present Cake

sorry, I don't know whose cake this is - I found it at www.dorafashionspace.com

sorry, I don’t know whose cake this is – I found it at http://www.dorafashionspace.com

I think the present cake is easiest of all. There are so many beautiful pictures all over Pinterest, and this one inspired me.

I covered a fruit cake with a layer of marzipan and let it dry. Then I rolled out some white fondant ready to roll icing, brushed the marzipan with cooled, boiled water and placed the icing on top. I smoothed the top and bottom edges in tightly to the cake. Then I folded the side edges in like I would with wrapping paper. What an easy way to finish off the icing – no smoothing or cutting!

Christmas cake iced like a present side viewI gently pressed in lots of little sugar balls. In hindsight I think it would have looked better with a random pattern, and making a pattern took a lot of time. But hey-ho!

I took a big chunk of pink fondant icing and kneaded it till it was soft and pliable. I rolled it out, then used a pastry cutter to cut it into strips. I brushed each strip with water, then stuck them to the top of the cake in a cross shape. I made a bow out of some strips and stuck that to the top.

Christmas cake iced like a present front viewAgain, I left the icing to harden for a few days before trusting the cake to the Royal Mail.


I’ve yet to ice our own family Christmas cake. I think I’ll leave that one for the minxes to do!

Day 1

First night of Elf fun, and we managed to avoid all smuttiness (I wonder how long that’ll last…?)

I’ve also challenged The Boss to make at least one film reference, no matter how tenuous, every night. He’s gone to bed muttering to himself. I think that’s the challenge accepted, then. Game on!

Major Kong

Major Kong

Edbie the Elf

Edbie the Elf

There’s a New Elf in Town

It’s December 1, which in Garrison Trout means only one thing: the arrival of the Elf (or Elves).

I think we’d absolutely run Edward and Edwin and Barbie to the end of all reason. Besides, Edwin’s bell jingle was getting harder to hide, and Edward’s stuffing was falling out. Time for a new elf! Now you know why we introduced the new baby half-elf at the end of last year – it was in preparation for retiring the old ones (and giving me and The Boss a chance to rerun old tricks).

So: here’s what the minxes woke up to this morning:

The DVD is their much-wanted Secret Life of Pets and the letter is, of course, from Santa:


So now you know as much as the minxes do! Minxes being minxes, they’ve all agreed that ‘of course’, Edbie is a boy, Edward and Barbie are the parents, and that he is very sweet, really. I overheard Midi talking to him while she was getting dressed this morning: “You need to get up to all kinds of naughtiness, Edbie”, she said.

“What was that, Midi?” I asked.

“Nothing, Mummy, I was just telling Edbie that he was to be good while we’re at school and that we’ll find his Mum for him”, she smiled brightly, thinking she’s fooled her auld mammy.


Return of the Elves: Dec 1 – 5

Are we going to do our usual modified Elf on the Shelf this year? Was there really any doubt? Edwinn and Edward arrived late on the afternoon of Dec 1, tucked in a shoebox with a letter from Santa, right beside where the minxes had to stand to turn on the outdoor Christmas lights on the way back from school.

For once this year, The Boss and I know where we’re going with this story. I’m not letting on – just watch and see…










Dec 4: I think shes forgiven him - Movie Night it is, then

Dec 4: I think shes forgiven him – Movie Night it is, then





Edwinn and Edward’s Trout Tour 2014: Halfway there

We’re halfway through this year’s visit from the elves and inevitably, we’re starting to see tensions building between Edward and Edwinn. Edward’s got previous bad form with Barbie, and again and again. Only this year, he appears to be having more and more fun with New Barbie (as opposed to Old Tatty Barbie). And tonight I think OT Barbie has spotted him with N Barbie. Or rather, Edwinn grassed him up. Oh-oh… I predict fireworks. As an aside, can you tell that this week I’ve wanted the minxes to eat boiled eggs for breakfast, and take bananas and oranges to school for snack? It worked too. There’s no wilier minx than an old minx 😉

The 2013 Arrival of Edward and Edwinn Elf

Edwinn: butter wouldn't melt...

Edwinn: butter wouldn’t melt…

I’ve spent the last few months distracting the kids from last year’s visit of Edward the Elf by: writing a letter to Santa asking him not to send us an elf this year; bad-mouthing how naughty he’d been all month; and exclaiming, “Oh, I hope he doesn’t come back!” In reality I’ve been crocheting another elf to visit this year alongside Edward, and getting just as excited as the minxes.

The day before the elves arrived, the whole family Trout plus in-laws were out walking in some local woods. One of the trees has a brilliant hollow that looks just like a fairy door. I spun a quick tale about it being the treehouse of a cousin of Edward’s – Edwinn –

Fairy Door?

Fairy Door?

and that the minxes would have to keep quiet in case Edward happened to be visiting and heard them, and decided to follow us home. As I’d hoped, the minxes yacked loudly and excitedly instead.

December 1st came. My in-laws gave the girls an advent calendar each, and gamely helped them unpack and hang up all the Christmas decorations. While they did that, I furtively plonked the 2 elves, a chocolate orange and box of bittermints in a plant-pot, alongside a letter from Santa introducing Edwinn: elf shelf letter 2013 2. Our house has lots of really old bells that link to the outside bell, so it was easy to nip upstairs and ring the bell for the girls to answer without giving the game away. Three overjoyed little minxes jumped up and down excitedly when they found the elves, whilst I successfully feigned frustration and grumpiness.

Mwahahahaha, let the fun commence!

Edward The Elf Part 1

I first heard about the American Elf on a Shelf tradition this year.  In a nutshell: you buy an expensive doll, register it online, then spend Advent threatening your kids that the elf is grassing them up to Santa, and every evening posing the elf in increasingly imaginative hiding / posing places.  Apparently it’s very popular.  Although there’s a lot about that tradition that I personally don’t like, I felt that there were a few things that I’d like to incorporate in our Christmas for this year and this year only.

What kicked it off? Well, it occurred to me that now Maxi Minx is 6, it’s possible that this Christmas will be our last where all 3 girls whole-heartedly believe that Santa Claus is rewarding their good behaviour with presents; when Christmas is still utterly magical and mystical to them.  Based on me and my siblings, we learned and understood the awful truth about Santa sometime between the ages of 5 and 8.  Although I know that Maxi will be happy to join the team and promote Santa’s magic to her little sisters, I want to prolong the innocence and downright fun of all their childhoods as long as I can.

So… we’ve been using the free PNP (Portable North Pole) service for 3 (4?) years, now – you upload details and photos of your child and ‘Santa’ emails them a personal, fun video.  Me and The Boss absolutely love watching the girls’ expressions and reactions when they get their video at the beginning of December, after they’ve written their letters to Santa.  It’s been the same actor all this time, so Maxi and Midi absolutely, categorically believe that THIS is Santa.  The annual video message from Santa makes Maxi’s eyes sparkle like no other event.

This year I felt that I wanted something a bit more long-lasting than that 3 or 4 minute message; something that would keep that magic at home with us.  I thought that an adaptation of the Elf on a Shelf tradition might work.  A fortnight in, I have to say that it’s been a bigger success than I’d hoped.  Here’s what I did:

Edward the Elf

Edward the Elf

I want this to be a one-off, so decided to knit a little elf, rather than buy one or make a huge fancy one.  I wanted to make it myself, knitting every stitch full of love for my daughters.  This free Tiny Elf knitting pattern from Spud fitted the bill.  Then I wrote a letter from Santa to the girls.  It would have been easy to fill it full of warnings and threats about bad behaviour consequences, but do you know what?  My wee minxes are good little girls; they frequently show each other lots of care and love.  What a brilliant opportunity to acknowledge that!  So Santa introduced Edward to them as an elf who worked on the chocolate orange factory line who wasn’t getting along with the other little elves.  Santa wanted Edward to learn by watching my minxes in action to see how well they got along together (none of them spotted the throwaway line that he’d also be telling Santa how they were behaving).

On Sat 1 Dec, while everyone was busy helping The Boss make pancakes for breakfast, I sneaked Edward to the front door, holding the letter, and let the girls find him.  Maxi read out the letter to her sisters.  Mini just chuckled and wanted to waggle his bell; Midi’s eyes got rounder and rounder.  They were instantly convinced that he’d come from Santa.  Hehehehe!

From that night, he got up to little pranks.  Within a few days he’d transformed mornings in our house – instead of having to haul the girls out of bed, they wanted to immediately bound downstairs to see what Edward had been up to.  Even better, they wanted to gather together as a trio to go see, together.  It’s been working better than an Advent calendar!

Dec 2: he was obviously missing his chocolate oranges, because he was found with his nose buried in oranges

Dec 2: he was obviously missing his chocolate oranges, because he was found with his nose buried in oranges

Dec 3: making snow angels in the flour

Dec 3: making snow angels in the flour

Dec 4: spelling his name out in sultanas

Dec 4: spelling his name out in sultanas

Dec 5: Santa sent a chocolate orange and a letter of praise to the girls

Dec 5: Santa sent a chocolate orange and a letter of praise to the girls

Dec 6: getting to know the other toys

Dec 6: getting to know the other toys

Dec 7: hiding in the wreath

Dec 7: hiding in the wreath

Dec 8: re-decorating the tree then hiding under the star

Dec 8: re-decorating the tree then hiding under the star

Dec 9: what the kids think happened (the trail of flour leads to the fridge, with a big jug of pancake batter inside)

Dec 9: what the kids think happened (the trail of flour leads to the fridge, with a big jug of pancake batter inside)

Dec 9: what actually happened..!

Dec 9: what actually happened..!

Dec 10: fun with soap

Dec 10: fun with soap

Dec 11: getting to know (!) the doll's house doll. Watched by a pair of smiling OAPs...

Dec 11: getting to know (!) the doll’s house doll. Watched by a pair of smiling OAPs…

Dec 12: more toilet roll fun

Dec 12: more toilet roll fun

Dec 13: a letter from Santa congratulating them on their gymnastics competition and some special good-sister efforts. A new leotard for Maxi and Midi, and paints for Mini

Dec 13: a letter from Santa congratulating them on their gymnastics competition and some special good-sister efforts. A new leotard for Maxi and Midi, and paints for Mini


I’m 41.  I have 6 siblings and 3 daughters.  I have sat through as many nativity plays as some teachers.  Don’t tell anyone, shhhhh, but they make me cry the more I see!

Maxi and Midi Minx took part in theirs today.  Midi was typical Midi and made me laugh and cry in the same breath.  Dressed as a star, with her wispy white-blonde hair framing that angelic little face, she looked so sweet and full of the wonder of Christmas.  My inner scold reprimanded me: “You take those children for granted!  They’ll not be young for long!  This might be the last year they’re all so innocent and believe in Santa Claus!” (sometimes I wish the narky auld witch would just bog off or shut up…).  As I stifled a little gasp at the sight of my 2nd baby confidently smiling at the audience, she picked up the wand one of her fellow-stars had dropped and, for all the world like a Mother Hen, gave it back, then shepherded her friend away from the edge, then gathered them all into a little skipping circle.  She’s the youngest child in the school (9 days younger and she’d have been in the following school year instead) but she looks after her school-friends like she’s their older sister.

Maxi, meanwhile, confidently spoke her narrative piece.  For an anxious little girl, she does relish a good audience!  And to the right of the stage, wrapped up in a white blanket, was the Little Baby Jesus, aka Mini’s baby Annabel doll, complete with blue biro-scribbled cheeks.

The children then sang Away in a Manger.  It’s not my absolute favourite carol, but it’s near the top.  However, I can’t listen to or sing the third verse without croaking or crying (I blubbed at our village’s Christmas Lights Turn-On when we sang it, but luckily it was in the dark..!).  I’m not sure why it seems to be getting to me more this year more than most.  It’s not that I’ve known of more little children and babies dying or becoming seriously ill this year than in other years (or maybe it is – the number is far, far too many); maybe it’s just all associated with my inner nark’s chant about the transience of childlike innocence, and how bitterly short some precious little lives are.

Seizing a brief moment of crunchy fun at the pink start to another day.

Seizing a brief moment of crunchy fun at the pink start to another day.  See?  I do pay attention to the Inner Nark sometimes.

Christmas! (Yeah I know it’s 27 Jan)

So how was our Christmas? Really lovely, actually.

Maxi Minx out-did herself this year: she was up at 1155hrs, 0300hrs, 0510hrs and 0645hrs. I got my own back: at 0800hrs I insisted it was still the middle of the night and that we’d wait till Daddy got me coffee and them milk before we woke their sister and got up anyway. A tiny lie-in at Christmas! Bet it’s my last 🙂

So, 1155hrs: yeah, me and The Boss nearly got rumbled putting out ‘Santa’s’ presents. Unlike last year’s chaos at 0330hrs, this year we were very organised, and finished wrapping and sorting and arranging presents on the appropriate spots on the sofa by 2230hrs. We settled back for a leisurely drink or 10, then started to think about bed around 2330hrs. I was downstairs making toast (spicy rum and cokes give me the munchies something awful) when I heard the pitter-patter of tiny jackboots. Surely that was a tipsy Boss rather than a minx? I popped my head out to see Maxi Minx stood in front of her presents. Oh crap… I grabbed her shoulders and ushered her straight upstairs. She looked very glaikit, so I did some fast double-talk: it was 5 till midnight; me and her Daddy had just finished putting out wrapped presents from relatives, ready for Santa to leave his unwrapped ones; what had she seen, anyway? That rocked her – she wasn’t sure whether she’d seen a filled stocking or not, and maybe she should have checked if he’d eaten his mince-pies. Ahhhh, I explained, maybe she’d interrupted Santa mid-present deliver? I know – go to sleep, I’ll go to the kitchen and put some clothes washes on, and he might finishe delivering presents. She was happy with that – result! It maybe helped that I marched down the stairs, whispering: “Santa! Stay there! I’m not coming in to the living room – I’m going straight to the kitchen. Crack on, as you were! Thank you!”

So, although Maxi came into my bed and chattered non-stop all night, except when she was joined in thumping my side by Midi, at least we didn’t get up till after 0800hrs. Poor Mini had to be woken! Why so? Well, every time Maxi asked if it was morning, I said, “Not yet! But it will be soon. I can’t wait, can you?” and I’d have a minute or 2 more sleep while she chatted to herself. The Boss even had time to bring me a coffee in bed, and the girls some milk. So we all scampered downstairs about 0815, tanks full of caffeine and milk. Much more civilised start to the day than most Christmases!

Everyone gets a tangerine in the toe of their stocking, don’t they? Well, me and The Boss did, so we’ve continued with that tradition. We thought our girls would be like we were, leaving it mouldering at the bottom of the pile of presents, too. We didn’t count on a baby girl who loves citrus fruit to the point of addiction. Mini squealed in delight at seeing her tangerine, troughed it before touching any of her chocolate, and had to be prevented from demolishing her sisters’ fruit.

Child Asleep

Midi pretending that she's not grabbing a cheeky wee 40 winks

It’s hard to pick out top presents, but Maxi was beside herself with joy at her real ice-cream maker. First ice cream made – banana ice cream. Bleurgh! But she loved it. We all She loved her Paperjamz guitar, pulling the most outrageous poses and declaring it better than a real guitar. Midi literally jumped up and down with joy at her new buggy, which has a few recline positions, a hood and a big basket. She’s only stopped wheeling it around long enough to pretend to hoover with the toy Dyson her grandparents got her (it’s a great sized-down model), or nip about in her surgeon’s dressing up kit, ministering to her sick dollies. ( at the thought of Midi as a real-life surgeon…) Mini loves all the toys: hers, Midi’s and Maxi’s. She’s got more fluffy, frilly ballet tutus to wear over her clothes, and she picked out twin ‘babies’ with her Christmas money herself, on 27th.

The Boss surprised me yet again with a fantastic present: a little telescope! I’m a not-so-secret geek and as a kid wanted a real telescope more than anything. But I never got one. As an adult I still skywatch a lot, but with my (now rapidly ageing) Mk 1 eyeballs. So by Christmas night I was as happy as a happy thing having picked out Jupiter and gazed at a big swathe of Milky Way in a real telescope. I’ve still not seen the moon with it – combination of being too busy organising Rainbow Knits sales or the kids on the few nights that the moon’s been visible. Och well – soon!

Christmas dinner was a late lunch of exceptionally tender and juicy turkey from The Boss and some seriously yummy plum pudding courtesy of the Glasgow School of Cookery book: much nicer than Christmas pudding. So tummies full, and all played out, zonking from their mega-chocolate rush pre-lunch, all minxes were asleep by 7pm. This is despite Midi having a sneaky nap – I caught her sitting in her chair, cuddling her new dolly, snoring her head off with her buggy pulled over her head.

I thought I’d still blog about our Christmas because it was such a lovely one, and who knows, I may feel the need to reread it 1000 times if we have a rubbish one in years to come!

Typical Morning in the House of Chaos

It’s 0938hrs and the minxes have been fed, watered and reasonably well de-gunged (4 pongy nappy changes since 0700hrs and counting).  Minx 2 had 4 showers and baths on Tuesday, so I hope we can stay below that today.  They’re all agog at Mr Tumble on CBeebies’ ‘Something Special’, so I’ve got 15 minutes to myself.  Well, the elder 2 are studying Mr Tumble; the minx-in-training is studying them closely.

Like over breakfast.  Baby Minx didn’t take her eyes off Biggest Sister once, imitating her chewing and crunching of her porridge (crunching?  Didn’t I tell you I wasn’t a great cook?!) and pursing her lips in a baby imitation of a whistle.  Breakfast is normally like a chimps’ tea party in our house but this morning everyone was pretending to be something else: Minx 1 had dressed herself so was wearing her pink thermals, a pink tee-shirt, her pink fairy dress, pink fairy wings and pink fairy headband; Minx 3 was in a zebra babygrow; I’m in ‘sporting apparel’, and Minx 2 is pretending to be a good girl.  Minx 2 was singing “Agadoo” to herself in between forkfuls (!) of porridge: “Agadoo-doo-doo, poo a pineapple up a tree”

Minx 1 fondly looks at her little sister and exclaims, “You’re so cute, L”.

“No I not!”, the songstress hotly denied, “I naughty!”

Well, there we have it.  By her own admission.  Do I have any hope of maintaining control?!  The Boss has promised me a whip for Christmas, though I don’t know if he means the lion-taming one that I need and want, or not…

Talking of Christmas, I’m so excited that my favourite site is almost ready for action:  http://portablenorthpole.tv/  You upload a photo of your child, answer some questions about them, then you’re emailed a link to a personalised video of Santa checking if your child has been naughty or nice and promising to bring specific presents on their Christmas list.  The girls loved it last year, but Little Miss Empathy (eldest) burst into tears when we played Daddy’s video: he was rebuked by Santa for leaving his underwear on the floor, and warned that if he didn’t spend less time on the internet that he’d not get any presents.  I laughed like a walrus, but I guess that kind of humour is generally lost on 3 year olds…

Well, my Cuppa Sleep is almost over, so time to go steel myself for a morning of Santa List compiling and painting with the whirlwinds.  Before I go, I probably need to explain the 2 drinks I consume most often: Cuppa Sleep and Cuppa Wet.  Both are so-called because naming them ‘coffee’ is totally inadequate.  The former is strong enough to replace about 2 hours of sleep; the latter is instant decaf, so isn’t worthy of the descriptor ‘coffee’.  I consume both in stupendous quantities.  I find the resulting halitosis adds a special ambience to my snarling grumpy old trout-ness.

Oh pants, I can hear the irritatingly cheery “I Can Cook” – time to remove the TV plug fuse (my clever little blighters can work the TV and freeview zappers).  It’s not the fake I-love-lil-kids-honest-look-at-me-fondly-smiling of the programme that I dislike – it’s the chirpy guitar song at the end.  For some reason it makes me want to strangle myself.  Must be the subliminal messages.