Thursday, December 17, 2015

Vanilla Christmas Tree Cakes with Custard Cream

These cute Christmas tree vanilla cakes stuffed with rich custard cream, and decorated with colorful sprinkles
are the perfect way to  make your holiday sweeter

Ta-dah!! I present you with the perfect Christmas dessert.
These little tree cakes are super cute, very festive and they will surely impress all your holiday guests. They are really delicious, too. Made with moist vanilla cake layers, covered with velvety and rich custard cream, and decorated with red, green and white sugar sprinkles and a dash of powdered sugar.
And that's not all. This dessert is quite easy to prepare and approachable for everyone.  You don't need to be a master pastry chef to pull these off. Check out my step-by-step recipe down here, and this quick video.

See?!? It is super easy. I know you can do it!
This recipe is quite versatile too. You can really have fun with it and substitute my vanilla cake and custard cream,  with your favorite cake or frosting recipe. You don't have to use mine ... but it's highly recommended ;)
You can prepare your classic frosting recipe and a different yellow cake, vanilla cake, or even chocolate cake. Why not?!? Chocolate and vanilla custard are soooo good together. You could also use a box mix.... Oh, wait!!! Did I just write that??!! If you follow my blog and learned a little bit about me, you might know that I love things made from scratch, using basic ingredients.  More flavorful, natural and healthier. But I understand  there are occasions when time is short, especially around the holidays, and you are in a crunch to bake all those cookies and cakes, and don't want to fuss over measuring ingredients, creaming butter with sugar, whisking the eggs...  I'll let you decide on this one!

All you need to make this recipe happen are sharp, star-shaped cookie cutters. I bought a set of 6, stainless steel cutters, ranging in size from 1.5 to 3.5 inches (3.8 to 8.8 cm). I only used the smallest 5 stars to make my trees.

I baked the vanilla cake in a 9 x 12 in (23 x 30 cm) baking pan. You need to be a bit smart about cutting the stars, and get as many pieces as possible. I was able to cut 4 sets of 5 stars (in each different size) to make 4 trees. But you are welcome to make the tree as small or as big as you wish, with 3 to 5 layers.
You can decorate with colorful sprinkles like I did, or just silver or red sugar balls. Please note: the sugar ball might leak a bit of their color on the cream. The silver one I try were not good and quickly lost all their silver color on the cream, and turned brown. Not pretty at all!! The red/green/white smaller sprinkles worked a lot better.
One word of advise: prepare the custard cream, the vanilla cake cut into stars ahead of time, but assemble at the last minute.
The custard cream needs to be refrigerated, and so do the tree cakes once assembled.

So pretty right?! I know what you are thinking: let me dash to the kitchen right now to begin!
Happy Holidays!

Ingredients: to make 4 tree cakes

For the vanilla cake:
  • 1.5 cups (225 gr) of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • half teaspoon of salt
  • 4 oz (1 stick, 115 gr) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150 gr) of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 3 tablespoons of orange juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1 cup (235 ml) of buttermilk
For the custard cream:
  •  cup (235 ml) of milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup (65 gr) of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (20 gr) of corn starch
For decoration:
  • colorful (red/white/green or silver or all white) sugar balls
  • powdered sugar

Preparation time: About one hour, plus one hour inactive
1. Remove the butter (for the vanilla cake) from the refrigerator, and let it sit at room temperature while you prepare the custard cream. The cream will need at least one hour to cool down.
In a small pan, warm up one cup (235 ml) of milk, with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of whipping cream and one teaspoon of vanilla extract until really hot, but not boiling.
2. In another medium size pan, whisk 2 egg yolks with a 1/3 cup (65 gr) of sugar until smooth and fluffy. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of corn starch, making sure there are no lumps. Add a little bit of the warm milk to the egg mixture, whisking well so that no lumps form. Whisk in the rest of the milk.

3. Place the pan over medium heat and stir continuously until it reaches a slow boil. The cream will thicken, so be careful not to let it stick to the bottom. Lower the flame and cook for a couple of more minutes, until you reach the desire thickness. Pour the cream in a bowl and let it cook down. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

4. Let's work on the vanilla cake. Preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C). In a large bowl, whisk together 1.5 cups (225 gr) of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and half teaspoon of salt. Set aside.

5. Cream 4 oz (115 gr) of unsalted butter with 3/4 cup (150 gr) of sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs (2 whole eggs plus one egg yolk) one or two at a time. Blend. Mix in 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract, the zest of one orange, and 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice.

6. Add half of the dry ingredients into the mixture, blending until just incorporated. Blend in the buttermilk, and finish with the remainder flour.

7. Pour into a 9 x 12 in (23 x 30 cm) baking pan, covered with parchment paper or greased with butter and flour. Level with a spoon. Bake at 350° F (175° C) for about 25 minutes, until slightly golden on top. Check with a toothpick for readiness.

8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes in the pan on a wire cooling rack. Remove from the pan and cool completely. Use sharp star-shaped cookie cutters to cut the cake into 5 different sizes stars. You should be able to cut 4 sets of 5 stars each.

9. Using a piping bag, cover the biggest star with custard cream. Sprinkle the edges with colorful (red, white and green) sugar sprinkles. Place the second biggest star on top, as shown in my picture.

10. Continue decorating with custard cream and sprinkles, until the second from smallest star. Sprinkle both sides of the smallest star with powdered sugar, and place on top, making the star stand up, as you would on your Christmas tree.

I highly recommend fill with cream and sprinkles right before serving, or within one hour or so. Note, I've tried with different sprinkles, and some of them will leak color on the cream.
Make sure to store the custard cream and the tree cakes in the refrigerator.

And enjoy :)


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