This Christmas tree cake may look intimidating, but is actually super easy to make! A surprise inside cake that takes a simple loaf cake and transforms it into a work of art – and with no fuss or fancy equipment! This is the simple, yet impressive, Christmas dessert recipe everyone should have up their sleeves.
This cake is like a ninja – perfectly ordinary on the outside and then you cut into it and WOWZA: there’s a Christmas tree in each slice!
As with many of my recipes, this one has come about because I’ve seen something vaguely similar… somewhere… and remembered the process… approximately. So, of course, I simply had to try it myself. Plus, it’s a pattern INSIDE a loaf cake. It’s fun! (And “it’s fun” is always the best reason to bake something.)
Let me just say: I know that a surprise inside cake looks super intimidating, physically impossible and highly complicated. Here’s the thing: it really isn’t. It’s simple, easy, and all other synonyms you can think of. And I have step-by-step pictures to prove it!
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of making this super simple Christmas tree cake, here’s why you should totally make it:
1) It’s really really impressive. No, seriously. It may not be in-your-face about it’s awesomeness, but that’s what makes it all the more special. Just think about it: you turn up with a plain-looking loaf cake, people look sceptical and then they cut a slice and are COMPLETELY BLOWN AWAY BY YOUR UTTER BRILLIANCE. (Yes, that last part does totally call for all-caps.)
2) It’s ridiculously easy to make. And I’m fully aware that I’ve mentioned that before. A couple of times. But here’s the thing: Christmas (can be) is stressful. And as much as I like the idea of a three-tiered frosted cake decorated with tiny gingerbread cookies, macarons and meringue kisses… that’s sometimes just not realistic. Having a simple Christmas cake recipe on hand is always a good idea.
3) It’s fun.
4) It’s the perfect thing to make with kids (be they small ones… or big ones).
5) It’s absolutely and utterly delicious. Fluffy, sweet, and with that my-grandma-made-something-like-this taste that is everything cozy and warm.
6) IT’S FUN.
Now that I’ve convinced that this ninja Christmas tree cake is the best thing ever, let’s look at the baking procedure (a.k.a. proof that this is the easiest cake ever).
We start by baking a Grinch-green cake sponge. Aside from the fact that it reminds me of the Grinch, nothing interesting going on here.
Once the Grinch cake sponge has cooled, we’ll cut out some pretty Christmas trees with a pretty cookie cutter. If you haven’t put on Christmas music yet… what are you waiting for?!
Now, when you’re choosing which cookie cutter you’ll use, take into account the dimensions of your loaf tin, especially the height. The cookie cutter should be at most a few millimetres higher than the loaf tin, but preferably a few millimetres lower. This will make sure that the second batter completely covers the pattern inside, rather than some stray tops peaking through the top. (That would completely demolish its ninja-ness.)
Then we’ll stack the cut out Christmas trees in the (greased) loaf tin. Not exactly rocket science. Just make sure to pack them tightly together, otherwise the other batter will seep between them and disrupt the pattern.
Finally, the other batter is poured around the Christmas tree stack and… that’s it. The non-coloured batter should cover at least the bottom 3/4 of the Christmas tree stack. This will ensure that as the batter rises, the pattern will be completely hidden. If in doubt, definitely err on the side of a bit more batter. (Just not too much – we don’t want an overflowing cake tin…)
After about 40 minutes in the oven, the surprise inside cake should be nicely risen, bouncy to the touch and golden on top. It’s likely to crack/split along the middle, but that just gives it character.
And when it cools (or not, depending on how impatient you are) and you cut that first slice and you see the perfect pattern… be proud of yourself. Because you’ve just made a ninja Christmas tree cake – and it was easy.
Surprise Inside Christmas Tree Cake (Gluten Free, Dairy Free Option)
For green sponge:
- 1/2 stick (56 g) butter, melted (for dairy free option, replace with an additional 1/4 cup vegetable oil)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup (100 g) caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups (180 g) plain gluten free flour blend (I've used a simple store-bought blend of rice, potato and maize flour with no added xanthan gum)
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
- green food colouring (Note 1)
For plain sponge:
- 3/4 stick (84 g) butter, melted (for dairy free option, replace with an additional 1/4 cup vegetable oil)
- 3/8 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup (150 g) caster sugar
- 1 tsp vailla extract
- 3 eggs
- 2 1/4 cups (270 g) gluten free flour
- 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
For green sponge:
- Pre-heat the oven to 355 ºF (180 ºF) and line a shallow baking pan (round or square) with greaseproof/baking paper.
- In a bowl, whisk together the butter, oil and sugar.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Sift together the gluten free flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well until you get a smooth batter with no flour clumps.
- Add the green food colouring, bit by bit, until you reach the Christmas tree colour.
- Pour the green cake batter into the lined baking pan and smooth out the top.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven at 355 ºF (180 ºF) for about 15 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the cake sponge feels bouncy to the touch.
- Allow to cool.
For the Christmas tree pattern:
- Grease a 4 1/3 x 8.5 inch ( 11 x 21.5 cm) loaf tin, 2 1/3 inch (6 cm) deep, and pre-heat the oven to 355 ºF (180 ºC).
- Using a Christmas tree cookie cutter, cut out Christmas tree shapes from the green cake sponge.NOTE: When you’re choosing which cookie cutter you’ll use, take into account the dimensions of your loaf tin, especially the height. The cookie cutter should be at most a few millimetres higher than the loaf tin, but preferably a few millimetres lower.
- Arrange the Christmas tree shaped sponge in the centre of the greased loaf tin. Make sure that the sponge pieces are tightly next to each other (see pictures above).
For plain sponge and assembly:
- Repeat the process for making the green cake batter (but note the different quantities), except the food colouring part.
- Pour the plain cake batter around the central Christmas tree pattern. Make sure that the level of the batter is the same on both sides of the pattern.(The plain cake batter should cover at least 3/4 of he Christmas tree stack. This will ensure that as the batter rises, the pattern will be completely hidden.)
- Bake in the pre-heated oven at 355 ºF (180 ºC) for 40 - 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown, the cake feels bouncy to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow to cool and enjoy!
- The surprise inside Christmas tree cake keeps well in a closed container or wrapped in clingfilm, in a cool dry place, for about 3 - 4 days.
Looking for more gluten free Christmas recipes? You’ve come to the right place!