Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lighting up a Christmas Tree Cake!

A few years ago my aunt sent me a fabulous book for H3.  We've read it a couple times and talked with her about the stories in it, but this is the first year that she's really old enough to do the crafts and I've decided to add it to our December curriculum. If you are unfamiliar with this book, I would highly recommend it!

The basic gist of the book is that it goes through the traditions that we have at Christmas through a Christian perspective.  Lisa Whelchel then adds in a craft or activity to do with your child(ren) as well as a "teachable moments" section so you can get some ideas for talking about the advent wreath, Christmas tree, lights, candy canes, 12 Days of Christmas, etc., with your family.

This weekend I took the girls to visit my friend Robyn and her three daughters. I brought the book with me so we could do the "Lights on the Tree" page. The story that is related tells of Martin Luther and a night walk near Christmas that had him overwhelmed by the beauty of the stars and what God has made, so he went home and tried to re-create his star-lit walk in the forest. The verse to accompany is Psalm 19:1, "The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship." (I should note that the book is a lot more eloquent in relating the story!)

Here is the cake

Nicely staged, thank you Robyn!

It's a little dark, but I think you can get the idea of the cool effect!

If you would like to do this on your own, here are the instructions from the book (abbreviated a bit and I've noted what changes I made).

What You Need
One 13x9 inch cake (I made mine from the Betty Crocker cookbook!)
One cake board to display cake
Green Cake frosting (we used a whipped buttercream)
Knife for spreading frosting
Small amount of red and blue frosting (did not use)
sugar cubes
peppermint extract

  1. Transfer sheet cake onto the cake board. Trace a simple Christmas tree pattern on top of your cake and carefully cut away the surrounding cake. Be careful not to damage the large cut-away pieces, because you'll need them later!
  2. Frost the cake with green frosting (brown chocolate sprinkles look nice on the "trunk")
  3. Arrange sugar cubes on the surface to look like lights
  4. Cut leftover cake into small square and rectangular shapes and frost with red and blue frosting*
  5. Pipe a frosting ribbon onto the "gifts" to make them look like presents and then arrange them around the bottom of the cake*
  6. Infuse each sugar cube with just a couple drops of peppermint extract just prior to lighting
  7. Turn off lights and light each cube (she says with matches, I'd say use a lighter with a long reach). The flame will burn blue for almost a minute.
* Instead of using the blue and red frosting, we frosted the squares and rectangles with the same green frosting and then rolled them in sprinkles before placing them at the base of the tree--easier and faster!

Other notes:
a) Any peppermint extract you spill onto the surface of the cake will also ignite (we practiced on some extra before doing the real thing), so be careful to only drop it on the sugar cubes.
b) Your frosting will have a slightly minty taste, so munchkins who dislike mint may not like the cake (but if they are like H3, they will got straight for the sprinkle covered presents anyways).
c) The pictures don't do the ignited sugar cubes justice. It was a really cool effect and all the kiddos loved! Robyn's husband really like it too...he took the whole pile of sugar cubes afterwards, put them on a plate with more peppermint extract and lit them up just for fun!
d) Other than baking the cake, this whole thing took about 30 minutes to set up, so not a lot of time for a bit of fun!