For your Christmas cake decorating inspiration, I’m sharing this sweet and stunning cake, decorated all in buttercream. This cake features a scattering of gold sugar pearls and a tiny piped border around the base of the cake. But the real star of this Little Red Dress Christmas Cake is the dress that I “painted” onto the cake with buttercream.
I wanted this Christmas cake to capture the feeling of all the magical moments we share with our children during the holidays. Whether it’s dressing up for a special dinner at home or to go to a candlelight service, shopping for Christmas presents, snuggling by the fire and watching Christmas movies, building a snowman and then warming up with cups of sweet hot cocoa with marshmallows, or reading The Night Before Christmas before everyone falls asleep on Christmas Eve. These are all the unforgettable moments we share, that will forever be etched in our memories.
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When I was pregnant, I was sure I was going to have a girl. I had always wanted a little girl with curly hair, to play with and snuggle with and bake cookies and cakes together. Much to my surprise, my husband and I had two perfect little boys instead, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. And you know what? All those moments that I pictured sharing with my daughter are things that my little boys love doing with me, too.
But I still love to glance at the cute little coats and dresses as I’m shopping for clothes for my boys, and I especially adore the little red coats that you see during the holidays. My sons have both worn a red and black buffalo plaid coat with a furry white collar for the past several winters, and it’s simply adorable. All those cozy little Christmas coats and pretty holiday dresses that our kids outgrow too fast each winter inspired the design for my little red dress Christmas cake.
While you’d typically see a design like this done with a fondant cutout of a dress pressed onto the cake, I wanted to show the beauty and versatility of buttercream. It’s really quite an easy way to decorate a cake, and I love how the swoops, swirls and ripples of buttercream really show the movement of the dress, so that it doesn’t look flat and one-dimensional.
Ingredients and Tools.
- Cake. You can choose any cake flavor that you like. For reference, my photographed Christmas cake in today’s post is a 6-inch cake with 4 layers (2 layers of chocolate cake and 2 layers of eggnog cake)
- Buttercream. Again, any flavor will do – I frosted my cake with vanilla bean buttercream. It should be a “crusting” buttercream, and you’ll find my recipe for Perfect American Buttercream to be ideal for frosting and decorating your cake. You don’t need that much to paint on the dress, so just save about 3/4 cup of buttercream after frosting your cake.
- Sugar Pearls. I think the gold sugar pearls add such beauty to this cake. Silver or white sugar pearls would be so pretty, too.
- Red Gel Food Coloring. Use a super red gel food coloring for a deep, true red color.
- Small Offset Icing Spatula. I used one just like this icing spatula.
- Piping Bags + Couplers.
- Piping Tips. You’ll need tips #2, #3, #13, and #16 for this cake. I have the Wilton Master Tips Set, and it’s so handy having pretty much every piping tip I need for a variety of decorating projects.
- Cardstock Template. While you could do your design free-hand, it’s so much easier to make a template to trace. To make sure I had the size and scale of the red dress right for my cake, I cut out the outline of my dress on a piece of card stock to use as a template.
The Basic Steps.
- Stack, fill and frost your cake. Before the buttercream crusts over, decorate with the sugar pearls.
- Chill your cake. Make sure your frosted cake is well chilled. The buttercream should be firm and cold so that design sticks easily to the surface of the buttercream and doesn’t spread it around.
- Trace your design. Gently press your template against the cake and use the tip of a toothpick or sharp knife to lightly trace around your template.
- Pipe the border. Use tip #16 with white buttercream to pipe the small scalloped border around the base of the cake.
- Pipe the dress outline. Use tip #3 with red buttercream to pipe the outline of the sleeves and the skirt of the dress. Use the same tip to fill in the outline.
- Smooth out the buttercream with an icing spatula. Now use your small icing spatula, and lightly smooth out the sleeves and skirt of the dress. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth, since the imperfect ripples of buttercream will create realistic movement in the dress’s fabric.
- Pipe the dress’s bodice. Use tip #2 with red buttercream to pipe tiny dots on the dress’s bodice, mimicking the look of smocking.
- Pipe the dress’s collar and cuffs. Use tip #13 with white buttercream to pipe tiny stars to fill in the collar and cuffs.
- Add the buttons. Press a few sugar pearls onto the bodice for buttons.
- Pipe the hair bow. For the floating hair bow above the dress, use tip #2 with red buttercream to pipe the shape of the bow.
Be sure to read all of my BAKING FAQs where I discuss ingredients, substitutions and common questions with cake making, so that you can be successful in your own baking! I also suggest reading these comprehensive posts on making Perfect American Buttercream, How to Stack, Fill, Crumb Coat and Frost Layer Cakes and How to Use Piping Bags.