The Baked Bean Tin Christmas Cake Project – pt 3

Part 1 – How to make your cake
Part 2 – How to marzipan your cake 

This project started a couple of months ago when I promised one of my evening classes I would teach them how to decorate Christmas cakes. Today I finally finished decorating them. I really enjoyed this project and plan to given them away as presents, but right now don’t know which one I’m going to keep for us as I love them all for different reasons.

I have so many other decorating ideas, but only made 6 cakes so the other techniques will have to wait. They may be small cakes, but they still take a while to decorate. Each cake requires about 200g of sugarpaste. The four cakes covered in sugarpaste all use the covering method you can find on The Pink Whisk’s blog. I also brush the cake lightly with freshly boiled water to help the icing adhere. Usually I cover the board then cover the cake, this is personal preference. You don’t have to cover the boards at all, but I find it looks neater and I have a particular aversion to the Christmas themed foil boards. To stick the sugarpaste/sugar florist paste decorations to the cake I use either gin or vodka as it’s quick drying, less likely to stain and sticks well. You can also use water, but I find gin/vodka works better. All of these designs are simple and can be easily replicated. No special equipment needed apart from maybe the odd length of ribbon and a piping bag. The cakes were made using one of my favourite recipes, steeped in Sloe Gin, then covered in marzipan over a week ago.

Christmas Present Cake

This is probably my favourite cake. It is simply covered in red sugarpaste then decorated with a bow made from sugar florist paste. This is a type of modelling icing that has a finer, stretchier texture and allows you to roll it a great deal thinner than sugarpaste. It also sets very hard. Icing flowers you see for sale are made from this and while yes it is edible it’s used more for decoration. I love working with sugar florist paste. Unless you are going to be using a lot just buy white florist paste and colour your own.

To make the bow take two identical lengths of sugar florist paste. Fold one of the lengths over itself in the middle. This will be the loose ends of the bow. Place the folded part of this length in the middle of the cake. Take the other length and fold both ends to the middle and pinch together. Get a smaller length of sugar florist paste and wrap around the middle of the bow to give the illusion of a knot. This is the bow loops. Stick this on top of loose part of the bow.

Holly Cut Out Cake

The green from this cakes comes from the green marzipan layer. This time don’t brush the marzipan with water when adding the sugarpaste as you’ll struggle to get the cutouts cleanly away from the marzipan. Cover the cake with sugar paste then using a holly cutter cut out the holly shapes. Using some water stick the remaining icing to the marzipan. Roll balls of red icing and stick in place with vodka.

Snowflake Cake

This cake started out slightly different, hence the snowballs trimming the bottom of the cake, then I saw these beautiful Victorian inspired Ice Crystal Cakes cakes on Peggy Porchen and decided I had to give these a go. It is piped on using royal icing and the silver balls are great new ones from Dr Oetker that don’t break your teeth. If I was to do these cakes again I would keep the decorative snowflake, leave out the decoration on the side, then just trim the bottom of the cake with simple ribbon.

Glitter Stars

Possibly the easiest of the cakes. Simply covered in white sugarpaste. Then I kneaded some gold lustre dust into a small amount of sugarpaste then once rolled out, dusted in edible glitter. Cut out the stars then stuck on with vodka. Edible glitter is always difficult to photograph. In real life this cake is very glittery! This is a very good cake to do if your icing has flaws. Stick a star over the cracks.

Florentine Topped Cake

No icing required here. Melt 15g butter with 15g golden syrup. Mix in 50g mixed fruit & nuts (Lidl do a particuarly fantastic bag of fruit & nuts that I’ve used here). Spoon topping onto cake then leave to set. Trim with ribbon.

Traditional Royal Icing

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a Christmas cake topped with break-your-teeth royal icing. I use Royal Icing Sugar as it is easier and more convenient. For a 3 inch cake like these you need about 100g royal icing sugar and 15ml of water. Using an electric whisk whip until you have soft peaks. If it doesn’t reach soft peak stage, add more icing sugar a tbsp at a time. When spreading the icing on you can either make it smooth or go old school and make peaks in the icing to make it look like snow. To make the icing harder add a dash of lemon juice, to make it softer add a bit of glycerine. The robin comes from one of the cakes I made on Holly Bell’s cupcake course. Can you spot the foot prints in the snow? There were made with the end of a skewer.

So how have you decorated your Christmas cake this year?

UPDATE: 29/11/2012

A primary school in Beverley, East Yorkshire have been making these cakes as part of an enterprise project. They will be selling the cakes to raise money for school. I think you’ll agree they have made some wonderful cakes.


Natalie has emailed me the pictures she’s made with cakes baked in Moshi Monster tins. She packed them up and gave them as gifts to friends.

48 thoughts on “The Baked Bean Tin Christmas Cake Project – pt 3”

  • The snowflake cake is my favourite and has given me lots of ideas for my full-sized Christmas cake. Loved this series and will make minis next year. How long before Christmas can you ice your cake?

    • Sally, you can ice them weeks in advance. The icing essentially seals in the cake. Mine will be stored in cardboard cake boxes (like what you get in bakeries) until I’m ready to give them as gifts. They could also be stored in tins.

  • How beautiful ! I didn’t make a Christmas Cake this year, but will for sure next year. You have been an inspiration for me. They look so professional, and I would so hate to cut into them. Good show.

  • I am not-so-secretly intimidated by fondant decoration. This is great, and makes me want to overcome my fears! (Maybe I should take a class?) Beautiful,clearly-stated how-tos. (And I love the little prints in the snow!)

  • I decided to make my own 12 mini Christmas cakes so I’ve been following all your follow up posts! It’s been a labour of love for the last few weeks, feeding them regularly, marzipan will be done this week and I’ll ice them next weekend. I think I’m going for royal icing with sugar craft decorations, but have no idea what quantity of royal icing I’ll need – how much did you need for one mini cake? Help much appreciated!

    • Hi, glad you’ve enjoyed this series of posts. Sorry for missing out the royal icing quantities, I’ve now amended the post. use 100g royal icing sugar and 15ml water for each cake. I recommend you make it in a bowl bigger than you think you need because it goes everywhere! Let us know how you get on.

  • Oh, they’re all gorgeous – you’re so creative and talented! My mum often makes baked bean tin sized cakes, and tends to do marzipan and then a rough snow icing, but no more. They’re all very impressive.

  • What a wonderful and inspired blog – full of great ideas and great photos too. I love the idea of the baked bean tin Christmas cakes. It’s mid-January and I’m about to make some birthday cakes for family members who can never eat too much “Christmas” cake. I shall go and buy tins of baked beans and spagetti hoops right now. Thank you!

  • These are wonderful and I’d like to make them with school children. How much sugarpaste would it take to cover 1 mini cake please?

    • Hi Ruth, it takes about 200g of sugarpaste to cover a mini cake. To make cake decorating easier for children you can ice just the top of the cake. If you make them I’d love to see some photos.

    • Hi Ruth, we have made baked bean cakes with our Brownie pack for the last 2 years, I just found this blog while looking for a new recipe as I have lost the old one. We tend to do the mixing one week, send them home to bake, then marzipan and ice the following week, the girls (aged 7-10) have loved it and all want to do it this year too. Jules I love the decorating Ideas – thank you.

      • Hi Sheena! I am making these cakes as part of an enterprise project with a local school. The kids have done a business plan, sourced ingredients, made financial decisions etc and they are loving it! Quote from the teacher” I’ve never seen them so motivated!” One little blip – last week when we were lining the tins, we had a few cut fingers! Nothing serious! Next time they’ll use pastry brushes! We’re mixing and baking this week, so fingers crossed they turn out okay!

  • My guide unit has made these cakes (37 of them) we are planning to marzipan them this week but wont be icing them until the following week – so what is the best way to store them for a week when they have marzipan on?

    • The best way to store them is in a breathable box. You want the marzipan to dry out on the surface. I usually store them in cardboard cake boxes that you can get at cake decorating shops. I’d love it if you could send me photos of their completed cakes.

  • Hello fellow baked bean Christmas cake fans! My class of 9 year olds decorated theirs last week and this week we rare going to make the boxes for them ready to sell at the school Christmas fair on 29th November. They are absolutely brilliant – I couldn’t believe how good they look (although not as good as yours, Jules!!).
    I will post some photos soon.

  • Super idea, I’ve been asked to take something traditional (British) to a very Italian dinner…can’t wait to get started.

  • Hi love the cakes made them using Lakeland mini cake tins instead of baked bean tins. Only problem for me is making the marzipan look smooth every time I look I see another blemish.

    • Don’t worry about making the marzipan perfect. This is essentially the undercoat for the icing. Most marzipan imperfections will be hidden by the icing.

        • To get the flattest cake trim if needed then turn the cake over so the bottom is now the top. Then use spare marzipan under the cake to help jack up the cake so the top is level. I have been known to use a spirit level before.

          • Thanks for your feed back, did turn some over but must admit didn’t use marzipan to leavel bottom, will next time.

  • Jules, how do I get my mini cakes to look round? Start of with perfectly round cake once its marzipaned and fondant icing is on it loses its round shape. Help please

  • Found your mini Christmas cake blog last year and am about to make them this year. They will be sold for charity so I would like to have them ready for early December. They wil be presented in seasonal individual muffin boxes and I would be grateful for your advice on some points. Will the royal iced cakes still look good by Christmas? Is the icing likely to have dried too hard by then? I plan to do some with the florentine topping and notice in your photo that you have the cake wrapped round with something. Is this greaseproof paper? Will that be enough to stop the cake drying out in its cardboard presentation box do you think?
    Many thanks.

    • Hi Emsi, as long as the cakes are stored correctly the royal icing should be ok. If you are worried about the icing drying too hard use a touch of glycerine in the icing.

      In the photo my florentine cake was simply wrapped in ribbon. These cakes will dry out because there is no icing to seal them. You could use a strip of food safe acetate under the ribbon to help.

      Hope this helps.

      • Thank you for your very prompt reply, Jules. I’m now thinking that I may not be able to use the florentine topping for this purpose but just wondering if they would keep well enough (3-4 weeks) if I use marzipan round the edge with the forentine topping. Do you think the marzipan will make a durable air-tight case for a few weeks?

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