Mini Cookie Christmas Trees

These mini cookie Christmas Trees make a fabulous table gift.  I like to make the vanilla cookies with green icing and gingerbread cookies with white icing.

Cookie Dough

  • 225 g plain flour
  • 110 g caster sugar
  • 110 g butter
  • 1 medium egg
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 6 or 7 concentric circle cutters (plain or fluted, it doesn’t matter)

Royal Icing

  • 1 kg icing sugar
  • 2 tbs meri-white meringue powder (or other powdered egg white)
  • 150 ml cooled, boiled water (plus more for thinning the icing later)
  • green food colouring (preferably a paste colour)

To Decorate

  • 3″ single thick cake boards – one per cookie Christmas tree
  • mini smarties
  • magic stars
  • dragées etc

First make the cookie dough.  Whizz the flour, butter and caster sugar in a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and blend until the mixture forms a ball of dough.  Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour.

Once chilled, roll out the dough to 5mm thick and cut out your circles.  You’ll need about 6 different sized circles per tree, depending on how big you want them to be, but make sure you start with the smallest cutter size and gradually get bigger.

Bake the cookies at 160°C for about 8-10 minutes, turning half way.  Leave to cool on a wire rack whilst you make the royal icing.

Put the egg white powder into a mixing bowl and add a tablespoon of water.  Mix to a paste, then very gradually add the rest of the water, mixing carefully.  If you take a bit of time now and prevent any little lumps forming you’ll avoid blocked piping tubes later on.  Add the icing sugar and mix in thoroughly.  Now, carry on mixing (about 5 minutes if using stand mixer) until your icing is a really bright white colour and has reached stiff peak consistency.

Add a teaspoon or so of cooled boiled water until your icing reaches soft peak consistency.  Add enough green food colouring to get a nice, bright Christmas tree colour.

Spoon some icing into a piping bag fitted with a number 2 writing tube until it’s about one-third full.  If you don’t have any piping tubes then snip the very tip off the bag.  Carefully outline all the circles with icing and leave to dry for about 10 minutes whilst you thin the icing.  You can tell I was icing these well past midnight – when I came to take the photos they’re as wobbly as I think I’ve ever done!

Outlining the cookies

Outlining the cookies

Remove about half the icing and place in an airtight container.  You’ll need this later on.  GRADUALLY add more water to the remaining icing until it reaches flooding consistency.  I do this using a syringe, adding no more than 5 ml at a time.  To test the consistency, drizzle a teaspoon of the icing into a figure of 8 on the surface.

Count how long it takes for the shape of the 8 to disappear leaving a completely flat surface.  When this happens on the count of 10 you have the correct consistency.

If it takes longer than the count of 10 continue adding more water GRADUALLY.  If the figure of 8 disappears before you’ve counted 10 it’s not a disaster – the icing will just take a lot longer to dry.

Once you’ve got the correct flooding consistency half fill a piping bag fitted with a number 3 writing tube, or alternatively pour into a plastic squeeze bottle. Fill the outlined cookies with icing and leave to dry overnight.

Flooding the cookies

Flooding the cookies

If you’re short of time, you can dry the cookies off in a very low oven (50°C) for an hour or so.  Once the icing is dry and set you can stack the cookies.

ready to stack

Dried cookies ready to stack

Using the saved icing, fill a piping bag fitted with a number 2 writing tube to one-third full.  Pipe a dot of icing onto your cake card and place the largest cookie onto the icing dot.  Now, pipe lines up and down the edge of the cookie, to look like the branches of the tree.

Part finished cookie Christmas tree

Part finished cookie Christmas tree

Pipe a dot onto the top of the cookie, add the next sized cookie and pipe all around the edge again.  Continue stacking the cookies, finishing  with piping in a swirl to cover the top cookie.  Working quickly, dot mini smarties, dragées etc around the tree to look like lights and baubles and top with a chocolate star.

Mini Cookie Christmas Tree

Mini Cookie Christmas Tree

Leave to dry for a couple of hours.

You can also make bigger versions of the Cookie Christmas Tree.

Cookie Christmas Tree with dragees

Cookie Christmas Tree with dragées

If you’re happier baking than arranging flowers then I definitely recommend making one as a Christmas Day table centrepiece – great to look at and you get to eat it too!

Cookie Christmas Tree with smarties

Cookie Christmas Tree with smarties

Cheese Straw Stars

These cheese straw stars are a Christmas variation on a classic favourite.  I like to make them with a bit of bite, but if you prefer a milder taste then either substitute the cayenne for paprika, or just leave it out.

  • 200 g strong cheddar
  • 50 g butter
  • 100 g plain flour
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • really good pinch cayenne pepper (for a milder version substitute with paprika which gives them a lovely, subtle warmth)
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbs soft cheese

Put everything except the soft cheese in a food processor and whizz up until you have fine breadcrumbs.  Add the soft cheese and pulse until the mixture comes together into a dough.

Turn out the dough, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 20 minutes in the fridge.  You can bake them straight away, but they’ll spread more and lose their shape slightly if you do.

Stamping out the cheese stars

Stamping out the cheese stars

Once chilled, roll out the dough to 3-4mm thick. Stamp out as many star shapes as you can, re-rolling the dough each time.  This is quite a dry dough, but don’t worry – it makes the finished stars quite flaky.

Bake at 180°C for about 8 minutes, depending on the size star cutter you have.

Finished cheese straw stars

Finished cheese straw stars

Once baked, cool on a wire rack.  These will keep in an airtight tin for about a week.

P. S    At Halloween I make them using my feet cookie cutters and call them cheesy feet!

Christmas Cupcakes

If you’re feeling festive but haven’t much time for baking these Christmas Tree Cupcakes are really quick to make and look impressive too.

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 2 large eggs
  • weight of the eggs in caster sugar
  • weight of the eggs in butter
  • ¾ of the egg weight in self-raising flour
  • ¼ of the egg weight in cocoa powder
  • 12 brown cupcake cases (you can use any colour of course, but these give the cupcakes a nice “tree trunk” effect)

Alcoholic Syrup – optional

  • 80 ml water
  • 80 g caster sugar
  • 40 ml liqueur of your choice

Buttercream Icing

  • 125 g butter
  • 125 g icing sugar
  • green food colouring

To Decorate

  • silver balls / multi-colour dragées / mini smarties
  • icing tube – red, yellow, whichever colour you like for the “tinsel”
  • chocolate stars

Make the cupcakes by the all in one method.  Simply add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix together until the mixture is light and drops off the spoon easily.  Spoon into the cupcake cases.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 160° C. They’re done when the centre of the cupcake springs up when you press it gently.    Remove from the tins straight away and leave on a wire rack to cool.

At this stage (if the cupcakes are for adults) I like to add a syrup made with a liqueur such as Tia Maria or Cointreau.  Gradually dissolve the sugar in the water, then boil for 1 minute.  Leave to cool before adding the alcohol.  If you have one, a medicine syringe makes it easier to control drizzling the syrup onto the top of the cupcakes.  Start with small drops to avoid the liquid just dripping off the top of the cakes and onto the worktop.

Soaking the cupcakes

Soaking the cupcakes

Make the buttercream icing by mixing the softened butter with the icing sugar.  Like Nigella, I make mine in a food processor; it’s quicker and you don’t have to sift the icing sugar first.

Colour the buttercream icing to a nice bright Christmas tree colour.  I like using gel colours for buttercream; they don’t alter the consistency of the icing as much as liquid food colourings and mix in better than the more solid paste colours.

Pipe the buttercream around the cupcake top gradually moving in towards the centre and raising the height of the buttercream.  Finish by pulling the icing tube up directly above the centre to get the “top of the tree” effect.

Pipe a swirl of icing “tinsel” in a spiral around the buttercream tree.  Sprinkle on silver balls / dragées / mini smarties for the baubles and lights and top the tree with a chocolate star.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes

Christmas Tree Cupcakes

If you’re looking for any more last minute baking ideas I’ll be on BBC Radio Derby on Christmas Eve between 10 and 11am.  All the recipes will be posted on here over the next few days.