Christmas Tree Cake

Oh, Christmas tree!

christmas tree cake
Photo: Photographer: Frederick Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Dickey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 15 mins

Color us charmed by this tasty and festive Christmas cake with over-the-top cuteness to spare. It starts with a classic white cake base that really lets that cream cheese icing shine like twinkle lights. And you don't even need a special Christmas tree cake pan to make it happen. The batter is cooked in a 13-by-9-inch baking pan, which, once completely cooled, is trimmed (get it?) into a triangular-shaped tree. The scraps can be used to make the tree trunk and accompanying presents. Be careful once it's time to start layering on the icing because the cake is so tender and light it might be inclined to crumble, particularly around the edges. Now for the fun part: decorating. We used gold sugar pearls for the trunk, halved green chew candy and chocolate-covered peanuts for lights, and candy stars for ornaments, but make it your own with a custom look. Perusing the candy aisle was never so much fun.



  • 1 cup (8 ounces) salted butter, softened

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 ½ cups (about 9⅜ ounces) bleached cake flour

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 cup whole buttermilk

  • Baking spray with flour


  • 1 ½ (8-ounce) packages cream cheese (12 ounces total), softened

  • ½ cup (4 ounces) salted butter, softened

  • 1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon), as desired

  • Green food coloring gel, as desired


  • Gold sugar pearls

  • White sparkling sugar

  • 1 (1½-ounce) tube red decorating gel (such as Sunny Side Up Bakery)

  • Green chewy fruit-flavored candy (such as MIKE AND IKE), cut in half

  • Candy-coated chocolate-covered peanuts (such as Peanut M&M'S)

  • Small candy stars (such as candy sprinkles or Candy Nation Starzmania Assorted Candy Stars)

  • 1 (1½-ounce) tube green decorating gel (such as Sunny Side Up Bakery) 


  1. Prepare the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add sugar; beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, and beat just until incorporated after each addition, about 1 minute total. Beat in lemon juice and vanilla until combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl using a flexible spatula.

  2. Whisk together flour and baking soda in a small bowl until combined. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk in 4 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating on low speed just until combined after each addition.

  3. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with baking spray, and line with parchment paper, leaving a 3-inch overhang on long sides. Lightly coat parchment paper with baking spray. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Remove cake from pan using parchment paper overhang as handles, and transfer to wire rack; let cool completely, about 1 hour.

  4. Prepare the Frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add powdered sugar, beating until incorporated, about 3 minutes. Increase mixer speed to medium, and beat frosting until fluffy, adding lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency.

  5. Measure 1 cup frosting into a small bowl, and set aside. Add 1 to 2 drops green food coloring gel to remaining frosting in mixing bowl; beat on medium speed until fully incorporated, adding additional gel if needed to reach desired shade of green.

  6. Assemble the Cake: Place cake on a platter. Using a serrated knife, cut cake into a triangular Christmas tree shape. Cut cake scraps into a tree trunk base and assorted-size presents. Frost top and sides of Christmas tree with green-dyed frosting. Attach cake base; frost base top and sides with green-dyed frosting.

  7. Sprinkle cake base with gold sugar pearls to completely cover top and sides. Sprinkle Christmas tree lightly with white sparkling sugar. Decorate cake with red decorating gel to resemble a light string. Attach green chewy candy halves to top of peanut candy pieces, pressing lightly to adhere to candy. Attach assembled candy lights to red string to resemble Christmas lights. Randomly press candy stars onto tree to resemble decorations.

  8. Frost top and sides of cake presents with reserved undyed white frosting. Pipe bows and ribbons onto presents using red and green decorating gel.

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