Learn how to make this freaking delicious Winter Birch Tree Cake!
There is seriously no better cake for the holidays. It not only looks like the famous birch tree but tastes like Christmas with gingerbread and cranberry.
This gorgeous Winter Birch Tree Cake is made with gingerbread cake layers filled with cranberry sauce and vanilla buttercream. And the real show stopper is the white chocolate birch tree bark on the outside of the cake.
This winter-inspired birch tree cake is centered around a straightforward technique that’ll be a huge bang for the buck.
I’ll show you how to paint some melted dark chocolate candy coating on a parchment covered tray and then smear a coating of melted white coating. Next, you’ll cut strips of the chocolate and place them on the side of the cake to create the stunning Winter Birch Tree Cake.
Tips for Success:
- Read through all the ingredients and instructions so you can get a better idea of how much time and what you need to make this cake.
- A single batch of this cake recipe makes three, 6-inch round cake layers or two 8-inch round cake layers. Double the cake recipe to make enough cake batter for three 8-inch cake layers.
- In this cake recipe, you need 1 cup buttermilk; if you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, you can easily use 1 cup whole milk mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to make your own.
- To make cake flour at home, mix 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour and ¼ cup cornstarch. Sift or whisk together to get rid of any lumps.
- Be careful not to overmix this cake batter, or else the cake will come out dense. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated.
- You can bake the cake layers ahead of time. Wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap and freeze up to one month.
- You can make the buttercream a day ahead and refrigerate it overnight. Then take them out to come back to room temperature. Make sure the buttercream is at room temperature before re-whipping.
- To make things easier, make the chocolate bark a few days ahead of time and store by wrapping the baking tray in plastic to keep fresh until you’re ready to decorate.
- Something to remember when coloring the buttercream, the food color will get slightly darker when it sits.
- Serve at room temperature and use a hot knife to get clean cake slices!
What Tools You’ll Need to Make This Cake:
- 5-quart, Stand Mixer with mixing bowl & paddle attachment
- 3, 6-inch cake pans or 2, 8-inch cake pans
- Offset spatula
- 8-inch or 10-inch white cake board
- Serrated knife or cake leveler
- Cake scraper or bench scraper
- Whisk or sifter
- Rubber Spatula
- Non-Stick Cooking Spray and Parchment Paper
- Ice Cream Scooper with Trigger Release (for dividing cake batter evenly)
- Piping Bags (I use reusable silicone bags)
- Cake Stand, optional
- 1 Small Microwavable Mixing Bowl
- 1 Medium Microwavable Mixing Bowl
- 2 baking trays lined with parchment paper
- Small paintbrush, optional
Here’s how to make this Winter Birch Tree Cake that’ll make your home happy for the holidays!
Let’s Get Baking!
How to Make Gingerbread Cake Layers
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Spray three 6-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper, and spray again. Set aside.
- In a medium-size bowl, whisk and stir together the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger powder, and ground cloves. Set aside.
- In the stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, oil, and sugar on medium-high for 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, to the stand mixer bowl and beat on medium until well incorporated.
- Turn the mixer on low and add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until fully incorporated.
- Pour in the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Mix on medium for another 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Evenly distribute the cake batter among the three cake pans and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.
- Remove cakes from the oven and let cool in pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks to cool completely. Wrap cakes in plastic wrap and place into the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
Cranberry Sauce Filling
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix 1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce with orange zest and ground cinnamon.
How to Make Creamy Vanilla Buttercream
- In the stand mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Turn the mixer to low and add the salt and vanilla.
- Next, gradually add powdered sugar, followed by the cream. Mix on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Before using, turn the mixer on low and mix for 2 minutes to push out any air bubbles or use a rubber spatula to push out the air bubbles. (You may need to repeat this step when frosting the outside of the cake).
- Separate ½ cup to ¾ cup of white buttercream and mix in 2-3 drops of brown gel food coloring to make a brown buttercream. Set aside for later.
How to Make White Chocolate Bark
- In a small mixing bowl, add the brown (milk chocolate) candy and melt in 30-second increments.
- On two baking trays (11 in x 17 in) lined with parchment paper, use a tapered offset spatula or a paintbrush to add the random brown chocolate horizontal lines and round tree knobs to mimic the birch tree bark.
- Place the baking tray into the refrigerator or freezer to set for 15 minutes. Repeat onto a second tray. You’ll need at least two trays worth of bark to cover the sides of the cake.
- As the brown chocolate on the trays are cooling, melt the white chocolate for 30-second increments in the microwave. Use a rubber spatula to mix the melted chocolate.
- Pour the white chocolate over the chilled brown chocolate and spread thin with the offset spatula.
- Allow the chocolate to set for 3-5 minutes until the chocolate is matte or non longer shiny. Use a heated knife to cut 6 to 7 vertical 2 inch wide pieces. Chill the bark until the chocolate is set.
- Repeat with the second baking tray of bark.
- Carefully peel the parchment paper away from the bark pieces and set aside until ready to decorate the cake.
Putting It All Together
- Remove the cake layers from the freezer and unwrap the cake layers. Next, use a serrated knife to cut off the cakes’ dome to make the layers flat and even.
- Add a small amount of buttercream onto the center of the cake board. Layer one cake layer, cut side up onto the cake board. Pipe ⅔ cup of buttercream and use an offset spatula to smooth the buttercream layer.
- Place another cake layer cut side down over the top. Repeat the process for another layer — Crumb coat with white buttercream and freeze for 30 minutes.
- Add a thicker layer of buttercream to the cold cake. Use an offset spatula and cake scraper to make the sides and the top as smooth as possible.
- Next, add the brown buttercream to the top of the cake. Use the cake scraper and offset spatula to smooth the brown buttercream.
- Use the tapered offset spatula to create the rings of the tree. Start from the outside, and as you spin the cake move the tapered spatula to the center.
- Then place one piece of chocolate bark on the cake side, use a heated knife to cut the bark to be the same height as the cake. Place the next piece of chocolate bark slightly overlapped on the previous bark, creating a fan effect.
- Continue resizing the chocolate bark and placing the bark all around the cake until all the sides are covered. You’ll need about 12-13 pieces of bark to cover a 6 inch round cake.
- Serve the cake at room temperature and use a heated knife to cut clean cake slices. And enjoy!
You May Also Enjoy:
- How to Make Perfect Cake Pops (free training)
- How to Cut & Serve Cake (free guide)
- How to Decorate Your First Cake (free course)
- Cake Decorating for Beginners (online course)
I’m so excited to see your Winter Birch Tree Cake creations. Please feel free to email me here at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have; I’ll be happy to help!
P.S. Hey, if you liked this tutorial, you really should check out Cake Decorating for Beginners, my online cake program. I coach you on everything I teach on these cake tutorials so that you can uplevel your baking and decorating skills. We 10x it so you get the results you want most. Like any new skill, it’s important to learn from the ground up to build a foundation so that you can take on any cake challenge. It is an investment your future self will thank you for. Check it out at XOKatieRosario.com/online-cake-course. I will see you there!
Watch The How-to Video Below: