Food & Drink

Layers of love in scrumptious Christmas cakes


Clear the plates and put the coffee on. Then bring the family dinner to a glorious end by presenting one of these showstopping Christmas cakes. Created by talented local pastry chefs, they’re beautiful, yet attainable, for the home baker. And while ample prep time is required for each, the end result is sure to rival any present under the tree.


John DeVivo

Co-owner, DeVivo Bros. Eatery

There’s an entire cheesecake packed with peppermint bark layered right inside this fluffy chocolate cake from DeVivo Bros. Eatery. “I’ve never really been a fan of peppermint on its own,” says John DeVivo, who, along with his brother, Ralph, owns the popular Keller cafe known for rustic comfort food and dessert cakes sold by the slice. “But when it’s mixed with chocolate and cream, it offers a softer flavor that’s delicious and smooth.” Use a variety of peppermint candies, from soft puffs and Starlight Mints to ribbons, sticks and canes, to get creative with decorating.

Rocio Varela

Executive Pastry Chef, The Fort Worth Club

An entremet is a classic French dessert often made with layers of mousse, cake and a hint of crunch. This contemporary, elevated take on the Christmas cake combines textural and flavor contrasts and is a perfect challenge for the experienced home baker. “Citrus combined with milk chocolate is a great flavor combination for winter,” says Fort Worth Club executive pastry chef Rocio Varela, who recently competed on Food Network’s Halloween Wars. “The orange marmalade makes it unique since we make it from scratch instead of buying a jar. You get more of the orange flavor, with a hint of bitterness from the skin.”

Heidi Allison

Owner, Sugar Bee Sweets

Naked cakes — those with just a coating of icing between cake layers and a luscious smear on top — are rustic, yet refined, and have become popular for wedding and party cakes. Heidi Allison of Sugar Bee Sweets in Arlington says any cream cheese icing will work for her easy cinnamon roll-inspired cake, which is embellished with ferns, coffee berries and white waxflowers. “We love the smell of cinnamon filling up the kitchen,” she says. “Use brown sugar to embellish the top, and add a touch of fresh greenery or berries for an extra pop of color.”

Emily Allen

Owner, Cakewalk Bake Shop

“I’m kind of obsessed with cacti,” says Emily Allen, owner of Cakewalk Bake Shop in Fort Worth. “I have them all over my home, and my kitchen is even wallpapered in a cacti print.” The talented baker took the cacti theme to the oven with her Gingerbread Cacti Cookies, used here as decor for a six-layer chocolate gingerbread cake embellished with sprinkles to mimic snow. “This cake takes a little time but is very easy to replicate,” Allen promises. “The great part is you can tackle the project in phases spanning a few days.” For instance, loved ones can gather to decorate cookies one day and bake and decorate the cake the next, or vice versa. “Applying sugar crystals to the sides of the cake is also foolproof. It’s an easy way to hide any flaws that may occur in frosting the cake.”

Indulge Cakewalk 4
Brandon Wade Star-Telegram

Chocolate Gingerbread Snow Globe Cake with Gingerbread Cacti Cookies

Serves 16-20

Chocolate Gingerbread Snow Globe Cake:

• 1  1/2 cups cake flour

 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

• 1 tablespoon baking soda

• 1 tablespoon ground ginger

• 1 tablespoon cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon cardamom

• 1 teaspoon cloves

• 1 teaspoon salt

 3/4 cup buttermilk

• 1 tablespoon vanilla

• 8 ounces butter

• 1 cup packed dark brown sugar

• 1 cup molasses

• 3 eggs

 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray.

2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. In medium bowl, mix buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.

4. Beat butter with mixer on high until pale and fluffy. Add brown sugar and beat several minutes until incorporated. Beat in molasses and then beat in eggs. Alternately, add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture in three batches. Blend at medium speed until just incorporated. Add chocolate chips.

5. Divide batter evenly among pans. Bake 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans 15 minutes then remove from pans onto wire rack. Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to a day.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling:

• 8 ounces dark chocolate chips

 3/4 cup heavy cream

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Place chocolate chips in large bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, bring heavy cream and butter to a simmer.

2. When butter is completely melted, pour over chocolate chips. Let sit for about 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for several hours to harden to a spreadable consistency.


Peachy Cream Cheese Frosting:

• 8 ounces cream cheese,

room temperature

• 8 tablespoons unsalted butter,

room temperature

• 5 cups powdered sugar

• 1 tablespoon vanilla

 1/4 cup peach jam

1. In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese and butter on medium speed using the paddle attachment until completely smooth. Gently add the sugar and mix until thick. Add vanilla. If the mixture is too thick, add a little milk or heavy cream. If the mixture is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar. Reserve 2 cups of frosting for the exterior of the cake.

2. Add peach jam to the remaining frosting.


Gingerbread Cacti Cookies:

Makes 18-24 cookies

• 12 tablespoons unsalted butter,

melted and cooled

 3/4 cup packed brown sugar

 3/4 cup molasses

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 tablespoon cinnamon

• 1 tablespoon ground ginger

 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

• 1 large egg

• 3  1/2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Royal Icing (recipe follows)

1. In a mixing bowl, mix butter, brown sugar, molasses, salt and spices. Add the egg and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Gently incorporate flour mixture into the butter mixture. Separate the dough into two discs, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.

2. Roll out the chilled dough to  1/4 -inch thickness by sandwiching between parchment and plastic wrap. The thinner the dough, the crispier the cookies. If a softer cookie is preferred, roll dough a bit thicker. Using a cactus-shaped cookie cutter, cut cookie shapes and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently separate cacti arms a bit so there’s a clear separation to the form when baked. Chill the dough shapes for about an hour before baking.

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until the outer edgea of the cookies are just brown. Cool and decorate with Royal Icing.


Royal Icing:

• 1 egg white

• 1  1/2 cups powdered sugar

 1/8 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon lemon juice

• Hot pink gel food coloring

• Green gel food coloring

1. Beat egg white, powdered sugar, salt and lemon juice until stiff peaks form.

2. Divide icing into two portions. Using a toothpick, add a tiny amount of gel food coloring to each and mix with spoon or whisk to desired color.

3. Fit a piping bag with a small round tip and fill with  1/2 to 1 cup of colored icing. Gently pipe onto cookies. The icing will smudge if touched before completely dry.



• 1 cup white or clear sugar crystal sprinkles

• 1 lollipop stick

1. Cut each 8-inch cake round into two layers, creating six layers total. Use a piping bag to pipe a layer of Peachy Cream Cheese Frosting onto the base cake layer. Top with another cake layer and outline just the edge with frosting and fill in with one-third of the Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling. Add the next cake layer on top and repeat, alternating layers of frosting and ganache.

2. Once cake is assembled, frost the exterior with the reserved cream cheese frosting using an offset spatula, making the exterior as smooth as possible. (Reserve a small amount of frosting to use as “glue” to adhere the cookies.) Store cake in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to a day before decorating.

3. Gently press sugar crystals into all sides of the cake until covered. (May be stored for up to two more days in the refrigerator.) Pipe a small amount of frosting to back of each cookie and gently press onto the sides of the cake. Use frosting to adhere a lollipop stick to the back of one cookie to serve as the cake topper.


— 817-291-1129,

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