Make this show-stopping, Red Velvet 3D Christmas Tree Cake for the holidays! A little bit of carving, boughs of buttercream with a star piping tip, and a handful of magic brings this tree cake to life in no time.
This super festive and fun cake is a must-make this holiday season! Despited the piped details, this cake is relatively easy to make.
Kids and adults alike are going to fall in love with this 3D Christmas Tree Cake. It is bound to make a statement as a centrepiece at your holiday feast or any other celebration.
Not only does it look fantastic and festive, the red velvet cake is moist with hints of cocoa. I was just as eager to eat a slice as were my children; it's that good.
Here is a quick glance at some of the ingredients needed beyond basic pantry staples. Find a complete list with quantities in the full recipe to follow.
- Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- All-purspose Flour
- White or Apple Cider Vinegar
- Confectioners' Sugar
- Unsalted Butter
- Avocado or Canola Oil
- Granulated Sugar
Tools and Equipment
These are the primary tools you will need to bake this cake. I've listed my recommended cake decorating equipment too.
- 6-inch Cake Pans, with sides at least 2-inch high
- 9 X 5-inch Loaf Pan
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Rubber Spatula
- Hand or Stand Mixer
- Rotating Cake Stand
- Offset Spatula
- Serrated Knife
- Piping Bag
- Gel food coloring
- Star 4B Piping Tip
- General Kitchen Tools (measuring spoons, cups, etc).
See the recipe card for full cake baking instructions.
Bake the red velvet cake layers according to the recipe card.
Trim the round cakes until flat. Cut out two, 4-inch cakes from the loaf. Trim one of the 6-inch cakes so that it is 5-inches in diameter.
Stack the cake layers with buttercream frosting in between.
Use a serrated knife to carve the stacked cake into the shape of a Christmas tree. Save the scraps to mix with buttercream to from a cone for the top of the tree.
Crumb coat the carved cake by icing it in a thin layer of buttercream.
Want to switch up the cake flavors? You can! Instead of red velvet cake, consider a different sponge cake that is sturdy enough for layering and carving, like:
- Vanilla Bean Cake
- Moist Chocolate Cake
- Pumpkin Cake - multiply this recipe by 1.5 to make enough batter for this design.
I do not recommend using cream cheese frosting as it is not stable enough to carve and has a harder time holding its shape when piped.
Serving and Storage
Serve the cake a room temperature. It may be stored at room temperature (preferable in a box or cake container) overnight.
Store leftovers, loosely covered in the plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. Allow cake to come to room temperature before serving.
You can freeze the baked, cooled, and unfrosted cake layers. Wrap well in plastic and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw the cake layers in the refrigerator overnight before use.
- If you are finding it difficult to carve the cake, try chilling the stacked cake. A chilled cake should yield less crumbs and the filling will be more stable.
- When filling the cake with buttercream, you do not need to go all the way to the edges of the cake. Since the cakes are stacked in a cone shape and the edges trimmed, you don't want to waste buttercream that will be cut off.
- The buttercream should be soft enough to easily squeeze out of the piping bag without straining your hand. If it is too think, try adding a splash more of milk or massage the piping bag to warm it up.
- On the flip-side, chill the buttercream for a few minutes as a time if it gets too warm in the piping bag.
You don't have to, but the cake will not have a very strong red color. The natural cocoa may give it a hint of red.
No. This recipe is developed with natural cocoa that reacts with the baking soda, buttermilk, and vinegar.
This cake is made with an American-style buttercream. You could try a meringue-style buttercream, but I do not recommend cream cheese frosting.
How to Decorate a 3D Christmas Tree Cake
Decorating the cake was relatively simple. After filling and crumb coating the cake, tint the buttercream green.
For the tree, fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip (I used Wilton 4B) and pipe shells around the tree.
Start at the bottom and work your way around and up the tree.
Be sure to add the sprinkles as you go so that they stick to the buttercream before it begins to crust. And if all else fails, literally throw the sprinkles to the side of the cake (instead of from the top where they can sometimes bounce off everywhere).
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Red Velvet 3D Christmas Tree
For the Red Velvet Cake
- 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- ¾ cup unsalted butter softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup canola or avocado oil
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon red food coloring optional
- 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
For the Whipped Vanilla Buttercream
- 2 cups unsalted butter softened
- 5 to 6 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
To Make the Red Velvet Cake
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 6-inch round cakes pans and one 9 X 5 loaf pan. Set aside.
- Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the oil and mix to combine. With the mixer on low, add in the cocoa, vanilla, red coloring, and eggs – one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
- With the mixer on low, add in half of the dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk and vinegar. Add the second half of the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
- Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 23 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
To Make the Whipped Vanilla Buttercream
- Beat butter at medium-low speed of electric mixer until smooth and creamy (1 to 3 minutes.)
- Gradually add 4 ½ cups powdered sugar and vanilla extract with mixer at low speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Mix until blended.
- Beat at medium-high speed 3 to 5 minutes, until buttercream is light and airy and nearly white. If needed, add the additional powered sugar or milk until desired consistency. Divide and tint with green gel food coloring.