Christmas Trees and Christmas Cakes

Coming up is the big, tree-selling day and not wanting to be knocked over in the rush, I went down to see John the Italian greengrocer to kindly ask him to set me aside a tree.

Leaning against the wall awaiting help

Leaning against the wall awaiting help

When I got there I saw he had a few scrawny and draught-affected looking trees that were knee-high to a grasshopper and had gaps where branches should have been.  I said, ‘Thank goodness you’re getting some more trees in tomorrow, John, these are hopeless’.  And he looked at me sideways and said, ‘Actually, we’re not expecting anything better tomorrow.  This year they’re not coming from Victoria because the bloke wouldn’t deliver them.  These are from New South Wales’.

The lights are on the floor and I'm trying to detangle them

The lights are on the floor and I’m trying to detangle them

I was horrified.  ‘Well one of these won’t do, John, I want something taller than me and something that’s so bushy I can’t see the trunk’.  Desperate times.

He said, ‘I’ll let you in on a little secret; they’re selling Victorian trees at Terrey Hills.  If you can get up there, you’ll get a good tree’.  I didn’t actually have time in my schedule for a hike up to Terrey Hills (almost an hour’s drive), but desperate times call for desperate measures and so I put the girls in the car (they love Christmas-tree shopping) and off we went.

We have lights

Lights but no decorations

As soon as I got there I was all smiles because I saw the most beautiful trees that would reach the stratosphere and were so wide you’d be struggling to get them through your front door.  Excellent!  So I chose a tree and asked the chap if it was available.  It certainly was – for three hundred dollars.  Recovering from severe shock I said, ‘Does it come decorated?’ which he didn’t think was very funny.  Then another customer piped up saying, ‘It’s not too long ago that you could buy a really good tree for twenty dollars’.  And I agreed with him.

It's a good tree but it's not tall enough to reach the ceiling

It’s a good tree but it’s not tall enough to reach the ceiling

We both had to sadly turn away from the glamour tree and settle for its poor cousin, the runt.  Ruby and Rosie kept a good eye on it as we beetled back home to discover, typically, that there was no one home to help me carry it up from the car.  I don’t know how I did it but I heaved it up the front steps and into the house where I lifted it into its stand filled with water.  I had to leave it leaning against the wall as it takes that elusive extra person to properly secure it.

A heavenly messenger

A heavenly messenger

And while I waited for that extra person, I managed to decorate two more cakes.  As my available time had been squeezed with long drives in search of a decent tree, I decorated these very simply.  The first is an angel with stars on the sides of the cake.  All the shapes were made with cookies cutters cut from white fondant then I used a paint brush to paint the shapes with gold powder mixed with a little vodka.  The shapes were stuck on with lightly beaten egg white.  I wanted the angel to be more of a feature so I painted around her edges with edible glue then used tweezers to edge around her with silver cachous.  I’m giving her to a friend of mine who recently married and she wore a white and gold dress – the colours of this cake reminded me of her wedding dress.

Gold stars

Gold stars

The next cake was decorated equally as simply with a Christmas bell on the top with hearts on the sides.  Before fixing the shapes onto the cake I brushed them with lightly beaten egg white then sprinkled edible red glitter over them.  I edged the bell in the same way as the angel with silver cachous and I used an edible red pen to edge the hearts.

A Christmas bell

A Christmas bell

This cake is being given to good friends who through the year have had us over to their home many times.  And they just celebrated their wedding anniversary so I thought the hearts were appropriate.

Red-glitter hearts

Red-glitter hearts

Then it was time to pick up Alfie from swimming lessons so I headed to the pool and when I saw him I told him I had bought the Christmas tree.  He was disappointed I did the shopping without him but when we came home he said, ‘Can you put your hands over my eyes then lead me to the tree so it’s a big surprise’.  You forget how exciting Christmas is to little boys and girls.

Helping me decorate the tree

Helping me decorate the tree

The recipe for mini-Christmas cakes and other decorating ideas can be found here.

Wrapped and ready to be given as gifts

Wrapped and ready to be delivered


  1. I haven’t been out shopping for a real tree in 20 years, which was also the one and only time I joined a group of friends in tramping through the snow in order to pick out and cut your own tree. It was a great experience, especially as I was just a spectator. 🙂

    Both the cakes seem perfectly decorated for their recipients and very pretty.

  2. Your cakes look amazing! I too travel far and wide to find a real tree; there seems to be less and less quality trees available every year, and they get more and more expensive. Crazy. To me, it’s not really Christmas without a proper tree, but in Brisbane they seem to be as rare as hens teeth so this year we faced defeat and invested in the best fake one we could find. It’s up, but I feel crushed and dissapointed every time I look at it.

  3. We’re off to get the tree later today. It’s always a bit hit and miss and often takes a trip to two or three different places before we find the perfect one. Your cakes are fabulous! GG

  4. Oh that is amazing to hear that there is a difference between new south wales and victorian christmas trees – we got our today and I always ask that they aren’t too big – to match our place which isn’t too big! Love the thought that goes into your cake decoration (and using tweezers to place cachous does not sound simple to me but impressive!). Love your tree too!

  5. such an adorable child. The cakes are beautiful. Are all your trees the king needle kind? We have both in NA and the short needles are the most popular. I prefer them because they are easier to vacuum up. Our tree was $40 from a grocery store, it is a Fraser Fir which are usually $80+ (silvery green needles on one side and silvery blue needed in the other) but this grocery buys in huge quantities so they get better deals. We put our tree up last week because tonight is our company Christmas party and I wanted the tree in time for it. It’s still drinking about a litre of water every day.

    • Your tree sounds beautiful. Will you post a photo? We don’t have the short-needle variety of pines in Oz which is a shame because they long needles are very difficult to vacuum. I’m actually not sure what type of pine tree I have but I think they’re very different to what you can buy in the USA or Canada.

  6. Three hundred dollars? My mouth is hanging open. Still…any tree will almost do if you decorate it lovingly. I loved, just loved, Alfie’s excitement over seeing the tree. And those cakes are beyond special. Just lovely. What a lovely gift for family or friends.

  7. I don’t think I have ever had a real christmas tree, but it would be fun to shop for one 😀
    And your cakes are awesome!

    Choc Chip Uru

  8. I haven’t had a real tree since I was little. We have a plastic tree. I’m so excited to one day see how excited Elliot gets about Christmas. It really is a most wonderful time of the year.

  9. Oh, your cakes are beautiful Charlie.

    Oh, to think when I was growing up my father used to just lop a branch off a big tree and it was huge and free! The joys of growing up on a farm:) No tree for us this year – just making do with the optic fibre one at work!

  10. We bought our tree on December 1, it may have been a little ambitious because the heat has played havoc and it is already drooping…yours does look lovely and green (and fresh..). What beautifully decorated cakes – just stunning it their simplicity. I have made and iced this years offering in my traditional red and green – I may revisit that idea next year and emulate your gorgeous ones…xx

  11. G’day! I have many wonderful childhood memories about real Christmas tress Charlie and it is important for one to “be just right!”
    Great cakes as always…you are very patient and creative!
    Cheers! Joanne

  12. Gorgeous little cakies indeed Charlie, so pretty! Wow, what a lot they wanted for that tree, I’ve never heard such exorbitant prices before. I have artificial ones- with four now it’s much easier. When we were young we had a plastic green tree or a silver tinsel tree that would cut our fingers as we tried to decorate it, at least mine are good quality 🙂 xox

  13. Love how you used cachous to outline the angel! And our family never had a real Xmas tree growing up, but I do love the smell!

  14. What a pain Charlie, Still you have a ovely tree now and all is well. I glad that afie is so excited it does remind us that there are kids and dreams to take care of. Love the cake decorations they are gorgeous

  15. A woman’s work is never done… mostly because she is doing it all by her self.
    Well done on getting the tree inside all by yourself Charlie and your cakes are really beautiful.
    Have a happy day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  16. We saw some perfect Christmas trees today! However they were in the wild and still attached to the ground which I’m sure doesn’t help at all!

  17. I miss a big northern balsam fir tree for Christmas that smells so good you know it’s Christmas. When I lived in Victoria I bought a live tree and the air was so dry and at 40 degrees all we did was sweep the floor. By the time Christmas was over I think it had 3 needles left. Since we have no little boys or girls, ours is artificial.

    You’ve made SO many cakes, Charlie. I don’t know how you do it all. Not only that, it must have cost you a months’ wages just for the fondant!

  18. Goodness, $300!! Your tree looks lovey and definitely doesn’t come across as a runt – quite big enough to be carrying too. The cakes look like a lovely alternative to tree shopping but really, I think you need to sit down with a slice and admire your tree with your feet up!

  19. We went Christmas tree shopping on Saturday and I found the perfect tree. It reminds me of the trees from my childhood. Imperfect. Short. Sparse branches. In summary, it’s an old-fashioned tree, shaped by nature, untrimmed. Perfect. And a mere $12, plus $3 for a tip.

    Everyone has different ideas of the perfect tree. And that is good. I wish I had an Alfie to help me decorate mine.

  20. Hi Charlie, we bought our tree from Costco this year, I know sounds bad but they are noble firs and 7 to 8 feet tall. Anyway, love your cakes, you are so thoughtful.

  21. I love your tree! So happy you could find one that you would enjoy. And the $300 tree…yikes! I would have passed that one up too. Your cakes are beautiful! 🙂

  22. I’ve never had a “real” Christmas Tree and we even considered not putting up our tree this year because we’ve only just come back from holidays. But as you say, you forget about the excitement of boys and girls and Miss 16 had a ball putting up the tree and decorations. I have to admit the house is now feeling much more festive!

  23. we have a plastic tree which has lasted for years and still looks good. the real ones are great but leave a bit of a mess don’t they?

  24. Charlie – your cakes are so so gorgeous!
    I haven’t had a real tree in so long – am thinking next year my daughter and I will have to wrestle a real one home!
    Merry Christmas!

  25. Whether your tree touches the ceiling or not, looks like you and your daughters had fun tree shopping =) Thank you for the tip about vodka and gold powder to make paint for your perfect angels….Trust your Christmas Day was wonderful.

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