Holiday Almanac December 13: Christmas Tree Cakes

For more information on the Holiday Almanac, go hereOr to see what I've been up to on past Holiday Almanac days, check out this page.

In 3 ¾ years of being married, one of the worst fights we've ever gotten in happened because of a Christmas tree.

Last year, we bought our first Scottish Christmas tree, and we were stoked about it. In a strange way, buying a real tree and decorating it with ornaments we had brought here all the way from the US seemed to symbolise the fact that we were staying here in Scotland (semi) permanently, and that was an extra-important feeling for us when we started facing visa issues outwith our control that left our immigration status in question for most of the month of December and January.

We set aside an entire evening to clean the house, buy the tree and decorate it... and then the worst happened. We couldn't find a tree we liked at the lot near our flat (in our defense, they were all super ratty looking), so we walked a couple of miles to a home improvement store across town. Before doing it, we spoke to a handful of Edinburgh friends to make sure we'd be allowed to bring a Christmas tree in a cab home from the shop, and our friends all assured us they had done it over and over and it would be no big deal.

But when our cab came to pick us up from the shop, the driver refused to take us because we had a giant pine tree with us.* We had already bought the tree (and it wasn't cheap), so what choice did we have? We started walking.

But it was already late and dark, and the wind was blowing a stinging rain that turned to sleet every now and then. I had no gloves, and the tree was a particularly spiky brand of pine, and I had worked a full day's shift in holiday retail so my legs were already tired, and Judson had a sore shoulder from an unrelated injury... and we were mad. Mad at each other, mad at the situation, and most of all mad that we had 2.3 miles to walk (mostly uphill) carrying a heavy pine tree, and then when we got to our building, we still had 67 stairs to go up to reach our 4th floor flat.

And since you can't exactly chat with each other while you're walking 6 feet apart carrying each end of a tree, we stewed and mulled and kept getting angrier and angrier all the way home. By the time we got home we were so mad about the fact that we had ruined our own night for such a dumb reason that we couldn't even look at each other. We've never had such a serious fight over something so stupid, and it's even funnier when you know that the route we had to walk home is a street that runs right through the middle of a giant park, so we were just two angry, scowling people carrying a giant tree in the dark through one of the most beautiful parks in Edinburgh, jaws clenched and shivering in the frigid Scottish winter.

I don't remember how we ended up making up, but we must have done because it ended up being an awesome night and it's one of my favourite memories of 2014, and totally one of those memories that's completely hilarious in retrospect, even though I thought we were never going to speak to each other again in the heat of the moment. So even if this year was a little less climactic decoration-wise, I'll never stop laughing about last year.

Anyway, today's Almanac task is to make Christmas Tree Cakes in foil molds, baked upright in a tin can in the oven to celebrate Santa Lucia Day, so as a bonus for you, here's a photo of me dressed as Santa Lucia for a Christmas party (with Judson as Krampus) a few years ago. Fun fact: this was not the first time I have dressed like Santa Lucia, but it was the most fun.

I anticipated that this would be a major flop that would result in me having to clean my oven and a waste of a perfectly good cake, so I used cake mix, as the recipe requested... but then to my surprise, the cakes worked perfectly and they came out absolutely beautifully!

*This was completely fair on his part, we were just surprised.

The verdict:

3 spoons out of five. These are adorable and super easy, but they're nearly impossible to frost (at least for this novice), so I'm deducting a spoon for that. I do, however, think they'd be beautiful done in chocolate cake and dusted with powdered sugar right before serving. Or made with white cake and drizzled in melted dark and white chocolate. They'd be great for a centrepiece at a holiday-themed brunch or even dinner, and I am definitely regretting that I didn't make them for our party last week.

The recipe:

Christmas Tree Cakes

the directions:

Trace the outline of a dinner plate onto foil, then cut out the circle.
Cut circle in half, then form it into a pointed cylinder and crimp the seam tightly, folding it over twice to ensure a tight seal.
Set the molds into tin cans, pointed side down and set aside.
Prepare cake batter as usual, then fill foil molds 2/3 to ¾ full of cake batter (I did some half-full to get a range of sizes).
Cook as per cake instructions, then allow to cool fully before removing the foil.
If necessary, use a sharp knife to slice off the base of the trees so they sit flat on a plate.
Set trees on a plate and sift powdered sugar over them to look like snow (or, if you're very brave, attempt to frost them).

the ingredients:

1 batch of your favourite cake batter (Might I recommend this one?)
Powdered sugar