There’s nothing more adorable than a decorated Saguaro Cactus decorated in a Christmas Garland! Don’t worry, this cake won’t leave you in tears.
Christmas Saguaro Cactus Cake
Way back when, before cell phones were mainstream, I went to college in Northern Arizona. Driving through the high desert plains was always interesting. The Saguaro Cacti were just so neat to see after living in the land of palm trees. Yes, I have seen a few decorated cactus along the side of the road and they always made me smile.These cacti are made from simple meringue and then decorated with black royal icing and metallic dragées. At first, the idea was just to do a post on the adorable meringues, but as I was taking the flat, overhead photos of the popsicle meringues I knew I had to stand them up.
What better way to stand up popsicles than with a cake?
The cactus meringues were pretty straight forward to make. Make the meringue and tint it green. Lay down some popsicle sticks on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Then, I used a Wilton 1M open tip to create the look of the ridges.
For the mixed dragées, I went through a few of my Sweetapolita mixes and separated them out, however, you can save the time and get Razzle Dazzle online. It has most of the colors, so have fun with it.
Making the Garland
To decorate the garland, I used some royal icing. I’m not gonna lie – I asked a local cookie decorator friend for a half cup of black royal icing. You can make your own at home or use some Cookie Icing and save the time. You really are just using a little bit, so don’t stress yourself out!
Simply pipe on the black royal icing and then attach the dragées. I used tweezers to attach them so that I wouldn’t mess it up with my fingertips.
What is a Dragée?
A dragée (pronounced “dra-zhay”) traditionally refers to a colorful covered candy with a hard outer shell and softer center. These metallic dragées do come with a warning that the silver used is NOT FDA approved and they should be for decoration only.
I ate them anyway. They are small and crunchy with little to no real flavor. Would I give them to a small child? No… Would I give them to an elderly person? Probably not…
You are an adult and can decide if eating them is right for you.
Decorating the Christmas Cactus Cake
The high desert of Arizona isn’t like the Sahara. There are lots of scrub brush and critters that depend on each other to survive. So, to play on that idea, I kept the top ragged and uneven after smoothing out the sides. Usually, I would smooth over the top and make the best attempt at making a clean edge, however I love this rugged look and the addition of the crushed graham crackers makes it a bit more desert-like.
I used a bit of frosting to attach the meringue cacti to the sides of the cake and then used the ones with the sticks to stand up on top of the cake.
Ultimately, it’s an easy cake decorating technique.
The cake layers are shades of blue and green – not for any particular reason… Just to be a little bit different. You can do ombre or just all one color. This cake recipe will make 2 8-inch layer cakes, 3 6-inch layer cakes or the 6 6-inch layer cakes (like I have here).
You can also completely skip the cake and just hand the kids the meringue pops! Those are always a hit.
I hope you enjoyed this Christmas Cactus Cake.
I know you’re in love with this cactus trend
- Chocolate Macha Cupcakes with Cactus Macarons
- DIY Houseplant Cupcakes
- How to Make Cactus Pretzel Rods
- Succulent Vanilla Sugar Cookies
- Prickly Pear Cupcakes Recipe
- Cactus Cake Pops
- DIY Cactus Christmas Bauble Ornaments
Here’s a few more amazing Christmas Cakes for you to bake!
For the Meringues
- 170 grams egg whites - about 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 100 grams superfine sugar
- 60 grams powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Green Food Coloring
- Black Royal Icing
- Mixed color dragees
For the Cake
- 3/4 C buttermilk
- 2/3 C sour cream
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla extract
- 4 egg whites
- 1/3 C vegetable oil
- 1 Box White Cake mix
- Food Coloring Gel
For the Buttercream
- 2 cups butter
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 C heavy cream
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Food Coloring
Make the Meringues
- Preheat the oven to 175F. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. DO NOT pipe on to an unlined cookie sheet!! THEY WILL STICK!
- Use a stand mixer with the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy.
- Gradually add in the superfine sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue whipping on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form adding in the extract just before finishing.
- Sift together the powdered sugar and salt into a large bowl. Fold the powdered sugar into the egg whites.
- Place a dot of meringue on the cookie sheet and attach a popsicle stick to it. Use a large 1M piping tip in a pastry bag and pipe put the cactus shape on the popsicle stick.
- Bake for 4 hours. Rotate the cookie sheets at the 2 hour mark.
- Turn the oven off and leave the baked meringues inside overnight to completely dry. You can leave them in the oven until you're ready to use them.
Bake the Cakes
- Preheat the oven to 325F. Prepare 6 6-inch cake pans with min-stick spray or shortening and flour. Set aside.
- Whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, extract, egg whites, and vegetable oil. Sift in the cake mix (do NOT just dump it in). Mix until just combined.
- Fill one cake pan with just the white cake mix. Gradually mix blue and/or green food coloring into each cake layer for an ombre effect focusing on lighter to darker.
- Bake the cake layers for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
- Wrap the cake layers in plastic and place in the freezer overnight for best frosting experience.
Make the Buttercream
- Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix the butter until light and fluffy - 4 minutes.
- Sift the powdered sugar and salt and gradually add it to the butter.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix in the heavy cream, vanilla extract and slowly mix in some green, orange, and red food coloring until you get the desired color. It will get darker over time, so less is more.
- Cover and set aside until ready to use.
Decorate the Cake
- Remove the frozen cakes from the freezer. Add a dollop of butter to a cardboard cake round and place the darkest cake on first. Top with 1/4 cup of buttercream and repeat the layering of the cakes and buttercream. Crumb coat the cake and then refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Add second coat of buttercream around cake and smooth out the sides with a cake scraper. Leave the edge unfinished as to create a lip around the perimeter of the cake.
- Add crushed graham crackers around the base of the cake and on the top..
- Add the meringue cacti to the perimeter of the cake with some frosting and insert the lollipop sticks into the cake to stand them up on top.
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