This pretty-as-a-picture dessert uses lots of individual treats, like cupcakes and cut-out cookies, to create one temptingly sweet holiday masterpiece. Photo by Kat Teutsch; Prop styling by Shana Faust.
• 24 cupcakes (see Note)
• Green buttercream (see recipe below), for decorating
• Holly leaf cookies (see recipe below), for decorating
• Sugared cranberries (see recipe below), for decorating
• Pastry bag fitted with large star tip
• 6 large egg whites
• 2 cup(s) granulated sugar
• 2 1/4 cup(s) (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1 tablespoon(s) pure vanilla extract
• Leaf green gel food coloring
Holly Leaf Cookies
• Sugar cookie dough (see Note)
• 1 1/2-inch holly leaf cookie cutters
• 3 large egg whites
• 1/2 teaspoon(s) cream of tartar
• 1 pound(s) confectioners' sugar
• Forest green gel food coloring
•1/2 cup(s) fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed and dried if frozen
• 2 tablespoon(s) corn syrup
• 1/2 cup(s) granulated sugar
1. On a large platter, assemble the cupcakes into two touching rings, 15 in the outer ring and 9 in the inner ring. Place the green buttercream in the pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and frost the cupcakes to create a wreath, flling in any gaps between cupcakes with the frosting. Decorate the wreath with the holly leaves and sugared cranberries.
2. To make the green buttercream: In a large metal or glass bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) a saucepan of barely simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are warm to touch, 3 to 4 minutes. (To tell if the sugar has dissolved, rub a little of the mixture between your fingers. It should feel smooth, not grainy.)
3. Remove from the heat. Using an electric mixer, whisk on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff glossy peaks form and the bowl is no longer hot to touch, 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Reduce the speed to medium and gradually add the butter, a few pieces at a time. After adding all the butter, continue to whisk until the mixture begins to resemble softly whipped butter, about 3 minutes.
5. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the vanilla. Mix for 3 to 4 minutes to remove some of the air bubbles. Tint the frosting green.
6. To make the holly leaf cookies: Using holly leaf cookie cutters, cut out cookies and bake as directed. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
7. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high speed in a large bowl until foamy, about 1 minute.
8. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sugar, beating until just incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes.
9. Transfer a quarter of the icing to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Dye the remaining frosting dark green. Transfer half to a second piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Thin out the remaining green frosting with 1 to 2 tablespoons water and transfer to a resealable plastic bag; snip of one corner.
10. Using the thick green frosting, outline the cookies. Then use the thinner green frosting to flood the insides of the cookies, using a wooden pick to push it into the corners. Let set, about 1 hour.
11. Once dry, outline with the white frosting.
12. To make the cranberries: Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly brush the cranberries with the corn syrup and roll in the granulated sugar. Transfer to the prepared tray until dry, at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Tips & Techniques
Notes: For the cupcakes, use your favorite or go to womansday.com/redvelvet for a recipe. For the sugar cookie dough, use your favorite or go to womansday.com/sugarcookies for a recipe.