Baking, Chocolate

Christmas Tree Hi-Hats with Hidden Presents

December 23, 2012

Christmas Tree Hi-Hats with Hidden Presents 1

I didn’t intend to post two recipe with hidden presents in a row – I actually made these cupcakes first. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the second ‘Let’s Make Christmas 2012’ gift swap, organised by Vanessa Kimbell of Goddess on a Budget and now Juniper & Rose. I went to last year’s fantastic event in Fortnum & Mason’s (that I wrote about here, here and here) but this one was even more tempting as it was held at the Rococo Chocolates factory. I have a lot of respect for the founder of Rococo, Chantal Coady, and was looking forward to meeting her. Since setting the company up in 1983 she has been at the forefront of a chocolate revolution in the UK, helping to educate and make available chocolate of the highest quality, while also making sure the cocoa farmers receive a fair price. Rococo also has some of the most beautiful packaging you will find which Chantal, a former illustrator, designed.

Christmas Tree Hi-Hats with Hidden Presents 2

The idea behind ‘Let’s Make Christmas’ is to encourage us all to make more Christmas gifts. There were two categories for the gift swap – our best chocolate recipe or a recipe from Chantal’s beautiful new book Rococo Mastering the Art of Chocolate. We could enter a gift in just one or both categories. I only had time to make one thing so chose the first category. I’d had the idea for these Christmas Tree Hi-Hats a while ago and this event gave me the perfect opportunity to try them out. If I am lucky enough to go again next year then I think I’ll opt for something a bit more refined and less novelty but these are great fun to make and I do love the decorating part at the end.

Christmas Tree Hi-Hats with Hidden Presents 3

Do you ever have one of those baking days when nothing goes right for you? I certainly did when I was making these little cakes. I think it’s most likely to happen when you’re under pressure for time or you’re baking for a special occassion. I usually prefer to take my time when I’m baking but that wasn’t an option on this occasion. To start with I overbaked the cakes slightly – not massively but enough that I knew it would affect the texture. I didn’t have time to make any more unfortunately and hoped the large volume of icing would make up for this.

Next my Italian meringue ended up a lot runnier than usual and certainly not stiff enough to pipe the Christmas trees. I decided to turn it into an Italian meringue butter cream instead but this didn’t help initially and it remained quite runny. Putting it in the fridge didn’t thicken it as quickly as I’d hoped so I improvised again, adding some cocoa powder. A few more minutes in the fridge and it was just about thick enough to pipe though I still would have preferred a stiffer icing and my trees are a little stumpy. It does taste delicious though. Finally, when I came to melt the chocolate to dip the icing in it seized. That’s never happened to me before and I’m not quite sure what caused it. Fortunately I still had some chocolate left and the second batch went better but still needed a little vegetable oil to get it to the required consistency. I was very relieved when the final decorations went on without any problems.

Christmas Tree Hi-Hats with Hidden Presents 4

So you probably won’t believe me now when I say that these are not difficult to make. There are a few stages to hi-hats but none of them are too complicated. Just make sure you allow yourself enough time for each step. If you want to dye the white chocolate then you’ll need a powder food colour as a water based one will make the chocolate seize.

Christmas Tree Hi-Hats with Hidden Presents 5

It took a bit of searching but I found the perfect sized box in Paperchase. If the trees were any higher the lid wouldn’t have fit, so there was actually an upside to my icing issues. While I frantically finished the hi-hats my lovely husband made a cardboard insert to keep them in place for the train journey. Unfortunately when I arrived at the event I found two of them were upside down but surprisingly they were quite resilient and the only damage was to the star on the top.

Christmas Tree Hi-Hats with Hidden Presents 6

The event itself was fantastic. After a welcoming hot chocolate we were treated to a recipe demonstration and a tasting. Barry, the head chocolatier at Rococo, is a really fun personality and all of the chocolates were absolutely delicious. I was really surprised to learn that the three chocolatiers in the room were in fact the only chocolatiers in the company. The highlight was receiving a signed copy of Chantal’s new book. I can’t wait to try one of the recipes from it, the problem is choosing which to try first. The Chocolate Salami and Savoury Chocolate Biscuits are strong contenders. Thank you so much to Vanessa and Chantal for organising and hosting this event.

Let's Make Christmas 2012


Christmas Tree Hi-Hats with Hidden Presents {Click for printable recipe}

I’d suggest making the icing before the cakes to give it time to cool and thicken.

Espresso Bourbon Chocolate Cupcakes (from Tea with Bea, Recipes from Bea’s of Bloombury)


225g unsalted butter
4 shots of good espresso
110g cocoa powder
200g caster sugar
220g dark brown soft sugar
2 eggs
45ml Bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
280g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
100g soft sweets (optional – for hidden presents)

Makes about 20 cupcakes.


1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (Gas mark 5)
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan
3. Stir in espresso and cocoa powder
4. Add sugars and eggs and whisk thoroughly
5. Sift the flour twice into a mixing bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and salt
6. Slowly pour the espresso mixture into the flour and stir until combined. The mixture should be very liquidy.
7. Put the mixture into a cake tin and bake for about 20 minutes. A skewer should come out with almost nothing attached from the middle of the cake when it is done.

Optional hidden presents: when the cakes are cool use a teaspoon to scoop out a small circle of cake. Fill with soft sweets – I used dolly mixture but mini smarties or marshmallows would be good.

Italian Meringue Chocolate Buttercream


200g caster sugar
75g water
80g egg whites (at room temperature)
225g unsalted butter (softened)
75g cocoa powder
50g desiccated coconut (for decoration)


1. Place the caster sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to boil without stirring. At the same time as putting this on, start to gently beat 80g of egg whites to soft peaks using a mixer.
2. When the temperature of the syrup reaches 105°C increase the speed of the mixer. Once the syrup hits 115°C remove the saucepan from the heat and pour in a thin stream into the beaten egg whites. Continue beating the meringue for 10 minutes so that it cools.
3. Reserve a small bowl of the meringue. Use this to cover the cupcakes and sprinkle with coconut.
4. Once you are sure the meringue is cool start adding small lumps of the butter, mixing each bit thoroughly before adding another piece. Once it is all added increase the speed and mix for about half a minute until the buttercream has a smooth, light but firm consistency.
4. Add the cocoa powder and mix again on high for another half a minute or so.
5. Pipe on top of the cupcakes in your best approximation of a Christmas tree.


200g white chocolate
Dust green food colouring

1. Melt chocolate and add the dust food colouring to achieve the desired colour.
2. Dip the Christmas tree shapes into the chocolate and use a cocktail stick to cover the parts that get miss.
3. Allow to set and decorate with royal icing, sprinkles, sanding sugar and anything else you wish to use. Add a star on the top.



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