This beautiful, edible centrepiece doesn't compromise flavour for looks. Delicious, buttery sugar cookies with chocolate caramel trunks and white chocolate icicles bring a winter wonderland alive in these Christmas tree sugar cookie stacks.
Usually, when the weather starts getting cold (and believe me, in Toronto it does) I escape to some international destination. However, this year things are very different and I found myself exploring a little closer to home. I went west and spent some time taking in the spectacular mountain views of Banff National Park, Alberta.
The mountains weren't the only beautiful things to look at. All around me were thick forests of trees decked with snow glistening in the sunshine. It truly was a winter wonderland. I wanted to take that beauty and replicate it in a beautiful, edible centrepiece for Christmas.
While you could make this on your own, I recommend doing it together with a friend or loved one to make this project extra special and create a new memory together. I was lucky to share this time with my mother.
How to make sugar cookies
Preheat your oven to 350°F / 175°C. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
Mixing the Dough
Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, whip together room temperature unsalted butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy - about four minutes.
Mix a large egg and pure vanilla extract in with the butter and sugar until they are well incorporated.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt until they are blended.
Gradually add the flour mixture in while mixing, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix until the dry ingredients have been just completely mixed in, being careful to not overmix the dough.
Split the cookie dough into half, and place one half on top of some plastic wrap.
Use the wrap to help you shape the crumbly dough into a flat, round disk shape. Repeat this with the other half of the dough. Make sure that they are well wrapped, and set them in the refrigerator for at least a couple hours (up to a few days).
Rolling the Dough
When you're ready to roll out the dough, set one of the dough disks on a lightly floured surface and flour your rolling pin as well to prevent sticking. If you've had your dough chilling in the fridge for more than a few hours, you may need to set out for several minutes until it softens enough to roll without cracking.
Roll the dough out to an eighth of an inch thick. Cut out the star shapes, making sure to have the same number for each size of cutter. For example, I had six sizes of star cutters, so I made ten of each size. When you've run out room for star cutting, mold the remaining dough into a disk, then roll it out again to cut more stars. Repeat this process until you are almost out of dough, then set the remaining scraps aside for now.
Carefully transfer the cookie cutouts to a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Make sure that the cookies are flat (unlike the sneaky star in the top right of the photo below, trying to escape his destiny). They will not spread very much, so leave some space between them but don't worry about leaving a huge amount.
Bake the cookies for about six to seven minutes, until you can see the edges of the cookies just begin to golden. You do not want the cookies to brown.
The cookies will be very delicate when they first come out of the oven. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet before very carefully transferring them to a cooling rack. An easy way to do this is to transfer the entire sheet of parchment paper that they are on.
Roll out the remaining dough disk to the same eighth of an inch thick and repeat the cutting and re-rolling process to make the rest of the stars. When you re-roll the dough, you can add in the dough scraps from the first disk.
How to make Christmas tree sugar cookie stacks
To stick everything together to make trees, we are going to need glue - edible glue. To make it, you will need a stand mixer or hand mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat together the cream of tartar with egg whites until they start to look foamy. Then slowly add in the powdered sugar. Beat for ten minutes on medium-high until quite fluffy.
I put my icing glue into a piping bag. You could also use a zip-top bag with the corner edge cut off. Make sure you are nice and organized before you start assembling the trees. Some of the cookie sizes are close enough that you can get them mixed up.
Assembling the Trees
To assemble the trees, start with your very largest stars. Put a generous blob of icing glue directly in the centre. Gently press a Rolo Mini right into the middle. Set it aside, and repeat the process with the rest of the stars (working from largest to smallest), excluding the very smallest size.
The very smallest stars will be the top of the tree, so we don't want a Rolo (trunk) there. I instead topped mine with a large, pretty candy ball sprinkle.
It is very important to let the cookies set long enough in order for the glue to be hardened sufficiently to support the trees. Wait at least five minutes to move onto the next step.
Taking only the largest star size, add a generous amount of icing glue on top of the Rolo Mini trunk.
Then take the second largest star size, and very gently press it down into the glue on the Rolo of the larger cookie below. Make sure to look from all angles to make sure that the trunks are accurately lined up on top of each other. Also, make sure that the points of the stars are staggered so that the top star's points splay out in-between the points of the bottom star.
Repeat this with the rest of the largest and second largest cookies, then (again) let the icing glue harden for at least five minutes. Next you can glue on the third largest cookies, following the same steps and hardening process. Repeat this until the final star is glued on top.
Decorating the trees
If you plan to make this as a festive table centrepiece, I recommend using a tray with a raised edge that is either glass or white, or silver or gold to match the tree decorations. Very carefully transfer the trees onto the tray, and fill the space around them with white and metallic ball sprinkles to resemble snow.
White Chocolate Icicles
The pretty icicles dripping from the trees are made from tempered white chocolate. You will want to temper the chocolate first so that it stays solid and perfect at room temperature. It's very easy to do and just takes some 'know-how' and patience, and I'll provide the know-how!
Check out my Complete Guide on How to Temper Chocolate. For this recipe, I took two bars of Lindt white chocolate (a total of 200g), slivered them very finely with a serrated knife, and tempered them using the seeding method (this link will take you straight to the directions).
The chocolate will cool and harden fairly quickly, so I recommend decorating one tree at a time. Put the melted, tempered chocolate in a piping bag with a small hole cut into the tip. (Again, you could use a zip-top bag as a substitute.) Drizzle the chocolate over the tree, from above to get the icicle effect.
Now you won't want to be sticking your hand in there and risk accidentally knocking a tree down, so take a pinch full of metallic ball sprinkles at a time and toss them onto the tree. They will stick to the still melted chocolate in a beautiful, haphazard way. Repeat this decorating with the rest of the trees, working fairly quickly so that the chocolate doesn't cool in harden in the piping bag.Print
Delicious, buttery sugar cookies with chocolate caramel trunks and white chocolate icicles bring a winter wonderland alive in these Christmas tree sugar cookie stacks.
1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ large egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartare
2 cups (260 g) powdered sugar
200 g white chocolate, tempered (see note*)
Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy - about 4 minutes.
Mix in egg and pure vanilla extract until fully incorporated.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Gradually add flour mixture in with the butter while mixing, until the dry ingredients are just completely mixed in. Scraping down the bowl as necessary. Be careful to not overmix.
Split the cookie dough in half. Take one half and set it onto some plastic wrap. Use the wrap to help you form the crumbly dough into a smooth, flat, and round disk shape. Repeat this with the other half of the dough.
Make sure that the cookie dough disks are well wrapped, and place them in the refrigerator for at least a couple hours (up to a few days).
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C. Cover a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
Set one disk of chilled dough on a lightly floured surface. If the dough has been in the fridge for more than a few hours, you may need to set it out for several minutes so that it won't crack when you roll it. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to be ⅛" thick.
Using your star cookie cutting set, make sure that you make an equal amount of each size of star. (I have a 6-size star cutter set, so 10 of each of the sizes = 60 cookies.) When you have no more room to cut out stars, mold the dough into another disc and roll it out again to cut out more.
Carefully transfer the star shapes to the parchment paper lined baking sheets, placing the smallest ones towards the inside. Make sure that the cookies are lying flat and leave a little bit of space between them (though they shouldn't spread too much).
Bake the cookies for 6-7 minutes, until the outer edges just begin to golden. You do not want the cookies to brown. Allow the cookies to completely cool on the baking sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack.
Roll out the second disk of dough and repeat this process.
Using a stand mixer or hand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat cream of tartar and egg whites together until they look foamy. Slowly add in powdered sugar. Beat for 10 minutes on medium high until quite fluffy.
Put icing glue in a piping bag (or a zip-top bag with a small piece of the corner cut off).
Assembling the Trees:
Starting with the largest-sized star cookie, use the piping bag to put a generous squeeze of icing glue in the very middle. Gently press a Rolo Mini down into the glue. Repeat this process with all of the cookies, working from largest to smallest, excluding the very smallest size. With the smallest-sized, rather than a Rolo, glue a large ball sprinkle in the middle. Allow cookies to set for at least 5 minutes before moving to the next step (glue needs time to harden).
Pipe some icing glue on top of the Rolo mini that is glued to the largest-sized cookies. Then, take the second largest-sized cookies, and place them on top. Check from all angles to make sure that the Rolo 'trunks' line up properly. Also, try to offset the prongs of the different stars so that they are staggered (see images in post above). Allow to set for at least 5 minutes before repeating this step with the next size down of cookie. Repeat until entire trees are assembled.
Carefully transfer trees onto a platter with a bit of a raised edge. Carefully fill in around the trees with white sprinkles to look like snow.
Put melted, tempered white chocolate (see note*) in a piping bag. Decorate one tree at a time so that the chocolate doesn't harden before you have time to add the sprinkles.
Drizzle a tree by squeezing the piping bag from above to give the icicle effect. Then take a pinch of metallic ball sprinkles at a time and toss them at the tree. They will stick to the chocolate. Repeat with the rest of the trees.
* For this recipe I used 200g of Lindt white chocolate, slivered finely with a serrated knife, then tempered using the seeding method (follow that link to go right to the directions or see my easy-to-follow, complete guide on how to temper chocolate). Tempering enables chocolate to hold its form perfectly at room temperature and I recommend doing it for this table centrepiece.
Keywords: Christmas tree sugar cookie