There are many ways to decorate a cake, but hard sugar decorations are as simple to apply as they are attractive and good to eat. These decorations require only basic ingredients and are so safe to make that children of almost any age can participate in making sugar decorations. This can make creating hard sugar decorations an appealing family activity for Christmas. There are several methods that you can use to achieve the effect you want.
You don't need anything special to make hard sugar decorations for cakes. Simply mix granulated sugar with enough water so that it packs or clumps together and can be shaped. It should have a texture like wet sand, as though you were building a sand castle. If you want to be able to make finely detailed decorations, use extra-fine or superfine granulated sugar. You can mix the sugar with a few drops of food coloring to tint it for any theme or occasion. Red and green are appropriate for Christmas. You can add a little meringue powder to the mix to add some strength to your decorations, or bake the decorations at 200 degrees Fahrenheit to help them dry faster.
Take your basic sugar and water mixture and spread it out onto a piece of wax paper or parchment paper. You can press it with your fingers or use an object to smooth it out into a flat sheet. Push a cookie cutter into the mixture to form flat shapes. Let the shapes dry completely, for at least an hour, so that they are hard enough to handle for decorating. To make this suitable for Christmas, use cookie cutters in shapes including gingerbread men, Christmas trees, ornaments, snowflakes or stars.
If you want 3-Dl shapes, pack the sugar mixture tightly into candy or chocolate molds. Simply turn the mold over and tap to release the molded sugar. Again, the sugar needs to dry and harden before you can use it to decorate a cake. Choose shapes such as trees or snowflakes. If you have trouble finding a specifically "Christmas-themed" mold, try using plain round molds. You can decorate the candies to look like ornaments, and you can use more than one color of sugar in the same mold. You don't have to use molds designed for candies, either; so long as your mold is clean and made of a non-toxic material, you could use anything to shape your sugar.
Hard sugar decorations and icing can work well together. The icing makes a good "glue" for attaching the decorations to the cake; simply spread some icing on the backs of the shapes and press into place. You can also use the icing to decorate the candies; for instance, if you have green sugar trees, use colorful icing dots for "ornaments." Royal icing, which hardens as it dries, is a good choice for this. This can be a good activity for children, as an alternative to decorating cookies.