Thursday, November 26, 2020

Christmas Table Decor Ideas and An Easy Vegan Gingerbread Cake With Icing Sugar Glaze (Recipe)

*This post is sponsored by Giant Tiger. All opinions are authentic and my own. Thank you for supporting the awesome companies that partner with Woman in Real Life.*

Even if you plan to host a very small Christmas gathering this year, a decorated Christmas table is essential to set a celebratory note. A delicious dessert - like this easy vegan gingerbread cake with icing sugar glaze - is also key. No matter the size of the party, let's cozy in with a festive atmosphere and some delicious food!

Once again this year, I headed to Canadian retailer Giant Tiger to find the dishes and decor for my Christmas table. Shopping at Giant Tiger is so convenient because they also have a grocery department, so I was able to pick up all the baking ingredients for my gingerbread cake in the same visit. See last year's Christmas table decorations in this post.

The theme of my Christmas table decor

To come up with the theme for my Christmas table decor, I took a walk through Giant Tiger to see the colour schemes and motifs that were available this year in 2020. I noticed a lot of interesting grey textiles and "wintry" dishes. I decided on a neutral palette to which I could add some festive touches using natural elements like pinecones, cinnamon sticks, dried oranges and apples and greenery.

To build a neutral palette, I started with a white tablecloth. For a table runner, I used a small grey fringed rug that I found in the home decor section. It comes in a deep red too that was very tempting. I like to include at least a bit of red in my Christmas decor. But I went with the grey and then added a touch of red using a casserole dish that I previously bought in a set at Giant Tiger. I filled the dish with oranges and apples that I dried in my dehydrator. To oven-dry oranges, see this post for instructions. For a real touch of Christmas, I also bought an adorable set of three dip spreaders - a Santa, snowman and Christmas tree are included (for $5).

Incorporate DIY touches into your decorated Christmas table

I like to incorporate DIY touches into my decorated Christmas table when possible. Besides drying the apples and oranges in my dehydrator (super easy!) I also spray painted an inexpensive basket (that I found in the basement) for a centrepiece. I spray painted the basket white (in just a few minutes!) so it wouldn't compete with the other table elements. I then lined it with a plastic bag and planted some sweet little potted tropical greens that I found at Giant Tiger. Not sure what they are, but I feel like they have a Christmasy vibe to them. I popped some evergreen clippings and pinecones around the inside edge of the basket to fill it in more. I then ran a string of battery-operated indoor warm white star lights around the basket and down the centre of the table (they are on a wire and cost $2.49) and hid the batteries under a red and white dish cloth. (You can also tuck the battery box into the casserole dish, behind the orange and apple slices.)

Christmas table dishes

One of my favourite finds this year is this H2K (Home To Kitchen) Blue Forest Dinnerware set. What I love about these dishes is that the wintry tree vibe can be carried right through the winter. You can use these dishes with some festive touches at Christmas and then use them on your everyday table afterwards. They are under $30 for a set of 12 pieces so it's very affordable dinnerware.

I also love these Safdie & Co. Inc Colour Your Home microwave and dishwasher safe porcelain plates. I got some last year in different designs, but I couldn't resist these two new patterns I spotted at Giant Tiger this year - the bear head and the bear/snowshoe/trees motif. The plates coordinate nicely with the Blue Forest dinnerware pattern, but they would also go well with plain white dinner plates. They are lovely as dessert plates too.

Add a vintage touch

While it's loads of fun to buy new dishes for your Christmas table decor, I always like to include some vintage elements to give my table a more loved and lived in look. This year, I included vintage silver-plate cutlery that my mom gave me, as well as a beloved gold cake lifter and brass candle holders. 

Increase the cozy factor of your Christmas table with candles and lanterns

Giant Tiger always has pretty lanterns and they did not disappoint on my recent visit. I got this LED bulb patterned lamp in a coordinating grey for $8. I set it on a lovely tea towel because I just really like the soft white with a stripe of grey. 

I found a great selection of candles in the home goods, in the grocery area and in the seasonal Christmas section. On either side of the potted plants, I added cute little candles in glass jars that are dipped in gold glitter. They are $2 each and I'm wishing I bought more of them!

I also chose a large glass two-wick lidded candle with an "ocean mint" scent. It adds a beautiful refreshing aroma that enhances the enjoyment of our Christmas table decor. When the candles and the string lights are lit, it creates a relaxed mood that's very hygge. 

Add cushions and throw blankets

To make your Christmas table decor more cozy, add cushions and even a blanket to your chairs. I always love a good seasonal cushion and Giant Tiger has the most affordable and cute cushions around. I chose three cushions - a grey suede-feel cushion with pom poms, a plush faux fur grey cushion and an adorable micro mink penguin cushion. Unbelievably these cushions are priced from $10 to $12 each. I haven't seen a Christmas cushion for under $20 elsewhere. 

Other touches for our Christmas table decor

I even found pretty black and gold oven mitts to go with the theme. And they came in handy when making the gingerbread cake! (My old oven mitts had worn through at the tip and I burned my fingers a couple of times!)

I set the Christmas table with pretty, inexpensive Paşabahçe wine glasses and drinking glasses. The drinking glasses come in a set of 12, with 4 tall glasses, 4 regular glasses and 4 of these cute little glasses, all for $7.99!

For another festive Christmas touch, I put a small artificial tree in a vintage Ransbottom crock that my mom gave me. I added lights and gold ornaments.

And now for some gingerbread cake!

These are some of the groceries I got at Giant Tiger to prepare for my Christmas baking, including candy canes to make our favourite candy cane fudge

What is gingerbread?

A quick Google search reveals that gingerbread is a "cake made with molasses and flavored with ginger." So, calling it gingerbread "cake" might be unnecessary and repetitive. According to Wikipedia though, gingerbread refers to a "broad category of baked goods, typically flavored with ginger, cloves, nutmeg or cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar or molasses." Gingerbread in this regard can be anything from a soft, moist loaf cake to a ginger snap cookie. Let's call it gingerbread cake for clarity then, shall we?

How to make gingerbread cake

I adapted this recipe from The MacDonald Mixing Bowl, an old collection of down-east recipes from a women's collective in the maritimes. I did this because I was looking for a very traditional gingerbread cake recipe, rich with gingerbread spices and good old molasses flavour. (The title of the recipe is simply Gingerbread, giving weight to the definition that says gingerbread is a cake.) I modified the recipe to make it vegan - hence the flax egg. You won't know the difference though, because this cake comes out moist, fluffy and incredibly delicious, with a flavour that will not disappoint (unless you don't like molasses or cinnamon - in which case, you probably don't want to make gingerbread).

This gingerbread recipe is incredibly easy to make. It calls for basic ingredients, including vegetable shortening, sugar, flour, salt, baking soda and a few gingerbread spices, such as cinnamon, ground ginger and ground cloves. The gingerbread cake comes together very quickly with the help of a handheld electric mixer, but you could make it with a wooden spoon and some elbow grease too!

Gingerbread icing

My daughter and I had a disagreement over how to ice this gingerbread cake. She campaigned for a heavy buttercream type of icing while I was set on a simple yet tasty icing sugar (or powdered sugar) glaze. I opted for the glaze because, with a decadent cake like this one, I think a gentle glaze suffices. It's also super easy to make this type of gingerbread icing. Simply mix a small amount of non-dairy milk into icing sugar/powdered sugar until it is just pourable.

Before the icing sugar glaze has hardened, sprinkle on your favourite decorative toppings - I used chopped pecans and red and green sprinkles for a festive touch. 

I will probably make this easy and delicious vegan gingerbread recipe a couple more times before Christmas. It's so simple to make and my whole family loves the taste. It's unfortunate that we won't be having guests this Christmas actually, because I'll probably eat a bit too much gingerbread cake! The cake freezes nicely though, so you can always freeze half if you want to limit yourself. Or don't!

This gingerbread cake would also make a welcome gift to drop off for family and friends that you won't be sharing dinner with this season. 

Visit Giant Tiger for more decor inspiration. 

Questions for you

What kind of Christmas table decorations will you be setting out this year? Do you have a favourite gingerbread recipe? Have you tried gingerbread cake? Do you like gingerbread spices?

Easy Vegan Gingerbread Cake With Icing Sugar Glaze

  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
    1 flax “egg” (mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water and allow to gel for at least 5 minutes)
    ½ cup sugar
    1 cup regular molasses 
    2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • For the icing sugar (powdered sugar) glaze:

    1 ½ cups icing/powdered sugar

    Non-dairy milk such as soy, oat or almond


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a bundt pan or 8”x8” baking dish.

With an electric mixer, beat shortening and flax egg together until creamy. Add sugar and molasses and beat briefly to combine. 

In a large bowl, sift together the remaining ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet. Mix well. Add 1 cup of boiling water. Beat well until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. 

Pour batter into the prepared pan. 

Bake for 20 to 35 minutes, depending on the pan (check at 20), until a knife or toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before icing.

For the icing sugar (powdered sugar) glaze:

Add icing/powdered sugar to a small bowl. Add non-dairy milk by the teaspoon, stirring, until desired texture is reached. Aim for just pourable so that the icing glaze doesn’t become too thin on the cake. 

Place the cake on a rack over parchment paper or a non-stick baking sheet before drizzling on the icing sugar glaze. Once the glaze stops dripping, move the cake carefully to a serving dish. (Or you can glaze the gingerbread cake right on the serving dish if you don’t mind a pool of delicious icing around your cake!)