I wanted to show you two ways to dress up a simple pressed-glass cake stand to create a stunning centrepiece for your Christmas table. These cake stands are readily available from vintage shops, flea markets and homewares stores and, whilst being lovely surfaces to present cakes on, they are also perfect for displaying decorative arrangements. With this in mind, here are two ideas for you to try:
Whilst the history of using scented balls filled with herbs and spices is thought to date back to the Middle Ages when people believed that by wearing them around their necks, they could ward off death and disease, it was actually the Victorians who brought pomander balls into high fashion. They were used throughout the year to scent their homes but especially so at Christmas, when oranges were studded with cloves and either hung around the house or given away as gifts.
As I love the scent of oranges and spices, and had imagined how beautiful a mass of them could look, I was keen to have a go myself. Realising that a tool might make it possible to create the decorative effects that I had in mind, a little research led me to Alessi’s Apostrophe orange peeler, which is a beautifully designed piece, and certainly proved to be just the right tool for the job. I bought two jars of cloves from a local supermarket and some bags of oranges from my green-grocer which were fairly small in size and pleasingly spherical, meaning that a pile of them could be neatly arranged on the cake stand.
To make each pomander, I used the Apostrophe tool to create tracks across the orange by dragging the sharp point of the tool through the fruit’s skin, applying just enough pressure to cut into the peel without cutting into the flesh. Using the blunt edge of the tool it is easy to remove the skin from the tracks you have cut and you are left with patterns that can be then studded with cloves. I found that swirls worked well but I really enjoyed experimenting with different designs.
To make the centrepiece I piled the finished pomanders on to the cake stand and, as a final flourish, added a stem of foliage which I bought pre-sprayed from a florist’s shop for £1 (you could of course spray your own).
Over the course of a few days, the scent of citrus and spices should add a gorgeous aroma throughout the house, making this a fantastic option for a hall table – the aroma from my display is already filling our living space. How about taking a cue from the Victorians by making pomanders to give out as gifts? If I were to do this, I would wrap each one in cellophane and tie it with a ribbon – maybe in either forest green or gold.
These pomanders are surprisingly simple to make. I’d recommend putting on some Christmas music and enlisting the help of family or friends: a child’s nimble fingers can come in very useful when it comes to studding the fruit!
The Gold Standard
Whilst creating a display of pomanders involves a good few hours of handiwork, if you’re pushed for time, then how about creating a centrepiece of fruits that have been adorned with a mist of edible gold spray? Working with a talented team of florists for an event, I once decorated an enormously long dining table in a stately home, by creating a central runner of gold sprayed fruits which were dotted amongst glossy vases filled with seasonal blooms and candlelight. The effect was stunning and I wanted to share a variation of this idea with you.
To create this display, simply gather together some fruit, such as blush pears, red grapes, dark red apples and plums, and lay them out on a sheet of newspaper before lightly spraying with edible gold spray (aim for a light coverage, rather than a solid metallic effect). I used PME’s Edible Lustre Spray.
Carefully transfer the fruit onto the cake stand and pile them up so that they look bountiful. I added some miniature glass baubles in gold, amber and chocolate brown and dotted them around to catch the light. I then filled in any gaps with some carefully placed Physalis fruit which have a beautiful sculptural shape and add hints of orange throughout.
The finished display makes a fabulous centrepiece for any dining table and, should you have a long table, you could create multiple arrangements to run along its centre, with candle holders positioned between them.
I hope these ideas have inspired you to get creative. Have fun experimenting: the glass cake stand is your blank canvas and it can be used to display anything, from sparkling baubles or tiny wrapped parcels, to pine cones sitting on a bed of faux snow, or even an arrangement of pretty tealight holders.