Colin McGurran's North Pole cake recipe

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  • Serves 12
  • 2 hrs 15 mins to prepare and 1 hr 15 mins to cook
  • 558 calories / serving
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This recipe is a real project – it takes a while to make, but the results are worth it! There’s plenty of opportunity for the little ones to get involved in making this charming and delicious cake from chef Colin McGurran. You’ll need a Swiss roll tin for the cake and few toothpicks to help construct the snowmen to decorate the dish.

Begin with the crispy squash stars – these can be prepared the day before. First preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 205°C, fan 185°C.

Take the stem off the skinny end of the squash and then remove the skin.

Use a sharp knife to cut the skinny half of the squash into rounds – slice them as thinly as possible.

Get your little helpers to pile up the squash rounds into stacks of 3. Then use a star cutter to make 3 stars – this requires a bit of strength, but older kids might be able to do this. Repeat this step until all of the squash rounds have been cut into stars.

Toss the squash stars in a bowl with vegetable oil, taking care not to break them. Ensure they are evenly coated before moving on.

Line 2 large baking trays with nonstick baking paper, and then ask your little helpers to lay the squash stars out on the trays, ensuring they do not overlap.

Cook the stars in the oven for 20-35 minutes until they become crispy but retain their orange colour.

Take the stars out of the oven and leave them to cool for around 10 minutes before checking how crispy they are. If they need to become crispier, return them to the oven for another 5-10 minutes and then check again.

In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon, nutmeg, caster sugar and salt.

Sprinkle the spiced sugar mix over the stars while they are still warm. Place them in an airtight container until ready to use.

Line a Swiss roll tin with nonstick baking paper. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 180°C, fan 160°C.

Get the little ones to sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Teach them that everything needs to be well-mixed, and there should be no lumps.

Mix the buttermilk, vanilla extract and white wine vinegar together in a jug.

Cream the butter and caster sugar with an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, or a hand-held electric whisk. This should be done until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then add the egg and stir well. The kids can help by scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure the ingredients are fully mixed.

Put the mixer or whisk on a low speed setting and gradually add the dry ingredients, to the creamed butter and sugar, alternating with the buttermilk mixture.

Next mix the food colouring into the batter, ensuring it is mixed evenly.

Let your little helpers spoon the batter into the prepared tin, ensuring that it is evenly spread all the way out to the edges. Place in the oven for around 25 minutes – until the sponge is set on the top and has a springy texture when lightly touched.

Take the sponge out of the oven and cover with a damp tea towel. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, begin making the filling. Beat the cream cheese until smooth using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric whisk.

Set the mixer or whisk to a medium speed and pour in the melted white chocolate. Continue mixing until well combined.

Next mix in the butter and then the icing sugar, and continue beating until it reaches a smooth and fluffy texture.

Dust a clean tea towel (or nonstick baking paper) with icing sugar. Then loosen the edges of the cake and invert it onto the towel.

Start at one of the shorter sides and roll the sponge up along with the tea towel. The kids can help here, but they’ll have to be gentle to minimise breakage.

Leave the cake to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack, seam-side down. Then, carefully unroll the sponge and peel the towel from the top.

Evenly spread the filling on the inside of the roll, and then re-roll the sponge without the towel. Leave aside for now.

Make the topping by beating the icing sugar and butter together. Get your little helpers to pour in the melted dark chocolate as your fold it in to the mixture. Set aside until the topping is cool enough to spread.

Spread the topping evenly over the top of the rolled cake, using a palette knife. Refrigerate while you prepare the decorations.

First make a snowman – join together 2 marshmallows with a toothpick. Then link a third marshmallow with another toothpick, ensuring you leave some toothpick exposed to stick into the cake. The kids can help with this step, as long as they’re careful not to hurt their fingers.

Snap the pretzels in half and stick the pointed ends into the centre marshmallow of the snowman to make the arms. For the hat and eyes, use whole and broken up chocolate chips.

Keep your snowman’s neck warm by making a scarf out of the pieces of fruit winders. Make more snowmen in the same way.

Take the cake out of the fridge and place onto your serving platter. Stick the snowmen into the cake and stick the candy cane in the centre of the cake to make the North Pole.

To finish, scatter the crispy squash stars and redcurrants over the cake before dusting with icing sugar and serving.

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  • Ingredients

  • For the crispy squash stars

  • 1/2 butternut squash, the skinny half
  • 30ml (2tbsp) vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • For the red sponge

  • 140g (5oz) plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 10g (1/3oz) cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 125ml (4fl oz) buttermilk
  • 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla essence, or extract
  • 5ml (1 tsp) white wine vinegar
  • 120g (4oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g (5oz) caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tsp red food colouring
  • For the filling

  • 250g (9oz) low fat cream cheese
  • 100g (3 1/2oz) white chocolate, melted
  • 50g (2oz) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 50g (2oz) icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
  • For the chocolate topping

  • 150g (5oz) butter
  • 40g (1 1/2oz) icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 180g (6oz) dark chocolate, melted
  • For the snowmen

  • 9 marshmallows
  • 3 pretzels
  • 15g (1/2oz) chocolate chips
  • 1 fruit winders, red
  • 1 candy cane
  • 50g (2oz) redcurrants
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  • Energy 2324kj 558kcal 28%
  • Fat 36.8g 53%
  • Saturates 20.8g 104%
  • Sugars 39.4g 44%
  • Salt 0.4g 7%

of the reference intake
Carbohydrate 51.8g Protein 6.7g Fibre 2.7g

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