A challenging rainy-day project for an adult and child cooking team, Colin McGurran reimagines the North Pole in cake form - topping with butternut squash stars and marshmallow snowmen

Method
1.
Start by making the crispy squash stars - you can do this a day ahead. Preheat the oven to 205˚C/gas mark 6
2.
Remove the stem from the skinny end of the squash and peel off the skin
3.
Using a sharp knife, slice the skinny half of the squash as thinly as possible into rounds
VideoVideo: Prepare butternut squash
4.
Pile up the rounds into stacks of 3 and push through a star cutter to make 3 stars. Repeat until all of the squash rounds have been cut
Room for a little one
Pushing the star cutter through the stacks requires a bit of strength, but is a great step for older kids to do
5.
In a large bowl, combine the squash stars with the vegetable oil. Toss until evenly coated, taking care not to break the stars
6.
Lay the stars out evenly onto 2 large baking trays lined with parchment paper, making sure they do not overlap
Room for a little one
Get your little helpers to arrange the stars in lines along the bottom of the baking trays
7.
Place into the oven for 20-35 minutes until the stars crisp up but remain bright orange
8.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before checking if they are crispy enough. If not, return to the oven for 5-10 minutes before checking again
9.
Combine the cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine
10.
While the stars are still warm, sprinkle with the spiced sugar mix and store in an airtight container until ready to use
11.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Line a baking tin with parchment paper
12.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a large mixing bowl
Room for a little one
Sifting is a great activity for kids; it breaks up the dry ingredients to ensure a smooth mix with no lumps
13.
In a jug, mix together the buttermilk, vanilla extract and white wine vinegar
14.
Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand-held electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well
VideoVideo: Cream butter and sugar
15.
With the mixer or whisk on a slow speed, gradually add the dry ingredients and buttermilk mixture, alternating between the 2, to the creamed butter and sugar
16.
Add the food colouring to the batter, making sure the colouring is evenly mixed throughout
17.
Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and spread out to the edges. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the sponge is set on the top and springs back when lightly touched
Room for a little one
Hand a spoon to the kids and get them to spread the mix in the tray, ensuring they create an even layer
18.
Remove the sponge from the oven and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave the sponge to cool
19.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric whisk, beat the cream cheese until smooth
20.
With the mixer or whisk on a medium speed, pour in the melted white chocolate, mixing until well incorporated
21.
Mix in the butter followed by the icing sugar, beating until the filling is smooth and fluffy
22.
Dust a clean tea towel - you could also use parchment paper for this process - with icing sugar. Loosen the edges of the cake and invert the sponge onto the tea towel
23.
Starting at one of the shorter sides, roll up the sponge and tea towel together
Room for a little one
This kids will love to help you roll up the cake, but be gentle as you want to minimise any breakage
24.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, seam-side down, for 10-15 minutes. Once cooled, gently unroll the sponge and carefully peel the tea towel away from the sponge
25.
Spread the filling over the inside of the sponge roll. Re-roll the sponge, this time without the tea towel. Set aside while you prepare the topping
26.
For the topping, beat the butter and icing sugar together and fold in the melted chocolate. Set aside until cool enough to spread
VideoVideo: Melt chocolate
Room for a little one
Let the kids pour in the melted chocolate as you beat the mixture together, they will see the colours change from white to brown
27.
Using a palette knife, spread the topping over the rolled cake until evenly covered. Place in the fridge to set while you prepare the other decorations
28.
To make a snowman, use a toothpick to join together 2 marshmallows. Use a second toothpick to link a third marshmallow, leaving some toothpick exposed at the base to stick into the cake
Room for a little one
The kids can get involved in building the snowmen here. Make sure they take care, though, as the toothpicks can be quite sharp
29.
Snap each pretzel in half and stick the pointy ends into the middle marshmallow to make arms. Use whole and broken up chocolate chips for the hat and eyes
30.
Use pieces of the fruit winders to make a scarf for the snowman. Repeat this process to make more snowmen
31.
Remove the cake from the fridge and place onto a serving platter. Arrange the snowmen on top and stick the candy cane into the middle of the cake to make the North Pole
32.
Finish with a scattering of crispy squash stars and redcurrants. Dust with icing sugar and serve
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Ingredients

Crispy squash stars

Red sponge

  • 140g of plain flour
  • 10g of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 125ml of buttermilk
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence, or extract
  • 1 tsp of white wine vinegar
  • 120g of unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp of red food colouring

Filling

  • 250g of low fat cream cheese
  • 100g of white chocolate, melted
  • 50g of unsalted butter, very soft
  • 50g of icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting

Chocolate topping

  • 150g of butter
  • 40g of icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 180g of dark chocolate, melted

Snowmen

Equipment

  1. Toothpicks
  2. Palette knife
  3. 32cm x 23cm x 2cm baking tin
  4. Star cutter
  5. Food mixer

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Nutrition (per Portion)

Calories

550
27%

Sugars

36g
41%

Fat

36g
51%

Saturates

20g
99%

Salt

530mg
9%
of an adult's guideline daily amount
This fun twist on the standard yule log (using red velvet sponge and cream cheese filling) creates a North Pole scene, complete with marshmallow snowmen and crispy stars