North Pole Christmas cake

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The ultimate Christmas cake for chocolate fans and kids alike, Colin McGurran combines several baking favourites into one ultimate cake. An imaginative take on a yule log, red velvet cake is rolled with a white chocolate cream cheese filling, coated in a thick layer of chocolate buttercream, and decorated with marshmallow snowmen and butternut squash stars.

First published in 2015
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Crispy squash stars

Red sponge

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


Chocolate topping


  • 9 marshmallows
  • 3 pretzels
  • 15g of chocolate chips
  • 1 fruit winders, red
  • 1 candy cane
  • 50g of redcurrants


  • Food mixer
  • Star cutter
  • Toothpicks
  • Palette knife
  • 32cm x 23cm x 2cm baking tin


Start by making the crispy squash stars - you can do this a day ahead. Preheat the oven to 205˚C/gas mark 6
Remove the stem from the skinny end of the squash and peel off the skin
Using a sharp knife, slice the skinny half of the squash as thinly as possible into rounds
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
In a large bowl, combine the squash stars with the vegetable oil. Toss until evenly coated, taking care not to break the stars
  • 30ml of vegetable oil
Lay the stars out evenly onto 2 large baking trays lined with parchment paper, making sure they do not overlap
Place into the oven for 20-35 minutes until the stars crisp up but remain bright orange
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
Combine the cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine
While the stars are still warm, sprinkle with the spiced sugar mix and store in an airtight container until ready to use
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Line a baking tin with parchment paper
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a large mixing bowl
  • 140g of plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 10g of cocoa powder
In a jug, mix together the buttermilk, vanilla extract and white wine vinegar
  • 125ml of buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence, or extract
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
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
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
Add the food colouring to the batter, making sure the colouring is evenly mixed throughout
  • 3 tbsp of red food colouring
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
Remove the sponge from the oven and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave the sponge to cool
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric whisk, beat the cream cheese until smooth
  • 250g of low fat cream cheese
With the mixer or whisk on a medium speed, pour in the melted white chocolate, mixing until well incorporated
Mix in the butter followed by the icing sugar, beating until the filling is smooth and fluffy
  • 50g of unsalted butter, very soft
  • 50g of icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
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
Starting at one of the shorter sides, roll up the sponge and tea towel together
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
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
For the topping, beat the butter and icing sugar together and fold in the melted chocolate. Set aside until cool enough to spread
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
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
  • 3 marshmallows
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
Use pieces of the fruit winders to make a scarf for the snowman. Repeat this process to make more snowmen
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
  • 1 candy cane
Finish with a scattering of crispy squash stars and redcurrants. Dust with icing sugar and serve
  • 50g of redcurrants
First published in 2015

Colin McGurran began his career with a burning ambition to own a red Mercedes. Almost 20 years on and he has fulfilled that ambition and much more besides.

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