December brings the shortest day and the darkest nights; the telescope can come out almost as soon as Astro Boy and Girl get home from school. Then it can be packed away and we can all be in bed at a civilised time.
Two weeks of school holidays allow bedtimes to give way to whatever is occurring in the celestial sphere. Have you ever welcomed in the new year under the stars?
The main event for the astrobaker is of course Christmas.
With a star featuring so prominently in the festivities it is the ideal time to revel in baking all things star shaped.
Cakes, biscuits, star-topped mince pies; even star-shaped quiche will be welcomed at any event under the guise of the Christmas Star.
It is also a great time for picking up star shaped cutters and baking tins and the baking aisle offers edible stars and glitter; the perfect opportunity to stock up for astrobaking through the year!
The centre feature of my Christmas tea table this year will be my star embedded Christmas wreath.
If you don’t have a ring shaped tin you can use a deep round one and form the wreath decoration round the edge.
For the star sponge:
- 80g soft margarine
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 100g self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the ring cake:
- 200g soft margarine
- 250g caster sugar
- 5 eggs
- 220g self-raising flour
- 60g Cocoa powder
- 350g icing sugar
- 5-6 tablespoons hot water
- Edible holly leaves, berries and stars
To make the star sponge…
Line a 25 x 35cm Swiss roll tin with baking paper and heat the oven to 180°C
Mix and fold
Beat together the margarine and sugar until pale and fluffy add the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour and cinnamon.
Spread the mixture evenly in the Swiss roll tin and bake for 10-12 minutes; it will be cooked when the sponge springs back when pressed gently.
Cool and multiply
Allow to cool then turn out, remove the paper and use a small star cutter (5cm across) to cut out as many stars as you can.
Now make the wreath. Grease and line a 25cm ring tin using narrow strips of greaseproof paper.
Eggs, flour, cocoa
Beat together the margarine and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in each. Sift in the flour and cocoa and fold it into the mixture.
Place your star shaped cake pieces round the tin ensuring they are pushed closely together to make a ring of stars.
Push them slightly into the chocolate cake mix but not so far that they hit the base of the tin.
Fill with chocolate
Now carefully fill the tin with the remaining chocolate mixture ensuring you fill the gaps round the stars but not pushing any between them. Gently knock the tin to push out any air bubbles.
Bake at 180°C for 30-40 minutes until the cake is risen and cooked. When pressed gently it will spring back into shape. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then gently turn it out onto a cooling rack and remove the baking paper. Cool completely.
Mix the icing sugar with a little hot water until you have a thick paste that drips off the spoon.
Pour and spread the icing over your ring cake.
Allow it to set for 10 minutes and decorate with the stars, holly leaves and berries.