Last weekend was the first weekend that my family has been together in nearly a year and what better a way to spend quality family than positioning myself firmly in my mothers kitchen for a full day of cake making and decorating. Rarely do I get to take advantage of such a large, albeit a hopelessly ill-equiped kitchen and so when I go home I enjoy nothing more than spreading out my recipes on the large island, weighing out my ingredients into separate bowls and knowing all along that my mother will clean up after me! It’s not as antisocial as it sounds- on the other side of the counter lined up on barstools sit family members and other halves chatting away and eagerly asking when it will be done.
Making a Yule Log or Buche de Noel- was rather a selfish choice on my part because I wasn’t in the mood to make marzipan to decorate my mothers Christmas cake and my families choice of dessert usually extends no further berries and ice cream. But I have never made a Yule log and being that it was my mothers birthday, it seemed to kill two birds with one stone- cake and festive dessert in one. Or rather four birds really because I got to have fun playing in the kitchen all day and a blog entry out of it. The list of ingredients and directions may seem a tad daunting, but this is actually rather a simply decorated Yule Log, being that my decorating skills are limited and self-taught. But you should be relieved to know that you can make this even in the most ill-equiped kitchens.
Chocolate Yule Log
or Chocolate Roulade
Patience level: High
A chocolate Yule log is definitely an activity for a rainy or perhaps even snowy day. If you don’t have the time for all the decorating then use a slightly smaller tin (for a thicker cake) and simply spread the Chocolate Icing over the inside of the sponge along with the cream and it looks just as pretty- and tastes perhaps even better! You can make the sponge ahead of time and freeze unfilled, then let defrost before attempting to unroll. All decorations can be made up to one week ahead of time. Fill and decorate on the day of serving.
For the sponge:
6 eggs, separated
140g/5 oz sugar
50g/2 oz unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp vanilla
For the icing:
250g/8 oz good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
8 fl oz double cream
For the filling:½ pint double cream
For the decoration:
Marzipan, to make squirrels
Icing sugar, for dusting
For the meringue mushrooms:
1 egg white
pinch of cream of tartar
50g/2 oz sugar
40 X 28 cm/ 11 X 16 inch tin
1/ Heat the oven to 350F/180C/gas 4. Grease and line* an 28 x 40 cm (or similar) / 11 x 16 inch tin at least 2.5cm/1 inch deep (you can get away with one a bit smaller for a thicker sponge, but the cooking time will alter.)
2/ In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale and slightly thick. Add the sugar and continue whisking until thick and you can leave ribbons that stay leave their trail for longer than ten seconds in the mix when you turn off and lift up the whisk. Stir through the vanilla and sift over the cocoa and fold through.
3/ In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff, glossy peaks. Take a large spoonful of the whites and mix it into the egg yolk mixture to loosen until fully combined. Then tip in the remaining whites and gently but quickly fold through the whites until combined. If you find that you still have lumps, gently use a rubber spatular and brush it back a forth over the lump to blend. Pour into your prepared tin and spread evenly. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until set and slightly pulling away from the sides of the tin (again, if you have used a smaller tin, then this may take longer). **
4/ Tear off a piece of parchment paper, which is slightly larger than your sponge. Dust it all over with cocoa powder and turn out your sponge onto the paper. With one of the long ends of the sponge facing you cut 2.5cm/ 1 inch slits, 2.5cm deep into each side of the cake.
5/ Using the parchment paper fold over this crease and continue to tightly roll-up the sponge with the parchment paper in between each fold (to prevent sticking). Allow to cool like this.
6/ Meanwhile make the filling. Place you cream into a medium sized non-stick saucepan and bring it up to just before boiling point. Remove from the heat and tip in your finely chopped chocolate, stirring until the chocolate has melted. Place cling film directly on top of the mixture and allow to cool on the side for about 1-2 hours (do not refrigerate).
7/ To assemble as a Yule Log. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Unroll your sponge cake and spread the cream evenly over the sponge. Sprinkle with the berries and then carefully roll up again, from the same direction as before, only this time, do not use the parchment paper. Do not worry if some of the cream oozes out of the ends.
8/ Once rolled again, cut a diagonal piece off the end roughly 2.5 cm/1 inch deep at the short end and 5 cm/ 2 inches deep at the longer end. This will serve as the knot in your log. Use some of your chocolate icing to stick this knob on top of your Yule log.
9/ Mix your chocolate icing to loosen. And use to liberally to cover your sponge. Now use a fork and drag it through the chocolate to make it look like bark, not forgetting the ends of the log. Decorate it with holly and if you’re using them, the mushrooms and marzipan creatures. Then dust with icing sugar to create a snow effect and refrigerate up to an hour before serving.
For the Meringue Mushrooms and Marzipan Squirrels:
1/ Whisk the egg whites until stiff and glossy with a pinch of cream of tartar. Gradually whisk in the sugar and return to stiff peaks. Using a piping bag with a large round tip (or with parchment and a ½ inch hole cut out at the tip, pipe rounds onto a baking tray to make the caps and then pipe the stems separately by facing the tip directly down and gently build up a blob of mixture. You can do this with spoons but it is easier to get a smooth shape using a piping bag.
2/ Bake in the oven at 110C/200F/ gas 1 for about 2 hours or until dried out. If you want darker coloured mushrooms (as shown) bake at a slightly higher temp until golden. Allow to cool. Use a knife to cut a little hole in the underside of each cap, then place the stem tip into each hole. You can secure them with a dab of your cooled chocolate icing or royal icing to serve as glue.
3/ For the squirrels, knead marzipan to soften and then shape balls into a head, body, arms, feet, acorns and tail, using water to stick the pieces together. You can make eyes and a nose using royal icing or chocolate. If you want more colour then you can use food colouring to dye the marzipan.
*TIP I find that the best way to line a tin like this is to cut the parchment paper so that it hangs over all of the ends. Then using scissors cut a slit in each of the corners about 2.5cm/ 1 inch deep and then press into the corners of the pan so that the two flaps either side of the slit cross over neatly and there are no wrinkles that will alter the shape of your cake or allow batter to slip in.
**TIP I’ve found that many American ovens that I’ve used have a tendency to burn things on the bottom, if you have found this to be the case then when you bake place a baking tin with a couple of centimeters of water in the bottom on the bottom of the oven as you bake.