When co-founders of the Daring Bakers Ivonne and Lis announced that this month’s challenge would be a Yule log, I must admit, I thought I would actually sit this particular challenge out. This isn’t really the kind of dessert my family likes, and Yule logs aren’t something that evoke buttercream-tinted memories of my childhood. Eschewing the traditions which we never grew up with anyway, our Christmas meal these days consists invariably of cold cuts, cold seafood and cold salads in a climate controlled setting. The last time mom tried roasting a turkey, it happened to be a stinking hot day and we all found the humour and the ridiculousness in having both the oven and the air-conditioning (to cool us down while the turkey heats up) running at full blast. Never again.
So I didn’t know what I would do with the log of cake if I made it. As some sort of faux artistic statement, I considered incorporating gellan into the buttercream and then setting the completed Yule log alight at the dinner table. A flaming centrepiece complete with toasted mushrooms and quite possibly, the aroma of singed hair. Obviously I’ve been watching too much Heston! Also, work had been really busy recently, and I didn’t think I had the time, let alone the inclination, to whip this up. But then this weekend arrived; and inbetween the buying and wrapping of Christmas presents, I suddenly found the impetus and my Christmas spirit, and thought, stuff it, embrace the Daring Bakers’ ethos and make time!
On several positive notes, this recipe is very easy and a complete joy to follow. The sponge in particular is so pillowy, I wanted to rest my weary head on it, then sink into a sugary sleep and dream of flying through clouds of coffee buttercream surrounded by cute-as-a-button mushrooms. If traditional Christmas fare is your thing, as well as creamy, spongey cakey treats, maybe you should try this recipe out. ‘Yule’ love it!
Yule Log :
(from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert)
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
168g castor sugar
62g cake flour
one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again
1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 210′C.
2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm.
4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.
4 large egg whites
340g unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy
1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
105g castor sugar
40g icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
1.Preheat the oven to 110′C. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.
2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each 12 mm wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, 2 cm tall, and spaced about 12 mm apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 3 cm wide and 2 cm high, also spaced 12 mm apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.
3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.
Assembling the Yule Log:
1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).
5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.
[Note: The weather being what it currently is, my Yule log started to wilt a little, so I redecorated it and took more pictures (below) before the time came to serve it up.]