Daring Bakers Challenge : Yule Log


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)

Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
168g castor sugar
62g cake flour
36g cornflour

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 doesnโ€™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.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
225g sugar
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.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
ยผ 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 youโ€™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 youโ€™ve chosen.

yulelog.jpg yulelog-mushrooms.jpg yulelog-mushrooms2.jpg

[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.]

yulelog-santa.jpg yulelog3.jpg


  1. zorra said,

    December 23, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

    Wow, you did a great job! If I consider the temperature in my house (about 16C) mine should have been looking as wonderful as yours and not so rustic. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Wish you a Merry Christmas.

  2. Ulrike aka ostwestwind said,

    December 23, 2007 @ 8:31 pm

    Your log looks wonderful. I have to admit that we have different Xmas traditions in Germany. I wanted to serve my log tomorrow, but the family refused.

    Happy Holidays!

  3. Aamena said,

    December 24, 2007 @ 12:32 am

    great looking buttercream and sure the mushrooms sure are cute as buttons!
    Merry Christmas!

  4. courtney said,

    December 24, 2007 @ 1:51 am

    Glad you found the time to make it . I wish it were hot here currently in Chicago. It looks great. Happy Hoildays.

  5. laura said,

    December 24, 2007 @ 6:15 am

    I thought about sitting it out too – not enough time, and when would it get eaten? Ended up making it for a work party and only took a few hours – I was surprised by the speed.

    Lighting it on fire would have been awesome. You should try to think of a good way to do it. Heck, now I’m plotting how to make a firey yule cake…

  6. Y said,

    December 24, 2007 @ 6:32 am

    Courtney : No no no you don’t! I’ve been struggling with things sliding off ever since (it’s got a few more hours to go before being served), because I’m keeping it at room temperature and kind of wish it was colder here!

    Laura : If you do, I hope to see some photographic evidence! Or maybe I’ll just hear the roar of the fire engines from here..? ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. peabody said,

    December 24, 2007 @ 7:36 am

    Job well done! Having lived in Arizona(not anymore) I spent many a holiday cooking something in the oven with the a/c on to cool me down.

  8. johanna said,

    December 24, 2007 @ 8:31 am

    wow. i glad you didn’t pull through with your plans of lighting a fire… leave that to the experts, please! my cousins burnt down the living room one fine christmas morning, not a pretty sight. they were 4 and 5, mind you, so you wouldn’t have the excuse ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. baking soda said,

    December 24, 2007 @ 8:51 am

    Very elegant log! I think the buttercream kept me at bay as well; in the eating as well as the making off, it’s just not something we are used to here. oh to lay your head down in soft cake and cream and sleep!

  10. Annemarie said,

    December 25, 2007 @ 4:04 am

    Ah, I feel a bit embarassed now that I didn’t tackle it – you do make it sound easy! Love the look of it, and glad you have something seasonally-appropriate down in your warm-climate Christmas.

  11. Lisa said,

    December 25, 2007 @ 6:18 am

    Oh I -so- wish you’d done the flaming yule log. That would have been spectacular!

  12. Ashley said,

    December 25, 2007 @ 8:48 am

    Looks good! I too wasn’t going to participate in this challenge but I changed my mind last minute and I’m so glad I did.

  13. Tartelette said,

    December 26, 2007 @ 1:12 am

    Beautiful log! I love how festive and well decorated it is! It was incredibly hot around here when I was making it…shorts and t-shirts…no white Christmas for us but plenty of log!
    Happy holidays!

  14. Claire said,

    December 26, 2007 @ 4:33 am

    Good job! Your buttercream is so smooth looking!

  15. Beth G said,

    December 26, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

    Looks beautiful!

  16. Andrea said,

    December 27, 2007 @ 5:57 am

    Your cake looks beautiful, and your thoughts of setting it on fire cracked me up! Merry Christmas in Sydney!

  17. Deborah said,

    December 29, 2007 @ 5:22 am

    Your cake turned out wonderful! I’m glad you found the time to make it.

  18. Dolores said,

    December 29, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

    I’m glad you decided to join us on this one, and that you opted out of setting it on fire. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope your Christmas celebration brought joy and peace, and that 2008 offers you and your loved ones health and happiness, laughter and love.

  19. Ivonne said,

    December 30, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

    I’m glad you went ahead and gave the recipe a try. It turned out beautifully!

  20. Julius said,

    December 30, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

    Your yule log is gorgeous.

    Best wishes for the new year ahead.

    Julius from Occasional Baker

  21. Elle said,

    December 31, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

    ‘Yule love it” is the perfect comment, even if it wasn’t what you would usually make for Christmas. Glad you did make it…very pretty presentation and mushrooms, too. Happy New Year!

  22. Jen Yu said,

    January 1, 2008 @ 3:58 am

    Such a beauty of a yule log – I love it! You did a terrific job. It looks *perfect*!

  23. Thanh said,

    January 1, 2008 @ 12:16 pm

    That’s a great looking Yule Log.

    Martha Stewart had a guess pastry chef on her show for the Christmas edition to make a Yule Log. Even his Yule Log didn’t look as good as yours.

  24. Y said,

    January 6, 2008 @ 9:31 am

    Thanks Thanh! Better than the one on Martha’s? Suddenly I feel all domestic and house-proud ๐Ÿ˜€

  25. pigflyin said,

    December 26, 2010 @ 1:02 am

    Hi! Just want to tell you that because of your post, i made my first Genoise based yule log…Thanks to your little encouraging words, I did put my head on the sugary pillow and dreamt of buttercream dreams .

  26. Y said,

    December 26, 2010 @ 10:03 am

    Thanks pigflyin! I remember a great feeling of acomplishment when I’d completed the yule log for the first time, and how everyone went ‘wow!’ when it was brought to the table ๐Ÿ™‚

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