The yule log cake is an ancient tradition, probably pagan, but now associated with the Christmas holiday season.
The Daring Bakers' challenge comprised three main components: a genoise cake, buttercream frosting, and meringue or marzipan mushroom decorations. None of these elements are easy on their own and in combination I have to confess that this recipe was a bit daunting, especially right before Christmas.
I decided to try this recipe with my brother, who is an accomplished cake baker, with assistance from his two little girls ages three and five. We made the cake at my mother's house. That added another layer of complexity because neither of us were cooking in our own kitchen.
We experienced two major yule log disasters: the genoise didn't quite roll up and the buttercream tasted awful! We realized the pound of butter in my mom's fridge was SALTED! (Salted butter is only good melted and for dipping lobster in). So we had to start that over, but that wasn't a bad thing because we decided to make a frosting without butter so lactose intolerant among us could eat it. Neither the genoise nor the mushroom decorations contain dairy.
First I made meringue mushrooms dusted with cocoa powder. They look adorable and exactly like real mushrooms complete with dirt.
The next day we made the genoise. It is made without dairy or a leavener. It relies solely on eggs to make it light. We poured it into a jelly roll pan so it was very thin and only cooked for 10 minutes. When we rolled it up we ran into trouble. The cake didn't quite want to roll up, but we easily remedied that with a liberal use of frosting.
We made the buttercream while the cake was cooking but next time we will make the buttercream before making the cake. It takes longer than 10 minutes to make buttercream. Our first batch of buttercream was an umitigated disaster. We decided to do a non-dairy buttercream for the second batch. It turned out great, though not as great as real buttercream would have been, and it was very easy to spread.
Before rolling up the cake, we drizzled it with sugar water, a treatment for genoise that my brother learned in The Cake Bible. Then frosted the flat cake, rolled it up, and frosted the outside. We used the tines of a fork to give the log a bit of rustic texture. Then we dusted it with powdered sugar for a bit of snow effect and garnished it with the meringue mushrooms. We will eat it on Christmas Eve.
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. 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 ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (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.
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
one (1) 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 400 degrees F.
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, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
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. Stir in vanilla and almond (or other flavorings).
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.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.
6 T sugar
2/3 c water
optional 3 T of liqueur
In a saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Cover and remove from heat. Cool completely. Transfer to a measuring cup and add liqueur. Use this sauce to pour over cake before frosting it.
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup shortening
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon clear imitation vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
In a large bowl, combine sugar, shortening, water and vanilla. Beat on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for a full five minutes. It won't look like Icing at first, but keep the mixer going for a full five minutes. Stir in the cocoa. Add additional water if the frosting becomes too thick.
Assembling the yule log:
While the cake is still warm, turn it out of the pan onto a towl sprinkled with powdered sugar. Roll up the cake with the towl. Then unroll, remove towel, and drizzle with some sugar water. Frost it with a layer of chocolate frosting. Next, gently roll up the cake. If it breaks a little, don't worry, you can gently press them back into place. Put the cake in the fridge to rest for an hour or so.
Take the cake out of the fridge. Drizzle with more sugar water. Frost the exterior of the roll being careful to cover the entire cake. You can cover a multitude of sins with frosting. We dip our knives into hot water to make spreading easier. Once the cake is frosted, dip the tines of a fork into hot water and rake gently across the frosting to make a bark pattern on the log.
Dust with powdered sugar and garnish with the mushroom.