This year for Christmas, my friends and I learned how to make Yule Log Cake.
I love pretty much anything festive and need little convincing for a new project or a reason to bake things with friends. The Yule Log cake is a particularly happy dessert, but less common in the US. Here's a bit more history on this decadent sweet treat:
A "Yule log" is a traditional dessert served near Christmas, especially in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Quebec and several former French colonies. Made of sponge cake to resemble a miniature actual Yule log, it is a form of sweet roulade.
It is traditionally made from a genoise, generally baked in a large, shallow Swiss roll pan, iced, rolled to form a cylinder, and iced again on the outside. The most common combination is basic yellow sponge cake and chocolate buttercream, though many variations which include chocolate cake, ganache, and icings flavored with espresso or liqueurs exist. "Yule logs" are often served with one end cut off and set atop the cake, or protruding from its side to resemble a chopped off branch. A bark-like texture is often produced by dragging a fork through the icing, and powdered sugar sprinkled to resemble snow. Other cake decorations may include actual tree branches, fresh berries, and mushrooms made of meringue or marzipan. The name bûche de Noël originally referred to the "Yule log" itself, and was transferred to the dessert only after the custom had fallen out of use, presumably during the first half of the 20th century. By 1945 it referred to the cake.
Let's get to making!
Step 1: Oh Come All Ye Ingredients
This project doesn't have many ingredients. It does require lots of bowls and utensils for the various steps, so clear off your counters and dig in!
Bonus: It's naturally gluten free! I neglected to tell people this before they ate the cake since most people think gluten free can't be good, I just told the folks who can't have gluten and normally need to pass on desserts like this.
6 eggs, separated (1 egg = 50 grams if you'd like to use liquid eggs instead)
150g caster/granulated sugar
50g cocoa powder
THE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
175g dark chocolate (melted & cooled)
250g icing/powdered sugar
THE HOLLY AND THE IVY
Other things you'll need to complete this cake:
Pastry bag + Star tube frosting tip
Recipe from Bread Ahead! Check out their bread and classes if you're in London!
Step 2: Rocking Around the Separated Eggs
The key to this cake? Airy, whipped, separated eggs and then not being too aggressive and scaring all air out after whipping it in the later stages. Once you have that air baked in, the rest is decorating and good festive fun - just don't neglect the basics up front!
Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then add 50g of caster sugar and continue whisking until the peaks hold their shape.
>> Give this the time it deserves! You should be able to turn the bowl of whipped egg whites and sugar upside down and have it hold form. Maybe be careful trying this with gusto if you aren't sure ;-)
In another bowl, whisk the yolks with the rest of the sugar until nice and mousse-y. Add the vanilla and cocoa to the yolks, then carefully fold in the egg whites.
>> Fold in the egg whites with great care and a scraper if you have one. You want the egg whites to be incorporated evenly, but whipping it or beating it with a mixer can let the air from whisking out and will yield a flat cake.
Step 3: Airy Batter We Have Seen on High
Pour the mixture into the lined swiss roll tin. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 C/fan 160 C.
>> Parchment paper is your friend here. Check out later photos to see how turning over the cake and peeling the paper to see images for fit if you're new to this type of baking.
Step 4: All I Want for Christmas Is Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
While the cake is baking, whip up the chocolate buttercream icing.
Melt the chocolate and allow to cool.
Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the chocolate and vanilla and mix until combined.
Step 5: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Sponge Cake
Allow to cool slightly and roll up before allowing to cool completely.
Step 6: Baby It's Jam Inside
Spread a layer of jam as well as a thin layer of icing on the cooled cake.
Step 7: Have Yourself a Merry Little Sponge Roll
Roll the cake up as tight as you can. Don't worry too much if you see little cracks form - the buttercream icing will come to the rescue!
Step 8: On the 8th Step of the Instructable, My Author Gave to Me...
A cake board!
With the cake rolled, you're going to prep it for the cake board. I'll outline how I did this part in more detail, but this is an are to make it your own and play. Logs come in all shapes and sizes so go wild and make your own crazy creation!
Okay, so here's how I made mine:
- Cut the cake roll 1/3 of the way in.
- Cut the small piece diagonally (looking down from the top).
- Gather a scoop of buttercream on a spatula and spread it on a cake board, approximately the length of the remaining 2/3rds of the cake.
- Transfer the larger piece (2/3 portion) to the board on top of the buttercream frosting.
- Take one of the remaining diagonally cut pieces and place it to the side of the large piece on the cake board. >> This is what makes it look like a log!
- Eat the remaining diagonal piece. Right now. It's going to be delicious and will fuel your creativity for the next step - decorating!
Step 9: Rocking Around the Pastry Bag
Snip off the very end of the pastry bag so your star tube frosting tip just pokes through (see photo for fit).
Fill your pastry bag 2/3 full and work out the air pockets. Gather the slack of the bag and wrap it around the pointer finger of your dominant hand. This should situate the icing bag into your palm and give you great control for decorating.
Step 10: Fros-ting the Yule Log
Begin piping buttercream icing all over cake starting at the bottom where it meets the cake board and working in horizontal layers.
Spiral pipe the ends of the cake roll.
Take on the diagonal piece separately.
Step 11: Deck the Log With Marzipan and Meringue
With the cake frosted, consider your additional add-ons. Here are a few ideas and again - make this your own!
Two ideas I used:
Holly from marzipan
With some green and red marzipan, I formed some holly leaves and berries. I tried these both by hand and then ended up using a cookie cutter for the leaves and scored the center with a knife.
Mushrooms from meringue
Little dollops of meringue make mushroom tops and small strips will make stems. Using a knife with a sharp, exact point, whittle out a little space in the mushroom top to help the stems find their way when you fit them in. Sprinkle on some cocoa powder on the top for a bit of extra character.
Step 12: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Instructable
Adding on your decorative pieces is a fun step. Pop them onto your cake and get ready for the finishing touch!
Step 13: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow...powdered Sugar.
Adding a bit of powdered/icing sugar on the top completes the yule log look. I noticed the moisture from the buttercream absorbed some of the white color, but it was still visible as a snow dusting later.
I was told this cake will last 30 days if buttercream frosting has closed off all openings to the cake itself, but mine didn't last that long ;-)
What do you think? If you've made your own before and have pro tips, I'd love to learn more. If you attempt this yourself, please upload photos in the comments! It really makes my day.