Christmas is fast approaching, and ‘tis the season to be jolly. ‘tis also the season for rich food traditions. Be it cookies and milk under the tree for Santa, candy canes or figgy puddings, it’s hard to think of a Christmas ritual that isn’t tied to food. And what proper bakery would go through a holiday season without a giant, delicate Yule log in the front case? The Yule log cake (or bûche de Noël for French speakers) is an elaborate creation consisting of a rolled, filled sponge cake, frosted with chocolate buttercream to look like tree bark and festooned with meringue mushrooms, marzipan holly sprigs, spun sugar cobwebs and any other sort of edible decoration.
The history of the Yule log cake stretches all the way back to Europe’s Iron Age, before the medieval era. Back then, Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans would gather to welcome the winter solstice at December’s end. People would feast to celebrate the days finally becoming longer, signaling the end of the winter season. To cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and to usher in the spring, families would burn logs decorated with holly, pinecones or ivy. Wine and salt were also often used to anoint the logs. Once burned, the log’s ashes were valuable treasures said to have medicinal benefits and to guard against evil. Some groups claimed the ashes would protect the bearer from lightning—an important quality at a time when houses (and most of the contents in them) were made of wood.
Ok that’s enough of a history lesson……lets get on with the delicious recipe.
Yule Log Recipe
Prep time: 30 mins / Cook time: 15 mins / Total time: 45 mins
For the cake:
• 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated, room temperature
• ½ cup plus ⅓ cup granulated sugar, divided
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• Small pinch of salt
• ⅓ cup strong brewed coffee
• 8 ounces dark chocolate (60 %)
• For the filling:
• 1 cup whipping cream, cold
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¼ cup powdered sugar
For the bark:
• 6 ounces dark chocolate (60%)
• 1 tablespoon strong brewed coffee
• 1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Line a 15 inch baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper leaving excess paper over the edges to lift the cake out of the pan.
3. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer, set on high speed, in a large bowl until stiff peaks form.
4. Add ½ cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form.
5. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and vanilla with an electric mixer set on medium speed for 3 minutes; gradually add the remaining sugar. Beat for 2 minutes or until thickened and lemon-coloured.
6. Stir flour with cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt; gently fold the flour mix into egg yolk mixture alternately with coffee just until mixture is smooth.
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in the center.
8. Gently fold chocolate mixture into egg whites; spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
9. Using the paper, gently lift the cake from the pan and onto a board or cooling rack.
10. Sprinkle with lightly icing sugar.
11. Lay a clean linen towel over cake and a cooling rack or large cutting board on top and flip the cake onto the board.
12. Immediately roll cake in towel starting at the narrow end. Place on a wire rack and cool completely.
13. While the cake is cooling, melt the 6 ounces chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 20 second increments, stirring between until melted.
14. Take a large piece of parchment paper and spread a thin, even layer of melted chocolate.
15. Roll the paper tightly and refrigerate.
16. Using an electric beater, whip the whipped cream and vanilla until it starts to thicken.
17. Add the powdered sugar in small amounts until the cream is thick.
18. Carefully unroll the cooled cake and cut off 1 inch strip from the long end of the cake for the extra branch.
19. Spread the whipped cream evenly onto the large and small cake pieces, leaving a ½ inch border.
20. Roll both cakes with the seam-side down.
21. Cut the 'branch' at an angle so it sits flush against the cake.
22. Place both cakes on the surface where they will stay because once it's decorated it's very hard to move.
23. Remove the rolled up chocolate in parchment paper from the fridge.
24. Unroll the paper and the chocolate will break into bark pieces. Place in a bowl and refrigerate.
25. Once the cakes are placed, melt the chocolate in the same way as before in the microwave. Once melted stir in the coffee.
26. Working in small areas, spread a little of the melted chocolate onto the log and place the chocolate bark pieces in a non-uniform manner until the entire cake and branch is covered.
27. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar to emulate snow.
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