Daring Bakers Challenge – Yule log

Ok. My second Daring Bakers Challenge and lordy be we were challenged. Some sort of cake that involved whisking over hot water. Thermometres. ROLLING a cake. A buttercream. I was all a bit ‘oh no’ and ‘but how’ and ‘how much butter!?!’.

Behold the Yule Log – a creation featuring a genoise sponge, rich buttercream and meringue (or marzipan) mushrooms.

I had learnt from my first DBC to NOT leave it to the last minute and that I could make it as many times as I wanted throughout the month to fine tune it and indeed gain new skills in the process.

So this time around I made it early in the month on my birthday. I was so nervous about making the butter cream as it curdled on some of the earliest bakers and dudes, I am just not worth being around if I make something and it doesn’t work. Not.worth.being.around.

It was quite intense but you know what? Making this made me slow down. The last few weeks have been absolutely helter skelter for me and as I made this creation I could physically feel my heart rate slacken. I could feel my shoulders dropping. This recipe required a peace. It required patience and a calm methodical hand. This was only heightened for me by my second attempt when I was busy and making it in the midst of many other things and almost lost my buttercream to Curdle Land. But I fought the urge to beat it more! Beat it faster! I calmed down. Focused on the task at hand, slowed the beater down and saved it. And mighty proud I was.

Version 1 – I didn’t bother with the mushrooms because quite frankly I was about to slather my entire body in the buttercream as I could not inhale it fast enough. We all ate the entire lot in in a matter of hours but it was not without its dramas.

My first making of the genoise sponge was fraught. It looked done, a skewer came out clean but when i turned it out the bottom wasn’t cooked. So I turned it back into the pan and back into the oven. Hardly a good start. But it seemed ok. But the when i tried to roll it, it just split in two.
Nothing some icing won’t fix.
I also smeared the inside with some sweetened chestnut puree, mainly because I’d bought it on a whim and this seemed like the perfect vehicle for it.
But look, it just tasted so sensational and was such an ‘occasion’ cake I just knew I would be baking it again for the pre-Christmas family gathering I was hosting at the end of the month. Today.

And today, my genoise worked perfectly. I rolled it while it was still warm and then wrapped it quite tightly with clingfilm to keep it rolled. But you know, when I went to roll it around the filling, it didn’t really roll as much as envelope.
I also got more creative. So while I used the rest of the chestnut puree on the inside with the buttercream, this time I made it with hazelnut syrup rather than alchohol. For the outside of the cake I mixed in a few tablespoons of melted dark Callebout chocolate as I wanted it to be a bit darker, it was divine. I would have added some more chocolate but it was all I had left.

I also made the meringue mushrooms.
And the finished product?

An absolute hit.

Yule Log (from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert)
Daring Bakers Challenge #14: December 2007

Hosts: Daring Baker Founders Ivonne (Cream Puffs in Venice) and Lisa (La Mia Cucina)
Recipe Quantity: Serves 12
Storage: Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated.

Challenge Requirements:

  1. A genoise cake using the recipe below
  2. A coffee buttercream frosting using the recipe below (Note: For those of you that have an aversion to coffee, you can use another flavour for your buttercream, however, the buttercream must be dark in colour. We don’t want any white or cream-coloured Yule Logs!
  3. Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms using the recipes below

Plain Genoise

  • 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. Grease and line with parchment paper and then butter again one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan
  2. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F
  3. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
  7. 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.
  8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  9. 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.
  10. While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
  11. 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
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) 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.
  2. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  3. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled.
  4. 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
  • 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
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  3. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip.
  4. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy.
  5. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating.
  6. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted.
  7. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks.
  8. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.
  9. Scoop the mixture into the bag.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips.
  13. Dust with cocoa.
  14. Reserve the remaining meringue.
  15. Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes.
  16. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up.
  17. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound.
  18. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first.
  19. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer.
  20. Let cool completely on the sheets.

Marzipan Mushrooms

  • 8 ounces almond paste
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • Cocoa powder
  1. To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.
  2. Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  3. Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.
  4. Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
  5. Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
  6. Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.
  7. Smudge with cocoa powder.

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.