Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Yule Tale for Daring Bakers

Once upon a time in the land of St. Honore’, far off in the woods of the west country, lived a woodcutter. One day as he headed for home after a day of gathering wood, he came upon the largest, oldest, most amazing looking log you can imagine, half buried in moss and old leaves, surrounded with ferns and tiny mushrooms, and dusted with snow. He left the wood he had gathered and, with a mighty heave, pulled the huge log to his home. The days were growing short and the nights long as the Winter Solstice drew near. A good, long burning Yule log was a most welcome find.

It was not the easiest log to get started, but soon he had it burning and discovered that it had a wonderful unexpected charm…no matter how long it burned, it never seemed to get smaller.

As the days grew shorter and the night longer, the woodcutter became sadder and sadder. He missed the sunlight. Sitting in front of the Yule log, he took a nap. Hoping to cheer him up, his goodwife gathered her bowls and spoons and flour and sugar and eggs and butter and began to bake something wonderful.

First she made a flat layer of a cake like a sponge…called a genoise. Here she is sifting in the flour mixture, then folding it into the beaten eggs and sugar mixture.

While it was baking she made a delicious chocolate and Amaretto flavored buttercream. Once the cake had cooled enough to handle, she laid it on parchment and brushed it with more Amaretto liquor.

Then she spread half the buttercream over the cake and rolled it up like a jelly roll. A quick chilling soon had it firm enough so that she could work the magic she had in mind.

She cut off the ends at an angle, showing the swirl of light cake and darker buttercream. One of those ends was placed on the side of the roll. Oooh now do you understand? She is making a charmed log of her own!
The log and branch were then swirled with the rest of the buttercream. Now it really looked like a single piece of wood, especially when she took the tines of a fork and pulled them through the buttercream to look like bark.

For the final decoration, she had planned to create meringue mushrooms to place in tiny clusters about the log. Unfortunately she slipped on a mossy step and hurt her back, so no mushrooms. A dusting of confectioners sugar gave the appearance of a light snowfall.

When her husband awoke from his nap, she took him gently by the hand and brought him to the sideboard where the beautiful log she had made was sitting. Smiling sweetly she told him that this log, this Buche de Noel, was her Christmas gift to him. It would be gone much, much faster than the magic Yule log he had brought home, but it would carry memories of their time together this Christmas tide and the joy of sharing the cake with friends and family. She told him that she would make another one each year to remind them of the light returning to the world that Christmas brings.

The woodcutter was wonderfully cheered by the cake, impressed with her baking skills and with his goodwife’s kindness in making it. He knew that it would be a merry Christmas indeed.

As a Winter Solstice gift to you, Gentle Reader, the Daring Bakers from all over the globe have made many, many Buche De Noels. Our hostesses Lis and Ivonne, also the founders of the Daring Bakers, have chosen a superb recipe that reminds us of the presence of light during the darkest time of the year. Thank you Lis of Mia La Cucina and Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice for this holiday gift, for all of your work in the background making this baking group such a wonderful online community, and for starting it all with a recipe for pretzels a little over a year ago.

I had never made a Buche de Noel and had such a good time playing with it that I again used the convention of a fairy tale to tell about making the cake. Unfortunately, the slip and fall is true, so that is why no mushrooms. *Sigh* Gentle Reader, the story is my own (as is the last one), but there are many stories today around the blogosphere. Check out the other Daring Bakers’ Buche de Noel’s by going to the Daring Baker Blogroll here. The recipe can be found at the bottom of this post if you want to make your own to capture your own winter memories.

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)

Posting Date: Saturday December 22, 2007 or Sunday December 23, 2007 (Note: To accommodate the fact that some of you want to serve this for Christmas, for the first time we're allowing you to choose your posting date. You can post on the Saturday or the Sunday.)
Recipe Quantity: Serves 12

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

Additional Information about Challenge:
If you are not going to use the coffee buttercream to fill your log, be sure to have the filling ready once the genoise comes out of the oven. If you do fill your Yule Log with fruit or with soemthing other than buttercream, please note that you may not be able to freeze the Log because the filling may not last.

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

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.

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.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
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. 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
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.

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.


  1. Beautiful absolutely beautiful! You made yours in chocolate - after seeing it I'm regretting sticking with vanilla ;)

  2. Except for the slip, this is a totally beautiful and engaging tale!
    The Yule log is magnificent even without mushrooms.
    Glad you enjoyed the log!

  3. Lovely yule log! I didn't even miss the mushrooms :)

  4. Hope your back is better!
    A lovely log you have made and a truly enjoyable tale!

  5. What a lovely fairy tale. Sorry to hear about the fall, I hope your back is better. Great idea with the Amaretto, it's my favourite drink so will try this next time. Have a wonderful Holiday Season.

  6. Beautiful post. Happy Holidays.

  7. Beautiful work! Sorry you slipped, and hope it is already better! Looking forward to continuing our get togethers in 2008!

  8. So sorry to hear about your slip. I hope you're doing okay. Your yule log is defintely filled with the magic of the season even w/o the mushrooms. Happy Holidays!

  9. well done you, you must have read the instructions more carefully than i did, i wasn't quite sure how to put the log together, but it was fine in the end. even my 4-year-old spotted that it was a "tree"... yours looks great!

  10. What a wonderful story, love it! It looks like your story is mine.. no mushrooms here either, and my back gave out on me while helping my eldest with his paper-round...
    Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

  11. Anonymous3:55 AM

    Elle, That's really messed up that you hurt your back. Take good care and get back up and running real soon. Loved your post. Very unique. Your cake looks so good I'd like to arrange a swap :)

  12. Your yule log looks amazing!! Feel better soon!! (I hear chocolate has great healing abilities!)

  13. Elle, fantastic yule log. Hope you feel better soon! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  14. What a wonderful post, sweetie!

    I love your log - it's stunning!

    Happy holidays to you and yours =)


  15. Looks delicious! Happy holidays.

  16. Yeah! It looks great. Hope you're enjoying the season & having some good time out!

  17. What a beautiful way to write up this month's challenge!

    Hope your back is feeling better and that you have a wonderful holiday!

  18. Beautiful log and great story!

  19. Great post! The Yule Log looks good and I like the sound of the amaretto flavouring.

  20. Anonymous5:37 AM

    Great story, really heratwarming and a beautiful cake too! Even without the mushrooms :)Take care of yourself, no slipping next time!

  21. Elle darling, happy holidays to you and the family!

    Warm hugs.

  22. I am so glad you showed the inside of the log. This looks so tasty! Great job!

  23. Yor cake looks so nice that I didn't even notice the mushrooms missing until I read the post.
    Hope your back is better now.
    Season's greetings to you and your family! :)

  24. Oh, sorry to hear about the fall! Your yule log looks fantastic, especially that perfect swirl of cake and filling.

  25. Beautiful "fairy tale", Elle. A log made with sugar, eggs and plenty of love surely is the best-tasting yule log ever :)

  26. What a wonderful story - although I'm sad to hear about the fall! I hope you had a wonderful holiday!!

  27. Good work Elle!

    your log rolled up beautifully- The swirl is nice....

  28. Sorry to hear about the slip :( Hope everthing is better now. Great tale, I enjoyed reading it on this chilly morning.
    The log looks scrumptious! I hope you had a fabulous Christmas!

  29. What a lovely story!
    I hope you are feeling better soon!

  30. Wow your genoise looks really amazing! I hope mine will look like that next time I try.

  31. Hope your back is better! Love the tale and the log looks gorgeous!

  32. Beautifully done. Love the way you rolled that with no cracks.

  33. I love your fairy tale stories of our daring baker challenges. I'm sorry to hear about your fall, and I'm hoping you feel better soon.

    I hope that whatever holidays you celebrate during this winter solstice bring you peace and joy, and that 2008 lavishes you and your family with health and happiness, laughter and love.

  34. What a gorgeous bûche de Noël. Loved reading your write up.

    Happy Holidays.

    Julius from Occasional Baker

  35. Lovely story, lovely yule log. I especially like the part about the Amaretto. Hope your back is feeling better soon!

  36. Your Yule looks great! Amaretto would have been a great addition. Well done.

  37. Your Yule looks great. Amaretto would have been a great addition. Hope you're fall is far behind you. Happy New Year.

  38. Your Yule looks great. Amaretto would have been a great addition. Hope you're fall is far behind you. Happy New Year.

  39. That is just the most charming post. Lovely yule log - it's so pretty you forget about the mushrooms! I hope you recover quickly, sweetie. xxoo

    jen at use real butter

  40. Oh my Goodness! Your cake is beautiful, your fairytale story that fits with making the Yule log is just as beautiful *but* I am hoping that your slip on the moss didn't leave to many lumps? Your pictures are absolutely perfect and I hope your family and friends enjoyed tasting your Yule Log as much as we enjoyed reading about you creating this masterpiece! I love Amaretto and when I make this again. . .I am definitely going to borrow your wonderful idea =D
    Shandy@Pastry Heaven

  41. Anonymous12:04 PM

    Perfect swirl, lovely log!