Festive Christmas Yule Log

yule log
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A delightful dessert traditionally served during Christmas season all around the world! A delicate chocolate sponge rolled with a creamy filling and decorated with more chocolate, honestly is there anything not to like about it?

We are massive fans of chocolate sponge rolls (or roll cakes) here at my house, which is the base of this dessert. Our roll cakes are usually filled with chocolate whipped cream or chocolate buttercream. For this recipe however, I decided to slightly side track from the traditional recipes and fill this with a different, much fluffier frosting.

There are millions of different flavors and flavor combinations when it comes to a roll cake (or even a yule log). All these options are mentioned in relevant steps so you can pick your favorite. Also feel free to use your imagination and creative flair to decorate the log. I will leave some ideas and inspiration.

Note to the baker

It is easier to have the filling and the ganache made ahead of time. The ganache has to set to spreadable consistency. You can always microwave (10-20 seconds) the hard set ganache to loosen it up. The sponge needs to cool down completely before you fill it and roll. This may take at least 30 minutes. Also chocolate work can be done way ahead of time.

Consider these before you plan on making the complete yule log. Once covered with ganache the yule log can be kept refrigerated. You can then decorate it, just before sending it to the table.

Read the complete post before starting, so you have a good idea of what’s coming and where you might need to pause or change.

Chocolate sponge

This is a Genoise sponge meaning it doesn’t use any leavening agent like bi-carb soda or baking powder to rise the cake. Instead, the eggs and sugar (warm) are beaten to ribbon stage. The air trapped inside this mixture will help aerate the sponge.

Great care should be taken when folding in cocoa powder and flour into this aerated egg mixture so as not to deflate it, or else the sponge will end up being flat and stodgy.

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F)
  • Brush a half sheet pan(18″ by 13“)with melted butter and line with a parchment. Grease the parchment too for easy release.
  • Prepare a clean tea towel
  • you will need powdered sugar and a sieve
  • make a simple sugar syrup (boil 1 part sugar and 1 part water and simmer for 1-2 minutes) You can add flavors and or liquor to this syrup
ingredients

Mix cocoa, flour, salt and sift to remove lumps and set aside

Extras:
1 teaspoon Espresso powder
1 tablespoon strong coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adding a bit of coffee helps bring out the chocolate flavor

mix eggs and sugar

In a bowl of a stand mixer , mix the eggs and sugar. Give it a quick whisk.

Never let sugar and eggs sit still for too long as the sugar cooks the eggs.

warm the mixture

Bring some water to a slow boil and place the mixing bowl over. let the egg and sugar mixture warm up stirring all the while.
The mixture should reach blood temperature 97°F (36°C) or just warm to the touch is good enough.

Warming the mixture will speed up the aeration.

whisk

Now whisk(beat) the warm egg and sugar mixture on medium-high speed on the mixer until it reaches ‘ribbon stage’. This may take about 4-5 minutes. The mixture will be glossy, pale in color and tripled in volume.

When you lift the whisk attachment, the mixture should drop like a ribbon and leave a trace for a few seconds before disappearing.

add cocoa flour

Add 1/3 of the cocoa+flour mix and whisk on slow for 2-3 seconds, just to get it slightly incorporated. You don’t have to mix it all the way. Add another 1/3 of the mix and do the same.

add the last bit of cocoa and flour

Add the remaining cocoa and flour followed by any coffee or vanilla and take off the mixer and fold by hand until most of the flour dissapears.

Use a spatula and gently fold making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl and tuning the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated.

Be gently and careful so you don’t deflate the mixture.

pour onto the tray

Batter should be voluminous like soft whipped cream.
Gently pour the thick airy batter onto the prepared tray.

spread

Gently spread the batter to all corners to make sure it is evenly spread. Again take care not to knock out too much air while doing this. Remember, the air trapped inside is what’s going to help the sponge rise.

tap

Once done, gently tap the tray a couple of times on the table to release any big air bubbles trapped inside.

bake in the preheated oven until done(dried out). Usually takes about 8-10 minutes.
A cake tester/toothpick inserted should come out clean

invert

Once baked, take the tray out and leave on a wire rack for 3-4 minutes.

Prepare a thick tea towel by dusting a generous amount of powdered sugar.
Release the edges of the sponge and invert the tray on to the tea towel and let the sponge drop onto the powdered sugar. Lift the tray off.

Slowly peel the parchment paper off

roll the sponge

While the sponge is still warm, dust with powdered sugar and roll into a log along with the tea towel. And leave to cool completely.

Chocolate ganache

Chocolate ganache is used to cover the whole cake. So make this ahead of time and let it set. You can refrigerate this. Pull out and let it thaw to spreadable consistency or microwave in 5 second bursts and stir until soft like buttercream icing.

Other options for covering the cake:
-chocolate glaze
-buttercream
-cream cheese
-pouring ganache (glossy effect)
-fondant

ingredients

use semi-sweet cooking (bakers)chocolate. Chop the chocolate so that it will dissolve faster. Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl.

add milk to chocolate

Boil the cream and pour over the chocolate. Cream should cover the chocolate. Let this sit for about 2-3 minutes.

stir

Start stirring using a spatula. The mixture will look lumpy/curdled but that’s okay, keep mixing slowly

keep mixing

As you mix, slowly the chocolate will melt and the consistency will start to change. Keep mixing.

ganache

Mix until you get smooth ganache like this

add sea salt

Add a pinch of sea salt and mix.

Cover the top with a plastic wrap (cling film) and let this cool and set. Refrigerate to speed up setting. But you might have to warm it back to spreadable consistency

yule log

Cream cheese filling

You can of course use just cream for the filling. Adding a bit of cream cheese will stabilize the cream.
Other options for filling:
– sweetened vanilla whipped cream
– chocolate whipped cream
– buttercream (vanilla or chocolate)
– fluffy cream cheese and butter
– chocolate mouse
– whipped chocolate ganache (white or dark)

ingredients

Three basic ingredients are the cream cheese, cream and powdered sugar. Make sure the cream cheese is softened and cream is very cold

flavor options:
-vanilla
-peppermint
-gingerbread spices

I’m using vanilla bean paste

cream cheese

In a bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and then add powdered sugar and mix.

add cold cream

Change the attachment to whisk

Add half the cream mixture and mix on slow just to combine everything.

Add the rest of the cream and repeat to incorporate.

whip to stiff peaks

Whisk on medium-high speed until stiff peaks are formed. Frosting should hold it’s shape. Add vanilla (or any other flavor)and whisk to incorporate.

Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

If it has gone soft, you can whip it again later, before using.

Chocolate work

This is just to decorate the log. If you want to create chocolate shards to give the tree log a realistic look, this is how to do it. These can be done ahead and stored in the fridge or at room temperature if not too warm.

melt chocolate

Crimp up a parchment paper and lay on a flat surface.

Melt some bakers(cooking) chocolate and pour over the parchment.

spread

Spread using a offset spatula to an even thin layer. Not too thin but about a 1mm thickness.

Let this dry (in the fridge or outside) and either cut or break into pieces

chocolate shards

Chocolate shards can be stored in a container at room temperature. If it is too warm, place these in a fridge.

Construction of the Yule Log

Before you assemble the cake, make sure the ganache is soft enough to spread and the filling is fluffy.

apply sugar syrup

Unroll the sponge and leave it on the tea towel. If the sponge is dry, apply some syrup just to moisten the sponge. If it is moist enough, leave the syrup out!

spread the filling

Spread the filling evenly. Leave a gap at one short end, the filling may push towards the end as you roll. Starting from the other short end, start rolling the sponge to form a log. Use the tea towel to guide.

roll the sponge

Once rolled into a cylinder, wrap in the same tea towel or in a cling film and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up.

You can leave this in the fridge at this stage and continue later.

cut a piece

Once the cake has set, take it out and cut a small piece diagonally. This is to create the branch. You can skip this step and decorate the cake as a single straight log too.

Use a serrated knife for a cleaner cut

attach cut piece

Attach the cut piece from the side using some ganache as glue. It is better to do this straight on the serving platter, as it will be harder to move this once constructed.

cover the whole cake

Cover the whole cake with a thick layer of ganache. It doesn’t have to be smooth. Now we are almost done!

scratch using a fork

Using a fork, draw lines on the ganache to give some texture to the log.

You can keep this refrigerated, until it is ready to be served. Final decorations can be done just before serving

final decortion

Final Decoration
-Decorate with cranberries and rosemary or holly leaves to give it a festive look.
-Dust the platter with cocoa powder
-Use candied Orange slices to represent wild mushrooms on the log.
-Use chocolate shards, here and there.

Finally give a dusting of powdered sugar

When you serve this, to get a clean cut, use a warm knife.

After every slice, wash the knife in hot water and wipe off. Check the video.

serve

Serve as a dessert or with a cup of tea/coffee. I like to pair with some fresh berries to cut through the richness.

yule log

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