This week I decided to bake a Yule Log cake with my San Diego friend Tricia Kaye – a virtual one that is, since we live some 3,500 miles apart! We have made our cake into a free ecard
– it features my recording of Noel, part of a new collection of christmas songs I am working on.
I had not heard of the yule log until this week, when Tricia introduced me to it. Also known as Bûche de Noël, the cake originates in France. I am now fascinated with it, and keen to bake my own. I am collecting recipes on facebook – please contribute your favorites!
Yule Log Cake, a bit of history
Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) is one of many traditional cakes baked at Christmas. As the name suggests, it is of French origin. The cake is popular in in France, Belgium, Canada, Lebanon, Vietnam, and several other former French colonies, as well as in parts of the US. The name of this recipe literally translates as “Christmas log,” referring to the traditional Yule log burned centuries past. The ingredients suggest the cake is most likely a 19th century creation. That’s when thinly rolled sponge cakes filled with jam or cream and covered with buttercream icing begin to show up in European cook books. Marzipan and meringue, typically employed for decorative purposes, date to the Medieval Ages and the 17th century respectively.
1/4 cup (50 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (28 grams) granulated white sugar
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces (112 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Chocolate Whipped Cream:
1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream (contains 35-40% butterfat)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoon (40 grams) granulated white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 17 x 12 inch (43×30 cm) baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and then butter and flour the parchment paper.
While the eggs are still cold, separate the eggs, placing the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Cover and bring to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes). Meanwhile melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and cool.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) place the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about five minutes). (When you slowly raise the beaters, the batter will fall back into the bowl in a slow ribbon.) Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add the melted chocolate and beat only to combine.
In a clean mixing bowl, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold a small amount of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture using a rubber spatula or whisk. Fold in the remaining whites just until incorporated. Don’t over mix or the batter will deflate. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is puffed, has lost its shine, and springs back when gently pressed, about 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool. Cover the cake with a clean, slightly damp towel.
Chocolate Whipped Cream: In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, sugar, and cocoa powder and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and beaters in the refrigerator for at least one hour so the cocoa powder has time to dissolve. Beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. Once the cake has cooled, spread with the cream (set 2 tablespoons aside) and then gently roll the cake, peeling off the parchment paper as you roll (the cake may crack). Trim one end of the cake at an angle and set it aside. Then place the cake, seam side down, on your serving platter. Take the slice of reserved cake and, using the reserved whipped cream, attach it to the side of the cake. Cover and chill until serving time. Just before serving remove cake from fridge, dust with confectioners sugar and decorate with mushrooms.