Daring Christmas

I’m a few days late with my DB post this month, but I got it done in time for Christmas Eve.

Tired Gnome

This month our daring assignment got a holiday themed recipe: Yule Log. This is one of those recipes that may make you cringe a little bit when you first look at it; a cake, frosting, and two garnishes. There isn’t a whole lot to worry about here if you take your time and plan accordingly. Both the cake and the buttercream use similar methods of heating the eggs and sugar over a bain-marie, if you get one right, you should be able to have success with both.

I have to admit that I got to see a few of these completed before I even started making my pastry and I took some inspiration from a few of you out there. I decided to fill my cake with vanilla scented pears and frost the whole thing with chocolate buttercream. I may have deviated a little bit from the recipe suggestions, but I’m not a huge fan of coffee and the color just didn’t seem dark enough for me. The pears and their juices soaked into the cake nicely so no additional soaking syrup was needed. The cake ended up nice and moist with just enough fruit in each bite while not being overpowered by the chocolate buttercream.

I was surprised by how much frosting this recipe yielded. There is probably enough frosting here for me to frost three of these cakes! I’m sure I can find a use for the massive amounts leftover, but I’d consider at least halving the recipe even if you are going to use the buttercream as a filling as well.

I skipped out on the meringue mushrooms and just went with marzipan decorations. The marzipan was quite easy to work with and the color worked nicely for some mushrooms, acorns, and a forest gnome (with axe!). I colored the marzipan brown with some cocoa powder which made it slightly chocolaty as well.

The log

Yule Log
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 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.

Filling and frosting the 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.

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.

4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.

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.

Reader Feedback

23 Responses to “Daring Christmas”

  • Greg says:

    Loved the marzipan figures! You can buy blocks of marzipan from Amazon. They are a lot cheaper than buying almond paste in the store. If you can find Wilton edible paint (discontinued) it works great!

  • Glenna says:

    Wonderful yule log. Love the two knobbies and your mushrooms!

  • Bellini Valli says:

    A very creative Buche de Noel! Love all the dotted mushrooms and the forest gnome.The pears would have added a special touch to the dessert as well!!

  • Dolores says:

    I’m so glad you found the time to join in on this one. Vanilla scented pears sound like a lovely — almost healthy — choice for the filling, and I love your forest gnome.

    I ended up with a lot of extra icing as well… a little goes a long way. It made a nice frosting for dark chocolate cupcakes, if you’re still trying to dispense with it.

    Happy New Year!

  • Jen Yu says:

    That is one lovely yule log. I absolutely love the decorations you made. The whole thing is terrific. GREAT job on this month’s challenge 🙂

  • Jenny says:

    How very cute you little guy is!

  • coco says:

    Your forest gnomes look really really cute! 🙂

  • Deborah says:

    Your cake sounds delicious! And I love your marzipan figures – they are great!

  • Gabi says:

    Jef,
    Nice job! The vanilla scented pears sound wonderful! Hope you have a happy 2008!
    xoxo
    Gabi

  • Jane says:

    Your log looks wonderful. I love your marzipan characters. The vanilla scented pears sound wonderful, even if it wasn’t your idea.
    Congrats on a successful challenge!
    Jane of Vegan Bits
    http://veganbits.com/

  • Julius says:

    Hi Jef –

    Your yule log is gorgeous!

    Happy Holidays.

    Julius from Occasional Baker

  • Chris says:

    Ok – so I am a little late in my DB comments….
    but – your log look wonderful. And the little man? So cute!

  • Lisa says:

    Better late than never!

    Your Yule Log is absolutely gorgeous, Jef! I love your lil elf.. he looks tired after chopping down that tree. =)

    Happy holidays!

    xoxo

  • Courtney says:

    I’m loving the vanilla scented pears. Nice job. Your wood gnome is adorable.

  • peabody says:

    The pears were a nice touch. A lovely log…late or not.

  • clumsy says:

    Wow–great job! Your gnome and axe are so creative and perfect!! 🙂

  • Madeleine says:

    Great job!!! I love the little man in your log! 🙂

  • Dharm says:

    Jef,
    Nice log! Great job and hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

  • Alice Q. Foodie says:

    I love your comment, there isn’t a whole lot to worry about if you take your time, etc. I’m sure there isn’t a whole lot to worry about if you’re a trained pastry chef either! 🙂 I didn’t get around to it, but I wanted to – I swear. I wound up buying yule logs from Opera Patisserie here in SD. I got one chocolate and one coffee – and much to my surprise, the coffee one was more popular than the chocolate – go figure.

  • Tara says:

    Hi Jef – Thanks for the comment on my blog. I actually started on an insulin pump back in July and haven’t looked back. I absolutely love it and (like you) I highly recommend it to every diabetic I come across! Glad to see another Type 1 in the DB mix, I’m looking forward to seeing you in many other challenges ahead… great looking log by the way.

  • MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Fun decorations and a lovely cake.

  • tartelette says:

    Changing the flavors was authorized so you are good to go! Nice flavors and cute marzipan decorations! Glad you could join in the fun!
    Happy holidays!

  • maria~ says:

    Love your creativity with the vanilla-scented pears and marzipan decorations! I agree with you about the coffee buttercream. I ended up using chocolate 🙂 Hope you guys had a nice Christmas!

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