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Yule Log

December 19, 2010

The problem with making a cake like this is not the time it takes.  It isn’t even the effort it takes, although this is easily the most difficult baked good I’ve ever attempted.  The recipes are good; the instructions are clear.


First, I enjoy time in the kitchen.  Second, the steps can be broken up over a few days without sacrificing quality.  Third, the ingredients are standard pantry items.  I didn’t even have to hitch a ride to the store for this one.

The most difficult part about making a cake like this is that no one wanted to eat it.  “Too pretty,” they claimed.  “You worked too hard on it, Branny,” they reasoned.  Eventually, I took charge and hacked into it with the party hostess’ best machete kitchen knife.

And what a relief!  I traded out the traditional mocha flavored filling for peanut butter mousse and let me tell you, let me really tell you: Santa Claus won’t be able to bring a gift that tops this combination. The peanut butter filling was light and creamy, the cake was slightly chocolatey and moist, and the ganache that enveloped it all made for the most perfect ending (or beginning?) to this cake.

Speaking of the ganache, it almost didn’t make it onto the cake itself.  Although it would have surely been missed and was an absolutely perfect guest to the cake party, the appearance of the rolled genoise looked so perfectly like bark that covering it in melted chocolate and whipping cream was a tad bit difficult for me.

But I summoned the courage and persevered, creating both the chocolate coating and decorated forest floor out of ganache.  I used powdered sugar from a sieve to create the snowy appearance seen in the first picture.

I created this buche de noel from three different sources: Martha Stewart, Better Homes and Gardens, and Lynne Rossetto Kasper of the Splendid Table radio program I listen to on NPR (with a middle name sounding suspiciously like risotto how could she not be a good recipe source?).  Below is my compilation.

Chocolate Genoise Cake (Martha Stewart)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for parchment and pan
2/3 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
Pinch of baking soda
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 1/2-by-15 1/2-by-1-inch jelly-roll pan. Line with parchment; butter and flour paper, tapping out the excess flour.

Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda together twice into a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Skim off white foam, and pour clear yellow butter into a bowl, discarding white liquid at the bottom. Set aside in a warm place.
In a medium-size heat-proof bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water; stir until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, and beat on high speed until mixture is thick and pale and has tripled in bulk. Reduce speed to medium, add vanilla, and beat 2 to 3 minutes more.
Spread batter evenly in pan, leaving behind any unincorporated butter in the bottom of the bowl. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until cake springs back when touched in center, 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t overbake or cake will crack. Let sit in pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
Turn the cake over onto a sheet of aluminum foil, cut to be about 6″ longer in length than the cake.  Smoothly spread peanut butter mousse over the top of the cake. Using the foil to lift the cake, roll it up from the long side, tucking the cake in snugly as you go. Wrap in the foil and refrigerate up to 3 days, or freeze up to one month.

In three additions, sift flour mixture over egg mixture, folding in gently with a spatula. While folding in last addition, dribble melted butter over batter and fold in.

Peanut Butter Mousse (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)
2/3 cup whipping cream
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter (do not use natural peanut butter)
4 tablespoons milk
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a chilled small mixing bowl beat whipping cream with chilled beaters of an electric mixer on low to medium speed until soft peaks form; set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl beat cream cheese, peanut butter, and milk with an electric mixer until combined. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla until mixture is smooth. Gently fold in beaten whipped cream, half at a time, until mixture is smooth. Cover and chill for 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Meringue Mushrooms (adapted from Martha Stewart)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, plus more for dusting

Heat oven to 225 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric beater fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low speed until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high, and add hot syrup in a steady stream, beating constantly. Continue beating until cool and stiff, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Fold in cocoa powder.

Spoon meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a coupler and large plain tip. Pipe meringue onto prepared baking sheet to form 2-inch domes. Pipe a separate stem shape for each dome.

Sprinkle cocoa powder lightly over meringues. Bake until dry, about 2 hours. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To assemble mushrooms, melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Trim off points from tops of stems. With a small offset spatula, spread chocolate on underside of a cap and place trimmed end of stem into center of cap. Place mushroom, stem side up, in an egg carton to harden. Repeat with remaining mushrooms; refrigerate until set.

Ganache Icing (Martha Stewart)
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

Chop chocolate into small pieces, and place in a medium bowl. Heat cream until bubbles begin to appear around the edges (scalding); pour over chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Refrigerate until cold but not solid, stirring occasionally.

Final assembly
Place rolled cake on serving platter of choice.
Cut one end of cake at a 45* angle about 3-4″ down the length of log.  Reposition cut portion along side remaining cake to make a branch like appearance.  Spread cooled ganache over all surfaces and create puddles around bottom portion of the cake.  Place meringue mushrooms decoratively around base of cake.  Chill in refrigerator about an hour.

Using a sharp knife, create bark-like lines in the ganache by dragging the knife’s blade in a staggered fashion down the length of the cake.

Place powdered sugar in a sieve and gently tap the sieve to release sugar, creating a powdered snow appearance.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Crista permalink
    December 19, 2010 6:32 pm

    it was absolutely delicious! and you are right… it was way to awesome to cut into, but I’m glad you took charge of the situation.

  2. themilkmanswife permalink
    December 19, 2010 8:15 pm

    Beautiful!! The peanut butter filing sounds amazing. Glad you hacked in to that bad boy – the “too pretty to eat” excuse is so not valid. 🙂

  3. December 19, 2010 9:34 pm

    I’m so impressed!! Awesome job and I love the PB filling 🙂

  4. Whitney permalink
    December 19, 2010 10:23 pm

    What an incredible looking desert. I imagine that one day it will be the first picture that pops up when googling “Yule log”. So proud of you, Branny.

  5. Frank permalink
    December 20, 2010 1:08 am

    That looks absolutely incredible and I love the peanut butter substitution part!!

  6. December 20, 2010 4:30 am

    Branny you have totally outdone yourself, this is freaking amazing!!!! And the peanut butter mousse inside sounds totally awesome. Hope you have a very merry holiday!

    • December 20, 2010 7:18 am

      This looks fantastic1 Great job! I’ve wanted to make one of these for a while now, but I don’t have the time. Maybe next year.

  7. mama permalink
    December 20, 2010 8:22 am

    beautiful! how much did you take home that night?

  8. December 20, 2010 6:10 pm

    It’s magnificent! I don’t know that there’s a better way to describe it. I am impressed by your patience. I don’t know if I could do it!


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