Happy Yule Everyone!

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Yule is a celebration of the Winter Solstice. It marks the longest night of the year and celebrates the re-birth of the sun and longer days to come after the darkness of winter. Christmas was transplanted onto winter solstice some 1,600 years ago, centuries before the English language emerged from its Germanic roots. The tradition of burning a Yule log is to celebrate light itself and the lightening of the days thereafter. Personal faults, mistakes and bad choices are burned in the flame so everyone’s New Year can start with a clean slate. You never burn the entire log, you save a piece for next year to start the next Yule Log. Traditionally on the eve of the Winter Solstice, at midnight, you turn off all your lights or candle lights and everyone takes a moment to sit in the dark and reflect on the darkness, then at 12:01 everyone lights their own candles, turns on all the lights and gives thanks to the sun and its life sustaining power.

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I kinda got guilted into this month’s challenge. I have been so busy baking holiday cookies, Roberto and I are in the process of moving and I have been finishing up some projects that I really forgot about the challenge until Wednesday, when I realized I hadn’t even looked at the challenge for this month. I was planning to bow out of it, until I saw it was a Yule Log and since I actually celebrate the holiday of Yule (Winter Solstice), I figured I really had no excuse NOT to step up to the plate. So I scrambled all day on Thursday – my only day that did not have every second scheduled and I made my Yule Log.

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It was a disaster from the beginning. First, I did not have cake flour, so I had to use all-purpose. Second, I did not have instant espresso powder, so I had to use regular espresso and then there was the issue of the butter cream. It was watery, so I decided to add some heavy cream to give it body and it was way in the back of my fridge, and apparently a little frozen and then I had chunky butter cream, which all had to be thrown away. So I was left with little choice beyond making espresso whipped cream instead, which turned out great! It looks more like a birch tree.

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Then my peaks didn’t hold with the meringue and I had to finagle a way to make the mushrooms form correctly. But I am happy with the result, it tastes great and I think it looks very cute! I really hope the people will enjoy it at the party I am bringing it to today!

So if you want to make your own Yule Log next year, here is the recipe!

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)
Recipe Quantity: Serves 12

Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated

Challenge Requirements:

A genoise cake using the recipe below
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!
Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms using the recipes below

Allowed Modifications:

1. Your genoise must be made using the recipe provided; however, it can be flavoured however you wish. Make it chocolate, add nuts, douse it in liquor, throw in some citrus or just leave it plain. It’s entirely up to you how you flavour it. Substitutions for health reasons are allowed but you must let us know.

2. While the outside of your Yule Log must be frosted with the coffee buttercream using the recipe provided here, you are free to fill the recipe however you choose. Fill it with fruit, jam, melted chocolate, pudding, whipped cream, or another frosting of your choice. You have complete freedom when it comes to the FILLING. Substitutions for health reasons are allowed but you must let us know.

3. At the very least, besides the coffee buttercream, you must decorate your log with mushrooms. We have provided a recipe for meringue mushrooms and marzipan mushrooms. You can choose one or the other or you can try both. But you must try at least one type of mushroom.

4. You have complete freedom, besides the mushrooms, to decorate your logs however you wish.

5. You have complete freedom to make your logs in whatever shape you like (mini logs, one huge log, an upright log, etc.)

6. High altitude modifications are allowed as long as you stay “true” to the recipe.

7. Conversion for certain dietary restrictions like gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan etc. is allowed.

8. Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient not available or cost prohibitive in your region.

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.

Recipes:

Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
3/4 C of sugar (use only 1/3 C)
1/2 C cake flour
1/4 C cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 1 10×15 inch jelly roll pan and line with parchment, then butter again on top of the parchment.

Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in a heatproof bowl like the bowl of a stand mixer. Place over the simmering saucepan of water and whisk until the mixture is about 100 degrees. It should feel lukewarm.

Whip on medium high speed until the egg mixture is light yellow, thick and foamy, and tripled in volume. It should fall off the whisk in ribbons that slowly dissolve.

While the eggs are whipping, sift together the cake flour and cornstarch.

Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Fold this in, then sift another 1/3 of the flour in, fold, and repeat.

Scrape the batter into the jelly roll pan and smooth the top. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

Coffee Buttercream:
4 large egg whites
1 C sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 C) unsalted butter, room temp, softened
2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
2 Tbsp rum or brandy
1 oz melted dark chocolate

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.

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:
Turn the cake out of the pan onto a clean sheet of parchment and peel away the parchment on the bottom. Spread with filling. Roll the cake into a tight cylinder. Refrigerate for several hours.

Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

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.

Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.

Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.

Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.

Smudge with cocoa powder.