Monday 14 December 2015
Flourless Chocolate-Orange Yule Log
There are a few iconic Christmas cakes out there: Fruitcake, Black cake, Christmas pudding... A yule log (or "bûche de noël") is a spongecake rolled up with a filling and then iced with chocolate. The cake is made to look like a chopped log of wood and usually decorated quite fancifully. As far as the Christmas cakes that I am familiar with go this one is by far the tastiest, in my opinion. They're a lot of fun and allow you to be very creative. It takes a little bit of technical skill but if you're up to it then you're in for treat. This would make an excellent contribution to your next Christmas party or even dessert for the big night.
Dark chocolate and orange are a classic Christmas pairing. You could incorporate a lot of different kinds of flavours. Chocolate is almost always used to represent the brown of the log but you could pair it with a hazelnut whipped cream, mint chocolate chip, fruit preserves, eggnog mousse, ganache, or anything your wee heart desires. I used the same chocolate-orange buttercream that I used to ice the outside of the yule log. I did however include a thin layer of marmalade to enhance the orange flavour of the cake. The marmalade is optional. It was a risky experiment in all honesty as I'm not generally a big fan of the stuff. Just a sparing amount of it I found really nice though. It's up to you.
This version of spongecake is actually flourless as well so this is a great option for those who avoid gluten. There isn't any baking powder or soda either. All of the leavening is accounted for by air whipped into the eggs. The result is a very light, melt in your mouth texture. Yule log cakes can stay good in your fridge for up to 5 days. After about a day or two the texture of the spongecake and the buttercream will practically become one. So this makes a great dish that you can make ahead to save yourself time in this busy holiday season. Yule logs freeze quite well too.
There are a number of steps and it may look intimidating but this post will tell you everything you need to know. You got this! No sweat.
6 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar total (1/4 cup and 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large orange
3/4 cup marmalade
5 tsp icing sugar (to decorate)
1 cup (6 oz) dark chocolate
1 2/3 cups icing sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp orange extract
Preheat your oven to 350 F/177 C.
In a large, clean bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. While beating, slowly add 1/4 cup sugar and continue until the whites are shiny, creamy and form stiff peaks. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until pale and thick.
Add the salt, orange extract, vanilla extract and orange zest. Beat just to combine. Sieve 1/2 cup cocoa powder over the mixture and fold in with a spatula. Be careful not to knock too much air out of the yolk and sugar mixture.
Lighten the mixture with a little bit of the egg whites. Then fold in the remaining egg whites in thirds, again being careful to keep as much air as possible in the mixture. Fold until just combined.
Lightly coat a swiss roll tin with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper leaving a generous overhang. The cooking spray will help to keep the parchment paper in place. I find cutting diagonal slits in the corners so that the walls of the paper sit up straight is a very helpful trick. Spray again with cooking spray and lightly dust with icing sugar (more on this in a bit).
Pour the batter onto the parchment paper and carefully smooth it out into an even layer with a spatula. Lightly tap against a hard surface to knock out any big air bubbles.
Place in the middle of your preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cake is just set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Keep an eye on it near the end, don't walk away from it.
Carefully turn the spongecake out onto another piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with icing sugar over a wire rack. If you prefer you can wait for the spongecake to cool a little before you do this, but its imperative that it still be very warm for the next step.
Release the cake from the tin and carefully peel the parchment paper back. The cooking spray and icing sugar that was used to dust before will keep the spongecake from sticking to the parchment. If you end up with a tear or two, don't worry about it. The entire spongecake will be covered in icing anyway. So long as it's properly cooked, how your spongecake looks is of very little relevance.
While the spongecake is still warm, use the parchment paper beneath it to carefully yet firmly roll it up, with the parchment inside. Leave to cool on the wire rack.
To make the buttercream icing, sieve the icing sugar over the softened butter and cream together.
Melt the dark chocolate in a bain marie (a heatproof bowl suspended over, but not touching, simmering water). Alternatively you could use a microwave, stirring very often. Let it cool slightly.
Stir the melted chocolate into the butter and icing sugar. Stir in the vanilla and orange extracts.
When the spongecake is cool, carefully unroll it.
Carefully spread a thin, even layer of marmalade over the spongecake, going all the way out to the edges.
Top with some of the chocolate-orange buttercream and smooth out into an even layer.
Use the parchment paper to gently yet tightly roll the spongecake back up. Keep the parchment paper out of the cake this time.
Place the yule log on a board or serving plate, seam side down, and remove the parchment paper.
Slice a fifth of the cake off one end and then slice it diagonally into equal halves. Set them aside.
Evenly ice the remaining yule log with the chocolate-orange buttercream. Don't forget the ends.
Please don't feel like this next part requires any artistic skill whatsoever. Use a toothpick or something of the like to draw lines in the icing to somewhat resemble the lines on tree bark. Try not to go over the same area more than once. A simple spiral shape on the ends will resemble tree rings. Use a wet spatula to tidy up the edges of the yule log. You don't need to be very meticulous because it will be covered by icing sugar in the end anyway so no worries.
Take the diagonal halves that you removed earlier and place them on the cake. Imagine they are branches that were chopped off of your log. You can place them anywhere you like.
Ice the stumps you added with the remaining buttercream. Be sure to seal up any gaps and give them the same toothpick treatment to resemble tree bark.
Sprinkle about 5 tbsp of icing sugar through a sieve to resemble fallen snow. Now you're finished! If you like, you can garnish with slices of orange and festive decorations.
This is a classic, clever and well favoured dessert that will be a show stopper. Aside from a visual feast, it's also very delicious. The spongecake is light, moist and pairs well with the richness of the chocolatey buttercream and just a hint of marmalade. The orange extract in the icing and the sponge tie in the orange flavour throughout the cake. People of all ages will love it.
You might be wondering if you can use a regular baking tray instead of a swiss roll tin. I don't think it would be a problem to use a baking tray with raised edges. It's just a bit bigger so anticipate that your spongecake will be a little thinner and will need to be handled with a little more care. The dimensions of a swiss roll tin are 9"x13". Anything closer to those dimensions will be ideal.
I hope you enjoyed this post! There are some very tantalizing photos if I may say so. Better yet, I hope I was able to inspire you to make one of these of your own for this or any holiday season. Questions and comments are always encouraged.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from me to you and yours!