I must say that I was quite proud of my prowess as it was not an easy task at all. There were a few finicky and tricky aspects which required precision and extreme self-control (buttercream & meringue mushrooms). But at least, I was capable of preventing any kind of disaster andfind ways out of the impasses.
Although I followed the concise recommendations (which I had read over and over again) by the letter, that damned buttercream, which happened to be nearly everybody's nightmare, curdled on me! Yeesh!!! You can imagine how desperate I felt. Thankfully, Tartelette from "Tartelette" (USA) had compiled a few tips for us, so I tried my best to save it. I filled up the sink with a little hot water and placed the bowl in it. When the sides of of the buttercream began to melt a bit, I energically whisked the mixture and all of a sudden, like by magic and to my delight, it became satiny, homogenous and smooth. Phew, I was so relieved!!!...
This "Yule Log" was truely wonderful! The "Genoise Cake" had a marvelous yellow color and was light, fluffy, smooth, pliable and most importantly, it wasn't chockingly dry like it is generally the case with most cheap "Bûches De Noël". On the contrary, it was moist.The "Buttercream", although it was determined to curdle (of course!), ended up being perfect and incredibly airy. I had never made meringue-type buttercream before and was pleasantly surprised by the final product. It was exactly the same as the foamy icing which always subdued me when I ate professionally made cakes. Stunning! I decided upon making "Meringue Mushrooms". As I'm not a too good cake decorator and can be quite impatient when making delicate things, I thought to myself: "Never am I gonna make them look like bloody mushrooms! How on earth will I be able to create such dainty little decorations?!? Ack!". Well, let me tell you that I DID IT!!! To my surprise, my mushrooms looked dazzlingly real and were even very cute...
All that, resulted in an impressively good looking "Yule Log" which was luxurious, yet delicate flavor-wise. It wasn't too sweet at all and had a delightful mocha taste that sent you to the heavens above. An exquisite creation which would make all "Yule Log" haters change mind... To test it is to adopt it!!!
Thanks to Ivonne at "Cream Puffs In Venice" (Canada) and Lisa at "La Mia Cucina" (USA) for having chosen this festive challenge which has made me learn not to listen to that nasty little demon called "fear", helped me become a better baker, thus being able to surpass my capacities!
~ Yule Log ~
Recipe taken from the cookbook "Perfect Cakes" by Nick Malgieri and "The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert".
Makes one big log, serves about 12.
Ingredients for the plain genoise:
3 Large eggs (~53g)
3 Large egg yolks
A pinch of salt
1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract (optional)
3/4 Cup Castor sugar
1/2 Cup Cake flour
1/4 Cup Cornstarch
Ingredients for the coffee buttercream:
4 Large egg whites
1 Cup Castor sugar
24 Tbs (360g/3 sticks/1-1/2 cups) Unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbs Quality instant espresso powder
2 Tbs Rum
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
1/4 Cup Bittersweet chocolate, melted and at room temperature (optional)
Ingredients for the meringue mushrooms:
3 Large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 Tsp Cream of tartar
1/2 Cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g) Castor sugar
1/3 Cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g) Icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
Method for the plain genoise:
1. Butter one 26cm x 38cm (10 x 15 inch) jelly-roll pan, then line it with parchment paper and butter it again.
2. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 200° C (400° F).
3. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
4. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt, sugar and vanilla extract 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 50° C (100° F).
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.
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.
9. 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.
Method for the buttercream:
10. While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
11. 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.
12. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled.
13. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth.
14. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
15. Add the vanilla extract and cooled melted chocolate.
Method for the meringue mushrooms:
16. Preheat the oven to 100° C (225° F).
17. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
18. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip.
19. 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.
20. Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each 12mm (1/2 inch) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, 2cm (3/4 inch) tall, and spaced about 12mm (1/2 inch) apart.
21. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 3cm (1-1/4 inches) wide and 2cm (3/4 inch) high, also spaced 12mm (1/2 inch) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips.
22. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.
23. Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-60 minutes.
24. 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.
25. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.
Assembling the Yule Log:
26. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
27. Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
28. Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
29. Spread with half the coffee buttercream (~1/3 of the quantity).
30. Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
31. Transfer back to the baking sheet, wrap well and refrigerate for several hours.
32. Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 5cm (2 inches) away from each end.
33. Position the cut pieces on the log.
34. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
35. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
36. Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.
Remarks regarding the genoise:
Your genoise 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.
The egg foam (for the genoise) will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
Make sure the genoise cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly. In case it breaks, use buttercream to sticke the broken pieces together...
Remarks regarding the buttercream:
If you don't have any rum, you can use brandy, sherry, kirsch, amaretto or any other alcohol of your choice. In case you don't want to use any alcohol, you can leave it out completely without replacing by another liquid or use up 1 tablespoon of your favorite flavor extract.
Make sure that the meringue is cooled enough after you whip to handle the butter and not melt it which can cause the protein and fat particles to coagulate and make the buttercream look curdled.
Your butter should be at room temp, not even remotely cold. Think about “moosh” if you were to press you finger down in it.
Whip the egg whites and sugar to no more than 60° C -70° C (140° F - 160° F). Less and your buttercream will be flat, more and the eggs and butter won’t combine and curdle on you.
In case your buttercream separates and curdles here are some useful tips (source baking911):
Buttercream is cold and broken. Separately melt about 25% of the mixture, return it to the remainder and then rewhip -- it should come right together. OR, if the mixture is warm and broken, simply chill the buttercream in the refrigerator until the mixture is cool and then rewhip.
Buttercream that has become too runny. It can become soupy and runny if too warm. Place mixing bowl into an ice bath and whisk briskly until the icing becomes cohesive and silky Or, you can refrigerate it until well-chilled. Then, re-whip, if necessary. It can become too runny from not enough confectioner's sugar, meringue or egg white powder. (depending on which recipe as you use) Add more, a little at a time, to stiffen it.
Buttercream that has become too stiff. It can become too cold, so wrap a steaming hot dishtowel, turban like, around the mixing bowl. When the sides of buttercream begin to melt a bit, whisk or stir with a wooden spoon until it becomes satiny and shiny. It can become too stiff and difficult too spread if too thick. Thin with light corn syrup or heat it slightly.
You can make the buttercream a couple of days ahead, refrigerate it, and when ready to use let it go back to room temperature. Stir it gently before using it.
Remark regarding the meringue mushrooms:
If you can’t find cream of tartar where you live, then suitable substitutes can be white vinegar, lemon juice or a pinch of salt.
The mushrooms can be made in advance (no more than 3 days in advance though) and stored in airtight a cool dry place if they are meringue.
Remarkings regarding the assembling:
You have complete freedom to make your logs in whatever shape you like (mini logs, one huge log, an upright log, etc...).
The outside of your Yule Log must be frosted with the coffee buttercream using the recipe provided here, you are free to fill the log however you choose. Fill it with fruit, jam, melted chocolate, pudding, whipped cream, or another frosting of your choice.
You can make the entire thing and store it up to 4 days (I kept it 5-6 days and it was ok), well covered in your fridge. The buttercream will stay fine and the cake won’t dry out because it is encased with the buttercream.
Serve the "Yule Log" for dessert or for afternoon tea.
Accompany it by either sweet/dessert wine (Sauterne, Muscat, etc...) or by a warm cup of tea (orange flavored or jasmine for example).
If you wish, you can even sprinkle your slice of cake with the liquor of your choice (kirsch, plum, etc...).
Je m'excuse d'avance auprès des francophones de ne pas avoir traduit cette recette. Malheureusement, le temps me manquait et la recette était un peu longue... Par contre, j'ai un traducteur dans la partie droite de mon blog. J'espère qu'il vous sera utile!