If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? That was my first thought when I discovered that this months Daring Bakers challenge was a Yule Log (or Bûche de Noël) thought up by Lisa and Ivonne - co founders of the Daring Bakers. My second thought? "What's the story behind the Yule Log?!" Enter Wikipedia: A Yule Log is a large log which is burned in the hearth as part of traditional Christmas celebrations in some cultures. In the late 18th century, those crafty French turned the idea into - what else - a dessert!
This challenge consisted of three different components; a genoise cake, coffee buttercream frosting and edible meringue (or marzipan) mushrooms. I decided to make the meringue mushrooms rather than marzipan simply because I am not a fan of the almond confection. Huh, it just hit me how strange that considering I LOVE all things almond. Anyhow, I digress. I began this challenge with the mushrooms and was so pleased with the results. Sure they took some time and are a bit finicky - but they look amazingly realistic and taste like heaven! I then took on the genoise cake - my first ever - which we were allowed to flavour as we wished. It was at this point - and knowing that the buttercream was up next - that my nerves began to make an appearance. I had read so many reviews from other daring bakers that their genoise had cracked or their buttercream had curdled and I just knew the same would most likely happen to me. Being the perfectionist and over achiever that I am, this did not sit well with me. So what did I do? I cracked open a Corona to help calm my nerves and I proceeded with the genoise. I didn't actually flavour the batter but decided to douse it in liquor after baking. I baked it on the short end of the time given as I didn't want to risk overbaking it.Which brings me to the foreboding buttercream. I kept all the tips from the other bakers in mind and set forth on my mission. After whisking the egg whites over the heat, I made sure to continue to whip them until cool before adding the butter - the moment of truth. To my utter delight, the buttercream whipped up to a smooth frosting with no curdling in sight! I literally jumped for joy in my kitchen, so relieved and ecstatic that I had conquered buttercream! Did I mention how delicious it tasted? Like coffee ice cream.
Once the cake had cooled, I brushed it with a generous amount of Starbucks Coffee Liqueur, spread a thin layer of the coffee buttercream and sprinkled it with mini chocolate chips. With baited breath, I rolled the cake and let out another yelp of glee when I was met with success! I wrapped the roll up and refrigerated it overnight. As I slept that night, visions of logs and fungi permeated my dreams! The next day I took the buttercream out of the fridge to come to room temperature so I could finish the job. This is where my impatience came in and brought my worst fear to fruition. I mixed the buttercream in the hopes it would soften faster and lo and behold - it separated and curdled! I nearly cried - my gorgeously smooth buttercream was ruined! I quickly leapt into survival mode and put the bowl over simmering water and stirred until the butter began to soften. I stuck it back in the mixer and whipped like crazy until that gloriously smooth frosting reappeared. I wiped the sweat off my brow and settled in for the fun part - decorating!
This challenge was like a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. I enjoyed it immensely and along the way have conquered a few techniques I was afraid to try. I have yet to eat the log so I'll have to write back in with a flavour update, but the end result is a gorgeous little log that makes for a festive center piece! Thanks again Daring Bakers!
Yule Log -
The genoise and the buttercream for the Yule Log is from Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Cakes.
The meringue mushrooms are from The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Assembling the Yule 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.