I was asked by my mother to whip up something for a Christmas event with her friends at short notice. It's not ordinarily how I like to do things - I prefer to pore over books and recipes and narrow down a selection and then judge each on their merits and suitability for the recipients. But as serendipity often occurs, I received an early Christmas present from my husband of the book Nigella Christmas and the Yule Log was one of the first things I saw that caught my eye.
I often dismiss Yule Logs thinking that they'll be too hard to make and fiddly. They're something of a craze around Christmas and indeed I saw a Japanese magazine featuring some being sold in Tokyo for Y5000+ ($70AUD or thereabouts) so I summarily dismissed it as a "hard to do" item. That was until I stopped and actually read the recipe. For all of its visual splendour, it's just like a regular cake with a batter and icing and that is it. The key is in the decoration but even that can be faked, indeed a shaky or uncoordinated hand is best at making the tree-like squiggles and if I know anything about myself, it's that I'm uncoordinated.
As I'm a slave to styling and wanted to give it a "just found in the forest" look, I sent my husband off in search of pine cones or similar pieces of nature. I would've just gone to a Department Store to buy some gold sprayed ones but no, the nature loving man looked out out kitchen window at the trees below and spotted a suitable tree and gathered up these little pieces of nature and another potential Christmas disaster was averted.
Mocha Yule Log
6 eggs, separated making sure that there is no yolk in the whites
100g (3.5oz) + 50g (1.7oz) caster sugar
2 heaped teaspoons instant coffee powder
3 tablespoons of icing sugar to sieve over the log to decorate
175g/6oz Dark Chocolate
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
250g/8.8 ozs Icing Sugar
225g Butter/8ozs, softened
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan forced (350F/325F fan forced). Line a swiss roll tin with baking parchment with a little overhang (it rises a little in the oven but sinks down when cooling). In a clean, large bowl whisk the egg whites until starting to hold a peak and then whisk in the 50g of caster sugar by the spoonful until soft, firm peaks form (but not dry).
Step 2 - In another bowl, whip egg yolks and 100g of the caster sugar until pale and mousse-like.
Step 3 - Sift cocoa over the egg yolk mixture and fold to combine. Add coffee powder and stir.
Adding first few tablespoons of egg white
Step 4 - Add 2 tablespoons of the fluffy egg white mixture to the yolk and sugar mixture. Fold gently to combine. Then add the rest of the egg whites in 3 even lots.
Step 5 - Pour into swiss roll tin and bake at 180c for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and start to gently pry back paper on the sides.
Step 6 - Have another sheet of parchment paper sprinkled with some icing sugar ready. Turn cake onto this gently (don't worry, if there are any rips or tears, the icing will cover these). Cover with a clean teatowel and cool.
Beating the icing sugar with softened butter
Step 1 - Melt chocolate in a microwave according to instructions (I do it on 30% or 50% power in 60 second bursts). Put icing sugar in food processor to get rid of any lumps or sieve in a bowl. If using a food processor beat with butter, coffee powder and then cooled chocolate. If doing it by hand, whisk with butter in with the sieved icing sugar, coffee powder and then add chocolate and beat by hand using a large whisk.
As you can see not all of the cake went with it!
Step 1 - Spread the chocolate icing across the cake going up to the edges. Trim cake if necessary and roll up the cake from one end (one of the the shorter sides as opposed to the longer sides). Try and make a tight roll at the beginning - it's easier if you press the parchment rather than the cake itself as it's quite delicate. Don't worry if the whole cake doesn't come away from the parchment, as you can see mine didn't, even when I used icing sugar.
Step 2 - Using a large sharp knife, cut one or both ends at a diagonal and reserve the pieces. Using the icing, stick the cut off piece at an angel to simulate a branch. Spread the rest of the icing over the rest of the Log and using a toothpick, make squiggly lines much like a tree. Sprinkle with sifted icing sugar.
Log with the lines drawn
Cake can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in a very cool area for up to 1 week (which doesn't really exist in Australia around the time of Christmas except for a fridge).
You can also freeze the Yule Log and store it for up to 3 months in a rigid container (to preserve its shape). Thaw it overnight and store in an airtight container until serving.
Adapted from Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson