A classic yule log is the perfect, showstopper alternative to a Christmas cake.
For the Cake
- 6 Large Eggs, separated
- 150g (6 oz) Golden Caster Sugar
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 50g (2 oz) Cocoa Powder
For the Filling, Icing & Decoration
- 60g (2 oz) Dark Chocolate
- 160g (6 oz) Icing Sugar, plus 1 tsp, and extra for dusting
- 150g (6 oz) Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 2 1/2 tsp Brandy or Cognac
- 200g (7 oz) Full Fat Creme Fraîche
- 5-6 Fresh Cranberries (optional)
- Sprig Fresh Rosemary (optional)
- Edible Gold or Silver Lustre Spray (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (355 fahrenheit) and line a large swiss roll tin with baking parchment.
- In a standing food mixer (I have a K-Mix) fitted with the balloon whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until they are thick and frothy. Make sure the bowl of the mixture and your whisk are very, very clean, otherwise the eggs may not thicken properly, which would be a disaster in a fatless, flourless cake like this! If you’re not sure, wipe your bowl around with a bit of lemon juice or white wine vinegar, which should do the trick.
- Add 50g (2 oz) of the caster sugar, and whisk until the mixture is thick, glossy and holds stiff peaks, but has not dried out. This means you’ve gone too far if the egg whites start to clump together rather than being one smooth mixture.
- In a separate bowl, using a hand held electric whisk set on high, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar until the mixture is thick and pale. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Fold in in the cocoa powder with a metal spoon until the mixture is consistent.
- Add a few generous spoonfuls of the whisked egg whites into the chocolate mixture, and gently fold them in. Then, fold in the rest of the egg white in manageable amounts until the mixture is uniform, doing your best to keep as much of the air in as possible. I’ve explained the right technique for this here.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, making sure the top is smooth and it is pushed right into the corners. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Allow the sponge to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so until it is cool enough to touch, then slide it out, greaseproof paper side down, onto a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the filling and the frosting. For the filling, beat 1 1/2 tsp of the brandy and 1 tsp of the icing sugar together with the creme fraiche until smooth.
- To make the chocolate frosting, fill a saucepan half full with boiling water, and set it over a medium low heat. Set a heatproof glass bowl over the top, making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Break the chocolate into it, and stir occasionally until it has all melted. Set aside to cool while you beat together the butter and sugar, followed by the vanilla extract until smooth. Beat in the cool chocolate, then the remaining 1 tsp of brandy.
- To assemble the log, place a piece of baking parchment over the top of the sponge. Slide the wire wrack out from under the sponge, and place it on top. Flip the sponge over, and gently peel off the baking parchment. Place it back on top and flip again. Spread the creme fraîche mixture evenly across the whole of the smooth side of the sponge. Place the sponge so that the long side is facing you, and trim all of the other edges to make them straight with a sharp knife. Gently but tightly roll the log away from you. Don’t worry if you get a few cracks, these will be covered with frosting.
- Slice off each end at a diagonal, and arrange these pieces as well as the main roll on a serving plate or wooden board to make branches.
- Using a pallet knife, smooth the frosting over the whole of the log. I like to leave the ends naked so that you can see the filling, but for a less rustic finish you should have enough frosting to cover those, too.
- Using a sharp implement (see above), make lines and knots for a tree bark effect. You can just dust it with icing sugar through a small sieve before serving for a simple snowfall effect, but I like to add a bit of colour with sprigs of rosemary and fresh cranberries, and gold or silver edible lustre spray looks beautiful when it catches the light, making the ‘snow’ glisten rather realistically.
Feel free to leave out the brandy if you’re making this for children.