To those of you who celebrate, have a very merry Christmas and to those of you who are not Christian, happy holidays! Whether you celebrate or not, one thing that you have probably taken advantage of is the myriad of festive foods which are available at this time of year. Whilst things like Christmas cake and Christmas pudding tend to divide people into the group that likes them and the group which thinks they were created by the devil in the eighth circle of hell, one thing that I feel almost everyone likes is the Yule Log.
The original Yule Logs were not cake. They were, in fact, a carefully selected piece of wood which was burnt around Christmas time. This started around 800 years ago in Europe. It was a huge lump of wood meant to last the entirety of the twelve days of Christmas; the stump left at the end would be used to kindle the log the following year. The stump would be kept in the house and was believed to ward off bad luck and illness.
The modern cake version of the log is a swiss roll masquerading as a tree stump by scratching the icing and often using leaves and berries as decoration. Whilst originally a plain Genoese sponge with a chocolate filling, nowadays you tend to find the reverse; a chocolate sponge with whipped cream inside. This is then slathered in chocolate ganache, buttercream or truffle mixture which is textured to look like bark. It is not uncommon to take a large slice and rest it on top of the log to resemble a branch.
I really like swiss rolls as they are incredibly simple to make. They can be created in 90 minutes and are certain to impress anyone you serve them too. As it uses a whisked sponge, the cake is very light and bakes in a short space of time. Whilst people always make a big deal about how to prevent the roll cracking, the answer is simple: don’t let it dry out! Avoid overcooking the sponge and make sure to place the damp towel over it while it cools. That’s all you need to do!
Although it is traditionally a Christmas dish, this cake is still perfect at any occasion during the year and owing to the speed at which it can be made and assembled, is a very good one to have in your baking inventory.
100g caster sugar
60g self raising flour
For the filling:
300ml double cream
¼ cup caster sugar
¼ cup water
2 tbsp Bacardi or other white rum
For the ganache:
300ml double cream
300g dark chocolate
20g dark brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
Line a swiss roll tin with baking parchment and preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).
Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until its thick and creamy (about eight minutes).
Sift the cocoa and flour into the beaten egg and sugar and fold together taking care not to lose too much air.
Pour into the tin and spread out evenly.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.
While the cake is in the oven, make the syrup.
Heat the sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved and place into the fridge to cool.
Lay out a piece of baking parchment larger than the swiss roll tin.
Remove the cake from the oven and flip out onto the parchment and remove the paper covering the base.
Place a damp tea towel over the cake to make sure it doesn’t dry out!
While the cake is cooling, make the ganache.
Heat the cream, vanilla and sugar until the cream is just about to boil.
Pour the cream over the chocolate and butter and leave for three minutes.
Whisk the ganache until everything comes together.
Set aside to cool.
Whip the cream to soft peaks – you do not need to add sugar as there is enough in the syrup and cake already.
Add the Bacardi to the syrup.
Remove the tea towel from the top of the cake .
Use a pastry brush to brush a layer of syrup onto the cake – this will help keep it moist and roll properly. You don’t need to saturate it, just give a nice coverage.
Spread the cream onto the cake going up to both long edges and one of the short edges – make sure to leave an inch along one of the short edges to start
Use the baking parchment to start to roll the cake up. Lift from the short edge (with no cream) and fold the edge over, try not to crack the roll (but its fine if it does start to crack).
Continue to roll up the cake – try to get a nice tight roll.
End with the outside edge on the base so it doesn’t unroll!
Once the ganache has started to set but isn’t hard – it should hold its shape when a spoon is dragged through it – cover the cake including the ends. The easiest way to do this is by placing lots of small blobs over the cake and then spreading them out.
Use a fork to make circles on the ends and run it up and down the length of the cake to make it look like a tree.
This makes a perfect end to a Christmas dinner for those who don’t like Christmas pudding (or have both).
It is an ideal dessert if something goes wrong with your planned pudding as you can make the whole cake from start to finish in 2 hours.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. Let me know in the comments if you try it at home or drop me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you like this and want to keep with the Christmas spirit, check out my gingerbread house recipe. It tastes amazing and looks incredible. It’s a showstopper at any occasion! Alternatively, for a slightly more savoury meal, why not try your hand at making miniature beef wellingtons – a delicious dinner and surprisingly easy to make.
Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a healthy soup – ideal for a quick lunch and that new year health kick to make up for the Christmas guilt.