Yule Log

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.

 

Yule Log

4 eggs

100g caster sugar

60g self raising flour

50g cocoa

 

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

50g butter

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).

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5 vs 8 minutes – the extra few minutes makes all the difference in the thickness of the mix

Sift the cocoa and flour into the beaten egg and sugar and fold together taking care not to lose too much air.

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Before, during and after folding 

Pour into the tin and spread out evenly.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

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Before and after baking

 

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

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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!

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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.

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Before and after adding texture to the ganache

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.

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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.

H

 

Battenberg Cake

The idea for this particular post actually came from one of my housemates. I was feeling rather uninspired and asked around what they thought I should make and one of them suggested this – I did make her a Battenberg birthday cake a few years ago. I am really glad she suggested this though as I forgot how nice fresh Battenberg could be!

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Battenberg decorated with golden Marzipan and Macarons

Battenberg cake has a light, almondy sponge and can be flavoured with several different things. While the standard Battenberg cake is a long, 4 segmented pink and white chessboard, it has spawned a myriad of other cakes. The first one I made was back in 2011 after the Great British Bake Off technical challenge was Mary Berry’s Coffee and Walnut Battenberg. As a lover of both coffee and walnut cake and baking, I had to try it out! The cake itself was really good but as I discovered, I am not the biggest fan of marzipan! Since then, I have seen countless variants on the Battenberg popping up, some with chocolate, some with mint or green tea. You can even make circular Battenbergs now though that does seem a little time consuming to me!

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Coffee and Walnut Battenberg Cake from way back when in 2011

It is traditional to glue the sponge and the marzipan together with jam (either strawberry or apricot) however I don’t really like jam that much so I tend to use buttercream. The cake is reportedly accepted to have been created for the wedding of Louis Mountbatten to Princesses Victoria (granddaughter of Queen Victoria) however there do seem to be appearances of the Battenberg cake under other names. The cake is so distinct that the black and white squares on police cars and ambulances are called Battenberg Markings as they look so much like the cake.

The recipe below can be doubled to make two or three cakes (depending on the rise). Cook the white and pink sponges separately and then carve them up to create the long squares for the cake. The last time I made this, the sponges didn’t rise as much as I hoped so I ended up with three slightly smaller, square Battenbergs instead of two larger but squashed cakes.

 

 

For the cake

175g softened butter

175g caster sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp almond extract

3 eggs

150g self-raising flour

50g ground almonds

2 tbsp milk

 

For the Icing

100g very soft butter

150g sifted icing sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

500g marzipan

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C)

Line an 8 inch square tin and use the parchment to create a divider down the middle

Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy.

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Add the extracts and beat again.

Add the eggs one at a time with a small amount of flour to prevent it curdling.

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Add the last of the flour and the almonds and beat gently until it is all combined adding the milk to slacken the mixture down slightly

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Take out half of the mixture and add a small amount of red/pink rood colouring until the batter reaches the desired shade.

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Pour the two colours of batter into different sides of the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

 

Beat the butter for the icing and add the icing sugar and vanilla.

Beat until soft and smooth.

Trim the edges off the cakes to remove the caramelization.

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This cake gived 6 pink slices, enough for 3 Battenbergs!

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Cut each cake in half lengthwise and trim until each piece is square.

Using a thin layer of icing, stick the four lengths of cake together, put a thin layer of icing around the outside and place in the fridge for half an hour.

 

Roll out the marzipan to you desired thickness.

Place the cake (icing side down) onto the marzipan and add a thin layer of buttercream to the exposed side of cake.

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Wrap the marzipan around and trim off the excess.

Trim the edges of the cake the reveal the classic Battenberg pattern.

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Three Battenbergs from a double recipe!

Use the excess marzipan to decorate the cake.

 

Let me know if you try this cake at home or tag me on Instagram (@thatcookingthing). I love seeing what you guys create.

 

If you enjoyed this, why not try my Coffee and Walnut cake or for more of a challenge, my Chocolate and Orange cake? If you are also interested in savoury food, see here for last week’s post about macaroni cheese.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next Monday with a recipe for a wonderfully simple butternut squash soup, perfect for dinner on a winter day!

H

 

Chocolate and Orange Cake

Let’s talk about birthdays. I love birthdays – not just my own! I always find it incredibly stressful buying presents, especially at university. It’s really easy to get presents for your good friends as you know them but if you don’t know the person as well, what do you do? I have found that baking someone a personalised birthday cake just for them is a perfect replacement as it shows you are willing to put in a lot of effort for the person and you can tailor the cake to that persons tastes. The chocolate and orange cake in this recipe is a perfect example of this. I first made this cake during exam season last year during a large gap between exams when I was stress baking. I ended up giving most of it away as not only do I stress bake but my appetite goes down so I don’t want to eat what I make! One of my friends has just turned 22 and I ended up remaking it as his birthday cake as he really liked it last time.

This cake is wonderful as the syrup keeps it nice and moist and can give a bit of a kick if that’s what you want. It is also super adaptable as you don’t have to add the ganache which does make the whole cake a little easier to make or alternatively, you can cover the entire cake in the ganache for a beautiful shiny finish. You can also just not include the chocolate for a lovely orange cake which you can decorate with candied peel and piping work.

I like to make my own decorations for cakes which can be themed to the event the cake is for. For the cake in this recipe, I made mini orange meringues. This was more to test out the new Aga than to use meringues as decorations but luckily, they worked really well so I was able to use them on the cake. The other decoration (the chocolate nest) was made by piping tempered chocolate into a glass of Bacardi which had been in the freezer for a few hours. This meant that the chocolate set immediately into beautiful winding 3D shapes which I could then place on the cake.

The recipe below doesn’t include the decorations however I will do a post about different types of decorations in the next few weeks.

 

For the Cake:

280g (10 oz.) Butter

280g (10 oz.)Sugar

280g (10 oz.) Plain Flour

5 tsp baking powder

5 Eggs

Rind of 1 Orange

1 tsp Orange Extract

 

For the Syrup:

Juice of one orange

50 g sugar

¼ cup water

Triple sec/Cointreau (optional)

 

For the Icing:

250g Butter

375g Icing sugar (sifted)

150g Dark Chocolate

2 tbsp Cocoa

1 tsp Orange Extract

 

For the Ganache

150g Dark Chocolate

150ml Double Cream

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C) and line three 8 inch baking trays.

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

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Add the grated orange rind and the orange extract and beat again.

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Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour for each egg beating after each addition.

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Pour in the rest of the flour and beat until just combined.

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Pour into the baking tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

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While the cakes are cooling, you can make the syrup and the icing.

For the syrup, combine all the ingredients – excluding the alcohol – in a pan.

Bring to a boil making sure that all the sugar has dissolved and then remove the pan from the heat and leave the syrup to cool. Then add the triple sec.

 

For the icing, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy.

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Add the sifted icing sugar a bit a time and beat until the icing is smooth and glossy.

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Add the orange extract and cocoa and beat again.

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Melt the chocolate in the microwave remembering to stir every 20 seconds to prevent it burning!

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Pour the chocolate in and beat again. Do not do this with the beaters running as they will just knock the chocolate onto the sides of the bowl which is not particularly useful…

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To assemble the cake, attach the first layer to the cake board or plate with a tiny amount of icing.

Brush a layer of syrup onto the top of the cake to keep it moist and then add a layer of buttercream

Repeat with the next two layers adding them upside down to give a smooth top to the cake.

Cover the entire cake in a thinnish layer of buttercream – there should be just enough left to do this without the cake peeking through too much!

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Place the cake in the fridge for a few hours to firm up the buttercream before adding the ganache

 

For a raindrop look, heat up the cream in a pan and add to the dark chocolate in a bowl.

Leave for at least two minutes for the chocolate to melt and then stir until combined.

When the ganache is at room temperature, pour it into the centre of the cake and spread it evenly over the top of the cake.

Using a spoon or a piping bag, pour some extra ganache over the edges of the cake and let it run down the side.

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To coat the cake completely in ganache, double the quantities in the recipe.

 

Decorate the cake with chocolate and orange decorations.

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Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo across or tag me on Instagram at thatcookingthing! I love seeing what you guys create at home.

If you enjoy baking cakes, my Coffee and Walnut Cake is a wonderful addition to any afternoon tea or if you are looking for a simple dinner try my delicious Spiced Turkey Burgers

Have a good one and I’ll see you next Monday with a recipe for the cheesiest macaroni cheese you will ever eat and believe me, it is stunningly good!

 

H

 

 

 

Coffee and Walnut Cake

The coffee and walnut cake was the first coffee flavoured food that I liked. I always found that the taste was far too bitter for me despite loving the taste. Since then, it has (much as it pains me to say this) become my “signature dish”. I love the taste and the walnuts give it a far more exciting texture than a plain sponge cake. I have been making this cake for just under 10 years now and it is my go to cake for events. It has been used for birthdays, stone settings, afternoon teas and as a general all-purpose cake for when I want a sweet treat.

Being a take on the standard sponge cake, the coffee and walnut cake follows the standard ratio of 2oz (56g) butter, sugar and flour to each egg. As it has three layers instead of two, I use five times the empirical recipe. This does of course assume you are using self-raising flour! If, like me, you only have plain flour, use a teaspoon of baking powder for each 2oz of flour that you use. The size of the walnuts chunks is entirely up to you. Personally, I like the chunks to be relatively large so they add an extra texture but you can chop them up incredibly small (or add them with the first set of flour so they get broken up during the mixing.

This cake is perfect almost any event and isn’t as sweet as a standard Victoria sponge or chocolate cake so is incredibly popular with adults.

I hope you enjoy making and eating it as much as I do!

For the Cake:

280g (10oz) Sugar

280g (10oz) Unsalted Butter

5 eggs

280g (10oz) Plain Flour

5 tsp Baking Powder

2tbsp Instant Coffee

100g Walnuts roughly chopped

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Ingredients for the cake with premade coffee

For the Icing:

250g Unsalted Butter

375g Icing Sugar (Sieved)

2tbsp Instant Coffee

Preheat your oven to 180 oC (Gas Mark 4) and line three 8” baking tins with baking parchment, butter and flour

Mix the coffee with one tablespoon of boiling water

Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy

Add the coffee to the sugar and butter and mix until combined

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Stir together the flour and baking powder

Add the eggs one at a time adding tablespoon of the flour mix after each egg

Once all the eggs are added, mix in the remainder of the flour

Once that is all beaten together, add the walnuts and mix on a low speed to prevent the walnuts being broken up too much

Split the mixture evenly between the three tins and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean

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Three layers of batter ready to go!

To make the icing, add a tablespoon of boiling water to the coffee

Beat the butter until it is soft

Add about a quarter of the icing sugar along with the coffee to the butter and beat to combine

Add the rest of the icing sugar in a couple of batches and beat until it is soft and spreadable

If the icing is too stiff, add a small amount of milk to slacken it up

To assemble the cake, add the first layer of cake to the serving plate or cake board using a small amount of icing to keep it in place.

Add a layer of icing to the cake and add the next layer

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The first layer iced and ready to go. I piped the icing round the edge so give an attractive finish between the layers

Repeat this with the final layer and add a final layer of icing on the top

Decorate the cake using either chopped walnuts or walnut halves

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The finished cake

Let me know how the cake turns out for you in the comments! Photos are always appreciated so give me a tag on instagram (@thatcookingthing)!

Have a good week and see you next Monday for the first recipe in my Cooking from Basics series!

H x