easy as falling off a log – something that is so easy to do, you barely need to try. If you would like to see an example on this, you should join us on our morning dog walk in a quiet collection of fields we call Narnia. Two of these fields are separated by a stream, and to get across it, someone has helpfully laid a log across it. Nicer Kate fell off this log into the stream once, and made it look very easy. As easy as falling off a log.
The yule log itself is reputedly a pagan tradition (as so many of the Christmas traditions are; we just fancy them up¹ to fit in with our modern Christmas), where a large log would be dragged in from the forest, dressed with ribbons, blessed and asked if it would last forever. To make it feel welcome, it had wine poured over it, and finally…. they would set it on fire. The idea seems to have been that it should last at least for 12 days, and hence the 12 days of Christmas.
In these days of central heating, and the difficulty in sneaking off to snaffle² a big tree from the local park on the quiet3, we like our logs made of chocolate. And why not?
The French buche de noel is obviously a very close cousin, but we don’t tend to use the marzipan covering, or little mushrooms. Some versions are filled with fresh cream or jam, but it is all really a matter of personal taste.
for the cake
- 6 large eggs (separated)
- 150 g caster sugar
- 50 g cocoa powder
- 5ml vanilla extract
for the icing
- 175 grams dark chocolate (chopped)
- 250 grams icing sugar
- 225 grams soft butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- extra icing sugar to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF.
- In a large, grease-free bowl whisk the egg whites until the forms soft peaks, then, still whisking, sprinkle in 50g of the caster sugar and continue whisking until the whites are holding their peaks but still soft.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 100g caster sugar until the mixture is moussy, pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract, sieve the cocoa powder over, then gently mix in.
- Dollop a couple of spoonfuls of the egg whites into the yolk mixture and mix in thoroughly. Fold the remaining whites in thirds, folding them in gently to avoid losing the air.
- Line a 25cmx35cm (approx) Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving a good overhang (so you have something to grab onto to turn it out later) at the ends and sides, and folding the parchment into the corners.
- Pour in the cake mixture, level off gently, and bake for 20 minutes.
- Let the cake cool for a couple of minutes before turning it out onto another piece of baking parchment. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel and allow to cool.
- To make the icing, melt the chocolate – in a bain marie or in a microwave and let it cool for a few minutes.
- Sieve the icing sugar into a mixing bowl and cream the butter in until very light in colour and smooth. . Add the cooled, melted chocolate and the vanilla extract and beat again to make a smooth icing.
- Back to the cake. Spread some of the icing thinly over the sponge, going right out to the edges, then trim the crispier bits off the sides. Start rolling from the long side facing you, taking care to get a tight roll from the beginning, and roll up to the other side. Pressing against the parchment, rather than the cake, makes this easier.
- Cut one or both ends slightly at a gentle angle, reserving the remnants, and place the Swiss roll on a board or long dish. The remnants, along with the trimmed-off bits earlier, are then stuck on the top or sides to make a branch or two.
- Spread the yule log with the remaining icing, covering the whole log, with plenty on the ends. Create a wood-like texture by marking along the length of the log with a fork, and marking on circles on the ends.
- Dust the whole thing liberally with icing sugar and decorate with fondant holly, a jolly snowman, or just get your fork in there.
(1) to fancy something up – to dress it up, make it look nicer, but not always achieving it
(2) snaffle – to steal
(3) on the quiet – without fuss, without anyone noticing
(c) 2016 Kayte & Nicer Kate. Authors assert moral rights