Every 2 or three years I like to make a Yule Log for our family, relatives or friends , but in this case it was a request from one of my wife's colleagues. Sometime back in November my wife Marie was chatting with one of the other staff members at the college where she works about their respective plans for the Christmas season. Her friend Wendy mentioned that one of the things they always like to have on Christmas Eve is a Yule log, but that she'd been disappointed with the ones she's had over the last few years because they'd been so plain and ordinary. What she was looking for was one that had all the whistles and bells so to speak, but just couldn't find a local bakery that made them that way. When Marie asked her what in particular she wanted on it, the reply was “those cute little meringue mushrooms and maybe some marzipan holly ...or something”, to which Marie replied “oh...my husband makes them like that. I'll see if he'll make you one. I'm sure he'd love to” Does this sort of thing sound familiar to any other husbands or wives here on TFL?
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy making these cakes every so often, but they do take a fair amount of time in order make all the various components for them, and time has been a precious commodity for me this month for some reason. However, I thought it'd be fun to do one, and if it turned out the way I hoped, thought it might make a good blog post to TFL.
The cake itself is a chocolate sponge baked in a 20x14 sheet pan, cooled, then brushed with a flavoured simple syrup, in this case Kahlua, then layered with a custard buttercream flavoured with hazelnuts and rum. This is rolled jelly roll fashion in parchment and tied with string then kept in the fridge for a night or two, until it's tight and sealed. The day before doing the final decorating I made the meringue mushrooms, in addition to some coloured marzipan holly leaves and berries, as well as shaping small pine cones from chocolate plastique. The meringue is a typical all purpose type that can be made either cold or with the hot Swiss style method. The caps and stems of the mushrooms are piped on to a sheet pan and baked at 225F for an hour then left in the oven for another hour with the heat turned off and the door slightly open, then left to cool for at least several hours or overnight. Assembly is done by taking a sharp paring knife and rounding out a hole in the base of the cap, dipping the stem part in melted chocolate and inserting into the hole in the cap. Very easy and quite realistic looking!
On decorating day I made French style chocolate buttercream for the icing of the log and some chocolate curls or 'bark' to lay on top of the buttercream to add a bit more realism. Next I cut off diagonal sections from each end of the roll, iced them and placed one on the top ,slightly off to one side and the other on the rear lower side of the log, securing them with bamboo skewers to the body of the cake. Then it's just a matter of adding all the other decorating components to make a nice presentation. I had planned to add some spun sugar angel hair to drape over the log, or maybe a white chocolate spider web, but simply ran out of time to get it all done before going to bed for my workday start at 2:00AM the next day. It's probably just as well I didn't do the spun sugar anyway, since it's not to be eaten till the 24th and doubt it would hold up properly over that period of time. When I was taking my training in trades school in Vancouver, my cake and decorating instructor Mr. Knoss, a Swiss master, used to say “one of the most important aspects of cake decorating is knowing when to stop” . It's very easy to get carried away with decorating and end up with something that's over decorated and busy, so I think in this case, necessity forced me to stop at a good point.
Unfortunately, necessity has also been a factor in me having to leave out all the recipes and most of the procedure for making the various components. It would take pages of typing to write up, and for a hunt & peck typist like myself, would take till sometime in the New Year to finish I reckon. For anyone who might be interested in any of the recipes or procedure used in this cake I plan to write them up over the next few days....week or two?, and have them available for anyone wanting them.
Now it's time to get some family Christmas baking done.
Merry Christmas and best of the Season to everyone on TFL!