When I was a kid, Christmas was always so much fun!
We (as in me and my 734 cousins) would end up at one of our homes and we would have the BEST party! We would all pile into the basement and sit at a really long table (which was usually hand made by all the men in the family – and by handmade, I mean it was literally sheets of plywood balanced on some kind of base). We would run around like crazy animals while the women finished preparing the meal, and the men would tell stories and play the accordion (ahhhh, the beloved accordion!). When it was time to eat, it was always loud and we ate off of mismatched plates and we even, as young as 6, drank a wee bit of my dad’s wine with dinner!
Sounds like a clip from some movie about a dysfunctional family? Well, it wasn’t. It was how we celebrated every year and, we still talk about how much fun it was.
Thinking back to those times made me realize that we did things differently than other people in our neighbourhood. Our traditions were different (I bet nobody else on the street had an accordion!) and there were most likely things that may have graced other tables in our community that weren’t on ours.
Case in point…the yule log cake.
When I was about 5, I remember seeing a woman making one of these cakes in the bakery section of our local grocery store and thinking, “that’s weird…a cake that looks like a log…hmm”. Never thought too much about it.
As an adult, I never took notice of the yule log cake because it just looked way to hard to make!
But guess what? It’s not!
There are traditional recipes for this cake, the filling and the frosting but I made this a bit different. The traditional cake is made almost flourless but I find it’s a bit more difficult for novice bakers so I used a sponge base. And the filling is usually buttercream but I used a chocolate cream cheese to cut the sweetness of all the sugar!
The hardest part, I think, is the rolling. Some recipes ask for you to roll it after it’s cooled but I find there is more cracking that way. I like to roll the cake before it cools, then unroll it after (it will crack a bit but it will all be covered with frosting so you’re good!!)
Once the cake is filled, you can roll it back up, wrap it tightly and freeze it for another time (just make sure it’s wrapped tightly to avoid freezer burn).
But you can also frost the whole thing and freeze it (buttercream icing is a dream!!). Just defrost it in the fridge overnight the day before you want to serve it.
I’d love it if you would give this a shot for the holidays! Tag me and let me know how it goes. And, I won’t even make you play the accordion!!
And remember, the holidays are no time to re-invent the wheel! If you want to make a yule log and this whole process intimidates you, try it with a boxed cake mix the first time…go ahead and use store bought icing for the filling and straight hazelnut spread for the outside…just try it!!
And if you need a picture for your holiday Pinterest board (a pinnable image) here is one above!!
Festive Yule Log
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder, separated
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 eggs (at room temperature)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (you can sub in finely ground instant coffee)
- 1/4 cup butter (at room temp)
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 1/2 cup hazelnut spread
- 1 cup butter (at room temp)
- 3 1/2 cups icing sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp milk
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly butter a 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan; line bottom with parchment paper and spray parchment with cooking spray (note: if you only have a larger cookie sheet with sides, you can use it and not spread the batter to the end)
- Sift together flour, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar until thick and pale, 3 to 5 minutes. Mix in vanilla and espresso powder.
- Gently melt 1/4 cup butter and chopped chocolate in the microwave for 60 to 90 seconds on medium power, stirring every 30 seconds (note: stop heating when the chocolate is almost melted, as the residual heat should be enough to melt it the rest of the way).
- With the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the melted chocolate mixture into the beaten egg mixture until evenly incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Sprinkle dry ingredients over top, and mix on low for 10 seconds and then finish by folding into batter using a large rubber spatula; spread into prepared pan, using an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly into the corners.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched with a fingertip. Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes, then turn out the cake upside down onto a piece of parchment paper sprinkled lightly with the remaining 1/4 cup cocoa powder (you can also use a clean dish towel); peel away parchment paper from bottom of cake, then gently roll up cake starting with the long side and set the rolled-up cake seam-side down, and let cool completely, at least 30 minutes.
- While cake is cooling, prepare the filling by beating cream cheese and 1/4 cup icing sugar together until fluffy. Add hazelnut spread and beat until evenly incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed; set aside.
- Gently unroll cooled cake, peeling back parchment paper as you go. Spread a thick layer of filling over the top of the cake. Starting with the same side as before, carefully roll up the cake, trying not to let the filling ooze out; set seam side down and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the filling to set up.
- Meanwhile, make the buttercream for the frosting beating the 1 cup butter on medium speed until creamy (about 2-3 minutes) and add 3 1/2 cups icing sugar, cocoa powder, milk; beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 2 full minutes (note: add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin or another tbsp of cream if frosting is too thick)
- Transfer cake roll to serving platter and, if you are a messy baker, place pieces of parchment strips under the cake to catch an smudges - so you have a clean plate when you remove them! Slather the buttercream all over the cake and cover completely. With a fork, make "tree grooves" by dragging the fork along the length of the roll.
- Slice cake with a large chef’s knife, using a single clean slicing motion (do not saw the knife back and forth). Wipe knife clean between slices.