I was feeling particularly festive this week, so I decided to give the Chocolate and Nut Yule Log from the December 2007 issue of Everyday Food a try. The recipe isn’t particularly easy, but I had good luck with it. My mosaic teacher made me nervous when she asked if I had made one before (no) and then proceeded to discuss how you can repair the cake if you break it. Eek.
Anyway, I started by coating a 10 x 15-inch jelly-roll pan (just a rimmed baking sheet, really) with nonstick cooking spray. I lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and sprayed the top of the parchment with cooking spray before setting the pan aside.
In a large bowl, I whisked 4 egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar until it was pale yellow. (This took several minutes.) I whisked 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract and 1/2 cup of flour into the mixture until everything was just combined. I set that aside as well.
Next, I used my stand mixer to beat 4 egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon of salt until soft peaks formed. (A hand mixer would work just fine.) With the motor running, I slowly added 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continued beating until the egg whites were stiff and glossy. I whisked 1/3 of the egg whites into the yolk mixture and then gently folded in the rest of the whites with a spatula. I spread this batter evenly in my prepared jelly-roll pan and baked it at 350 F for 15 minutes. (You want to bake it until the center of the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Based on my Mint Chocolate Brownies experience, I started checking the cake at 10 minutes.)
As soon as I removed the cake from the oven, I ran a knife around the edge of the pan. I dusted the top of the cake with powdered sugar and inverted it onto a clean sheet of parchment paper. I gently peeled off the original lining paper that was then on top of the cake. Starting from a short side of the cake, I gently rolled it (along with the clean sheet of parchment) into a log. I let it cool, seam side down, for 30 minutes.
Once the cake had cooled, I prepared the filling and frosting. I put 2 tablespoons of cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkled it with 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin. I set it aside to soften for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, I whisked 1/4 cup of Nutella and 1/4 cup of heavy cream together in a medium bowl. I set that aside as well.
I heated my now-softened gelatin mixture over low heat, stirring until just dissolved. I removed it from the heat and set it aside.
Next, I used my stand mixer to beat 2 cups of heavy cream until soft peaks formed. (Again, a hand mixer would be fine.) With the motor running, I poured the dissolved gelatin mixture over the cream all at once and continued beating for about 30 seconds.
I folded half of the whipped cream into the Nutella mixture to finish the Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling; the remaining whipped cream was the Whipped-Cream Frosting.
I gently unrolled my cooled cake and spread it with the Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. I carefully re-rolled the cake (minus the parchment paper) and placed it, seam side down, on a serving platter. I spread the log with the Whipped-Cream Frosting and sprinkled it with 1/2 cup of toasted almonds. At this point, I put it in the refrigerator overnight, loosely covered with plastic wrap.
The next evening, I used a serrated knife to cut the edges of the log off (for a neater appearance) and dusted it with powdered sugar. I went the extra mile and made the marzipan mushrooms recommended in the recipe, using them to garnish the log. Our theory is that logs are in the forest, so these must represent wild mushrooms or something. 🙂
So here’s the verdict: For what it is, this is tasty. The cake is very light, and the filling and frosting are good. For me personally, though, I tend to enjoy richer desserts with stronger flavors (cheesecake, chocolate, fruit, pastry, etc.). Cake with whipped frosting – however festive – isn’t really my thing. My neighbor said this would be perfect for folks who like lighter-textured desserts that aren’t overly sweet. I think it looks pretty impressive, though, and it was a great baking lesson.
TIPS: Variations of the word “gentle” are all over this post because I think that’s the key to success with this recipe. I can see how the cake might tear or crack if you didn’t roll and unroll it slowly and carefully.
Recipe link: Chocolate and Nut Yule Log