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daring bakers: yule log

Recipe: yule log

Does it suddenly feel like you’re walking through the enchanted forest with all of the yule logs popping up on food blogs? Enchanted, indeed. It’s the Daring Bakers challenge for December! This month our most beloved founders: Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice are hosting the challenge and they picked this traditional pastry.

we knead to bake – oh yes! we most certainly do…

I had never made a yule log (aka bûche de noël) before, but I was familiar with all of the components. The three major parts were: meringue mushrooms, buttercream frosting, and the genoise. I began with the mushrooms.

beat the egg whites to stiff peaks

piping tops and stems

Aside from the final assembly, this was by far my favorite part of the challenge. I made my mushrooms small because I am small-food obsessed, remember? Because I love to hike and backpack, I have spent many hundreds of miles walking gorgeous woodlands admiring the different plant life that adorns trees – both fallen and living. I made the required mushrooms, and then I made some shelf mushrooms, and then I cut some little fungi (tree ears) from orange and yellow fruit roll ups while Jeremy ate all of the scraps. The meringues required much longer baking time than the suggested 50-55 minutes. I baked mine for an hour and 45 minutes.

a little daub of wet meringue at the base of each top

assembled shrooms ready for a little more baking

The assemblage of the mushrooms was terrific. I used the tip of my digital candy thermometer to poke a small hole in the base of each mushroom top, piped a bit of wet meringue for glue and attached a stem to each one. Every single mushroom was just too flipping cute.

Next up was the buttercream. I have a good standard Swiss meringue buttercream recipe that I use extensively. This one was pretty similar, except it called for a lot more butter. Based on my experience, I thought the resulting amount of buttercream would be cutting it close. I am risk-averse, so I decided to increase the recipe by 50%. I heated the egg whites and sugar to 140F and then whipped them for a loooong time (20 minutes or more) before it cooled down enough to accept softened butter without melting it.

gorgeous swiss meringue

I didn’t think the coffee buttercream in the recipe would be very dark, so I made half of the batch coffee and the other half chocolate. Unfortunately… I increased everything by 50% except for the butter. I think I’m so used to my standard recipe that the original amount of butter (3 sticks) sounded right for my increased 6 egg whites when I should have used 4.5 sticks.

chopped semi-sweet chocolate

folding the melted chocolate into the buttercream frosting

The genoise recipe looked suspect to me. I’ve made a lot of genoise recipes and this one had far more egg yolk content than I was used to. It whipped up in volume just fine.

the batter should hold a ribbon for 8 seconds

spread onto a prepped half sheet

After folding in the flour and cornstarch, I poured the batter into a jelly roll pan. As it baked, it seemed to do just fine. When I pulled it out of the oven, I noticed that the crumb structure was too egg-ish. Perhaps it is my elevation, but instead of a moist and airy crumb, I had larger air pockets and a stiffer structure to the cake. *unhappy*

spreading coffee buttercream

rolled like a ho-ho

I barely had enough coffee buttercream to cover the entire cake with a thin layer. It rolled up without too many problems, although the cake was more brittle than other genoises that I’ve handled. Once rolled, I wrapped it in wax paper and chucked it into the refrigerator to chill for an hour. I lopped off one end that looked a little ragged and then cut both ends on the diagonal. The chocolate buttercream was definitely darker and better looking for the log’s exterior.

happy cluster of mushrooms

I dusted with cocoa powder for that dirt effect. Then I dusted with powdered sugar for that snow effect. I cut up green fruit roll ups to mimic pine needles.

where fungi love to grow

my absolute favorites: shelf mushrooms

Overall, this cake was too sweet for my liking. I thought it was heavy on the buttercream frosting and that the texture of the genoise was horrid. That could have been my altitude, but I’m suspicious of a spongecake that is so heavy on the egg yolks. The mushrooms were fan-freaking-tabulous and our friends sat around popping one mushroom after another into their mouths. If I were to make this again, I’d use whipped cream for filling with a softer and lighter (less egg yolk) cake base. I’d keep the meringue mushrooms and would have to think hard about replacing the exterior frosting with a whipped cream base (I do think the buttercream looks better for the outside). A good and fun challenge and a springboard for new variations. Thanks so much, Lis and Ivonne!! Be sure to check out ALL of the other Daring Bakers yule logs. Happy holidays to all.

ye olde yule log

Yule Log
[print recipe]
from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert

Serves 12. Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated.

plain genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup cake flour – spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
1/4 cup cornstarch

one 10×15-inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100°F if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger – it should be warm to the touch). Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted. While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch. Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly. While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream. Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

coffee buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tbsps (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsps instant espresso powder
2 tbsps rum or brandy

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Filling and frosting the log: Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan. Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper. Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper. Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using). Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder. Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours. Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

meringue mushrooms
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup (3-1/2 oz./105 g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 oz./40 g) icing sugar
unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat the oven to 225°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended. Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each 1/2 inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, 3/4 inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about 1/2 inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and 3/4 inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced 1/2 inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue. Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets. Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.

marzipan mushrooms
8 oz. almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tbsps light corn syrup
Cocoa powder

To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed. Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly. Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth. Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths. Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms. Smudge with cocoa powder.

73 nibbles at “daring bakers: yule log”

  1. Christine says:

    Jen, your cake is driving me crazy! The mushrooms and caps, the dirt, the snow, the tree ears — the pine needles! And the shelf fungi! I’m sure any patisserie wouldn’t mind having that in their front window. Yes, I can imagine the frustration with the genoise. But man, that’s one freakin’ amazin buche de noel.

    Bon courage for your rehabilitation after surgery. And, great work you did for Menu For Hope. I’m keepin’ my fingers crossed for the aspen photo :)

  2. foodie froggy says:

    Just one word : wow ! The mushrooms are so perfect, too !

  3. peabody says:

    Very realistic! I love the shelf mushrooms too. And the cut up fruit roll up was a great idea.

  4. Ashley says:

    I love how you added different types of mushrooms to your yule log! And yes your mushrooms are incredibly cute. I didn’t make the cake this time, but I kind of want to just make a batch of the meringue mushrooms!

  5. Amy says:

    Omg I love the shelf mushrooms and your mushroom stems are awesome, loved the curved ones. The fruit roll up was a brilliant idea. I didn’t have any problems with the cake so maybe it was the elevation?

  6. desie the maybahay says:

    wow, love that log. great pics, too, on almost every step.
    Happy Holidays!

  7. kitten says:

    your cake looks gorgeous ! i too thought the mushrooms were soooo scrumptious and yours looked amazing…and I agree with you about filling the cake with a lighter whipped type of filling next time.

  8. maria~ says:

    Love your meringues, dear! And I like your shelf mushrooms and the idea of using green fruit roll-ups. Absolutely fantastic! I also did a chocolate buttercream. Although the log turned out to be excessively sweet and rich, I suppose it’s appropriate for the holiday season of excess and richness :)

  9. Gigi says:

    WOW! Great job and photos are beautiful as always.

  10. Michelle says:

    Shelf mushrooms? Brilliant! Beautiful photos…

  11. Meeta says:

    Oh that looks too good! It looks so delicate. I also love the meringues. Great job!

  12. Tartelette says:

    Looks gorgeous! Love how real it looks. I am alsways amazed how a recipe turns out differently for everybody, you are probably right about the altitude thing.
    Happy holidays to you and your family!

  13. linda says:

    The shelf mushrooms are so cute! I’m sure that your outcome of the genoise is altitude related, it should have been a delicate spongy and light cake. Despite the amount of eggs and egg yolks I didn’t find it too eggy.

  14. Nicole says:

    Jen Yu, you are my hero! That is art. I love all of the mushrooms.

  15. Kevin says:

    Your yule log looks so amazing! The shelf mushrooms are a good idea.

  16. Rasa Malaysia says:

    OMG, you are simply amazing…that is a piece of art…absolutely brilliant.

    I am completely blown away.

    PS: I finally added you to my blogroll, sorry it took so long as I am sooooooooooo busy.

  17. LizG says:

    Wow, talk about realistic! Your log looks fantastic. Great job!…

  18. abby says:

    really, really lovely jen!

  19. Ashencircle says:

    Wow, just love your mushrooms, they look great! And your step by step pictures are fantastic. Great end result!

  20. Maryann says:

    I had the same opinion of the cake. I love how you decorated yours. Roll ups..yes! I was at a loss of what to make pine needles out of. Very clever! You did a great job.

  21. Merav says:

    Creative genius! I adore the shelf mushrooms! Beautiful Log!

  22. StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    Jen- Your Yule Log looks gorgeous! I owe you a big debt of gratitude. My genoise came out like a big, flat pancake. While I was crying in my buttercream, I was clicking around the other DB sites to see what I did wrong. I came to your site and when I saw your photo of the genoise batter, I knew exactly what it was supposed to look like. I re-did it and it came out great. You really saved my butt! Thanks!

  23. Dolores says:

    Between your log and Peabody’s, I just am not worthy! I love your fan-freaking-tabulous mushrooms, and your approach to pine needles is brilliant. Happy holidays Jen, and best wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous 2008.

  24. Y says:

    Just gorgeous! Great photos, and love the variety of mushrooms :)

  25. johanna says:

    amazing pictures… and definitely the best meringue mushrooms i have seen! so much prettier than my own, which brittled far too much, being impatient as i am sometimes, especially when i am still baking around midnight! merry christmas and a happy new year!

  26. jennywenny says:

    What a beautiful yule log, I love all the different types of fungi you had! Enjoy eating them!

  27. Julius says:

    Beautiful work, as always!

    I remain a fan.

    Best wishes this Holiday and the coming New Year.

    Julius from Occasional Baker

  28. Katia says:

    WOw, the mushrooms! Your yule log is absolutely wonderful, sounds like you had fun. Merry Christmas!

  29. Bridget says:

    I thought the mushrooms were super fun too! I love the idea of making different types of mushrooms.

  30. Sheltie Girl says:

    You did a fabulous job on your yule log. I love your naturalized log with all the different types of mushrooms.

    Happy Holidays!

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  31. Elle says:

    Excellent yule log! I love the mushrooms, especially the shelf ones & the slivers of fruit roll ups for pine needles. It was a fun challenge, wasn’t it?
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

  32. Katie B. says:

    Wow wow wow!!! I had no idea how adorable a yule log could be! You did an amazing job!!

  33. Isa says:

    I just discover your blog, and I already love it :)! Your pictures are awesome!
    Your Bûche de Noël is adorable! Thanks for sharing it!

  34. Ann-Marie says:

    I LOVE the shelf fungi! How creative is that! And I would never have dreamed that those pine needles were fruit rollups. You are one clever baker, and I’ll be back to see what you’re up to next time. Merry Christmas!

  35. monica says:

    wonderful yule log jen! it is truly gorgeous and i love your step by step photos! merry christmas!

  36. Claire says:

    Good job! I bet you do love a buttercream! Great mushroom shelf!

  37. Tara says:

    I LOVE your log decorations! The creative use of roll-ups is just brilliant!! Awesome job…

  38. Madeleine says:

    Wow!!! amazing job!!! Your log its beatiful! :)

  39. Deborah says:

    I love the mushrooms! And the fruit roll ups were a great idea!

  40. Judy says:

    I always enjoy seeing your finished projects, challenges, and photographs. They are always superb! Have a wonderful New Year.

  41. Gretchen Noelle says:

    Your yule log turned out great! I love all the extra information you shared, especially all the steps with photos! Great mushrooms!

  42. brilynn says:

    Excellent job of decorating! Your log looks fabulous!

  43. zorra says:

    Wow, I’m speechless with admiration! Great Yule Log and great pictures!

  44. Ulrike aka ostwestwind says:

    I am wordless: Georgeous log and great pictures. Congratulation.

    Happy New Year!

  45. Rosa says:

    Your log looks extremely pretty! I love the way you decorated it! Wonderful!

    Cheers and Happy New Year 2008!


  46. Glenna says:

    GREAT CAKE! I really love the way you decorated it. The shitakes are fantastic. I thought about doing that too but gave up on the idea. You executed it beautifully!

  47. Wendy says:

    Your log is decorated so creatively! I like the cluster of mushrooms and the bracket fungi as well. I love your tips and your photos are fantastic. Lovely cake. Wendy

  48. Courtney says:

    Your cake looks fantastic. And your photos are exqusite as always. Thanks for kind words on my blog. Happy New Year!

  49. Lynn says:

    I love the way you decorated your log! The mushrooms turned out beautifully. I greatly admire all your process photos – well done!

  50. Claudia says:

    How delicious and absolutely professional! Love the flat mushroom slices. That adds a realistic touch to your yule log!

  51. dhanggit says:

    wow!! from the looks of it, seems you are a pro!! love your yule log must be really good!!!

    ps, thanks for passing by i will never discover your wonderful the way you present your recipes..step by step photos!! expect to see me more often here :-)

  52. Paula says:

    Great job! Your log is so realistic! Love all the details:)

  53. Candace says:

    Fabulous! Love the shelf mushrooms, very creative!

  54. Dharm says:

    Looks like you have altitude problems while I have humidity and heat issues!! :)
    Your mushrooms look just lovely. I especially like your shelf mushrooms. I also thought that the meringue didnt bake long enough a I kept mine in for a while longer but they still wilted and weeped after a while. I’m also glad I found someone else that thought the Log was too sweet. Really, I’d have cut down on the sugar had I known how sweet it would be. Great job ! The log looks just fantastic. It just turned to 2008 here – really! JUST! so have a great New Year.

    Lots of love.

  55. the caked crusader says:

    Gosh those photos make me feel hungry! I loved this recipe and will definitely be making it again.

    Happy new year and happy baking!

  56. Mindy says:

    oh my god- I love your shelf mushrooms….. I love your fruit roll-up pine needles- genius! We need to get together and bake- your ideas are right up my alley….

  57. Nan says:

    Hey, you did shelf mushrooms too! Except, yours look like they were on purpose rather than out of exasperation ;). Beautiful cake!

  58. megan says:

    I wasnt fond of the genoise cake. I thought it was kinda dry.
    I love your pine needles and mushrooms.
    Happy New Year!!

  59. Joey Biscotti says:

    your Yule log is fantastic… it looks entirely real with the pine needles and snow… Great job!!!

  60. Molly says:

    I love the abundance of flora encrusting your log. It’s lots of fun. Happy New Year

  61. Andrea says:

    Your mushroom decorations are wonderful. I love the variety you chose. You have a beautiful cake!

  62. Faery says:

    A piece of art, Gorgeous all the logs are very beautiful but this is the one I like.

  63. Esther says:

    love the shelf mushrooms will have to remember that one. I loved the mushrooms too and they were really easy to make much to my surprise.

  64. jenyu says:

    Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments and kind wishes for the holidays. I wish the *very* best for all of you lovely folk in 2008 and beyond. Being a Daring Baker makes it all the more fun and exciting. xxoo

    Christine – thanks, you are always so sweet. Just in case you don’t win the MfH raffle, you might should email me your mailing address anyway :)

    Amy – I think you’re right. The elevation can make me insane when it comes to baking (and candy making!!). I’m still trying to master old favorite recipes up here!

    Rasa Malaysia – ah, you’re such a dear. I know you’ve been busy. I’ve even been busy. I wonder if things will calm down with the holidays passed? I’d like to get back to reading my regular blogs again!

    StickyGooeyCreamyChewy – wow, I didn’t even know I could “helpful”!! :) So glad it worked out for you and that I could be a part of that. Happy new year!

    Dolores – oh yes you are too worthy! Don’t even think of suggesting otherwise. Peabody is brilliant, isn’t she? I loves her. I loves me my Daring Bakers – they are so damn awesome :)

    Julius – hey babe, I’m your fan too!!

    Dharm – man, you know you are my hero, don’t you?! Your baking is like light-years beyond my skills and yet you flatter me with such kind words ;) Happy 2008 and I can’t wait to see more of your masterpieces (your children, family, friends are SOOOO lucky!).

  65. Shandy says:

    Hi and thank you for the comment on my Yule log! Your Yule log is absolutely beautiful! I love your idea for the shelf mushrooms. The fruit leather coming out of the ends is perfect for color and added flavor! Happy New Year with a warm oven and happy hearts! =D
    Shandy@Pastry Heaven

  66. Meryl says:

    Gorgeous pictures!

  67. Katie says:

    Your log looks brilliant. I love the shelf mushrooms, what a great idea!

  68. Tiffany says:

    What cute decorations! I would have never thought to use Fruit-roll-ups!! I wonder what happened to your cake though? I know elevation issues stink…I spent Christmas in the mountains and had to contend with elevation AND an ancient persnickity oven.

  69. african vanielje says:

    Jen, everything you post is like a masterclass. And that is indeed a happy cluster of mushrooms. The shelf mushrooms were my daughter’s idea.

  70. Gabi says:

    Hi Jen- Happy New Year!
    Sorry I didn’t make it round earlier to see your spectacular Buche de Noel!
    I love the shelf mushrooms!
    Looking forward to seeing more of your DB work in 2008!

  71. jenyu says:

    Thanks all! Happy new year, my beloved DBers :)

  72. Christina says:

    Jen, your pictures are absolutely gorgeous! Lovely everything, especially the mushrooms!

  73. Sathya says:

    I have no idea how this happened, but this is my first visit to your blog. Its been wonderful, thank you. Your Yule (and everything else) looks fantastic. Mine was a disaster. I’ll be coming back often!

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