My California Yule Log
Tis the season to be merry, and in my house that means baking a yule log for dessert. Last year we were at Grandma's house in California to help her celebrate the gathering of the clan on Christmas Eve. Imagine forty five mostly adult relatives gathering in 1200 square feet of space and then imagine the amount of food needed for the feasting! My contribution was this large Yule Log.
Yule logs were an early northern european tradition, where a special log was chosen and brought in from the forest to burn on the hearth to celebrate the Solstice. The French eventually turned it into a chocolate roll cake called the "Bûche de Noël." Because my children have egg and nut allergies, I don't bake with either and decided to make the decorations of birds and mushrooms out of shortbread instead of the traditional meringue. Unfortunately, shortbread is not clay and the birds slumped into lumpy teardrop shapes. In honor of California's forests, I turned them into banana slugs! All they required was a yellow sugar glaze, splashed with melted, watered chocolate for their markings, and added some sliced lemon peels for their antennae.
T & J's Vegan Chocolate Cake
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350˚
- Lightly grease 9x9" or 9x5" pan
Stir together all the dry ingredients together, then add all the liquid ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour into pan and bake for 45 minutes. Test often and don't overbake! Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Now this is a pretty small recipe and I usually double it. For the huge log above, I think I did two and a half batches, and lined a large sided cookie tray with baking parchment and spread out a layer like a 3/4" thick and baked for far less time. Check with a toothpick and take out as soon as your test comes out moist and barely clean, or you will have a dry cake. Before the cake is completely cool, roll it up with the parchment still attached and let it cool completely in that shape.
Now you can frost the cake in traditional buttercream, but I prefer ganache.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 8 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely ground in food processor
I think I may have quadrupled this recipe for my giant log. Heat cream in metal mixing bowl or pot on the stove, watch carefully so it doesn't boil over. When simmering, add chocolate and lower the heat. Stir until fully melted in. There will be tiny pin dots of chocolate but no lumps. Cover with wax paper and chill for 5-6 hours. Carefully beat ganache until stiff but not granular (too much air, lumpy with holes) Frost immediately. Makes about 3 cups.
Unroll the cake, and frost the inner layer. Now roll the cake up and remove the parchment as you do so. cut off one of the ends to make the cut branch or knob of the log. Using two large spatulas I move the cake to it's serving dish, which may be lined with pieces of cut wax paper that can be removed easily after the cake is frosted. Attach the knob with frosting, then frost the outside of the cake. For the log ends I make a quick little buttercream with a little chocolate added. Remove the was paper or clean up the edges of the plate with a wetted paper towel.
For the mushrooms any shortbread recipe will do, and I make the caps and stems separately, then attach them with melted chocolate. When finished, I dusted the mushrooms with cocoa powder, and placed them on the cake along with an artificial holly sprig. Lightly dust the log with powdered sugar for snow, and it's done!
Because ganache is much nicer soft than hard, keep the cake refrigerated but bring it out a few hours before serving.