Daring Bakers can’t stop being daring just because it’s Christmas. This month’s challenge was a big one: to make a Yule Log, complete with meringue or marzipan mushrooms, and write about it mere days before Christmas. I decided to make mine for a family holiday dinner on the 23rd, so timing has come right down to the wire. I’m still working on decorations, and will finish them up in the morning, but I wanted to write about the first part of my buche-building experience now (while I am up anyway waiting for ganache to cool and pate fermentee to rise).
The yule log challenge was threefold: make a genoise cake capable of being rolled, make a Swiss meringue buttercream to fill and frost the cake, and make either marzipan or meringue mushrooms to decorate it. We were given quite a bit of leeway as far as flavoring the cake: I went with chestnut buttercream for the filling, chocolate genoise, and chocolate buttercream for the frosting. I made the meringue mushrooms and some homemade marzipan for other decorations on the log.
I tackled the buttercream first because I had heard many stories about curdled or broken efforts, and figured that I should give myself the time to screw up—and retry it—if necessary, before moving on to the cake. I used organic cultured butter and softened it thoroughly via low power in the microwave. When I was done, I had a reasonably smooth but very runny unflavored buttercream. Because I wanted to use two different flavorings, I split the batch in half and popped both bowls in the fridge to chill, in hopes of thickening it up.
It thickened alright, and curdled too. When I stirred a few tablespoons of sweetened chestnut puree into one half of the buttercream, it curdled even more, and I started to panic (hence no photo). Since I had nothing to lose, I decided to melt down part of the curdled muck over a water bath, pour it back into the rest, and beat the heck out of it with my stand mixer.
As you can see, it totally did the trick. I used pretty much the same trick with the chocolate buttercream, but it just needed the heat of the melted chocolate to whip it back into shape.
Next on the docket was the genoise. I had a bit of a scare because when I pulled the box of parchment paper out of the drawer, it looked like I was not going to have enough to line the jelly roll pan. But in a Christmas miracle, I had exactly the amount I needed, no more and no less. I couldn’t have cut it more perfectly if I had tried. The batter itself was fairly straightforward, though I had a heck of a time incorporating all the dry ingredients into the aerated egg mixture without deflating it too much. I baked it for just under the time called for, and it sprang back perfectly.
To prepare it for rolling, I took Rose Levy Berenbaum’s advice and draped a damp tea towel over the hot cake while it was still in the pan. When it had cooled enough not to melt the buttercream, I ran a knife around the edges, spread on the chestnut buttercream filling, and used the parchment as an aid in rolling up the cake from the long end. It cooperated much better than I had anticipated, with no cracks in sight; I wrapped it in plastic wrap and gave it the night to set up.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment, which will cover cutting, frosting, and decorating the log!
I am a member of the Theta Class of the Daring Bakers, induced in July of 2007. For more information and a list of my previous challenges, click here.
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