And on we forge! After filling and rolling the genoise on Friday night, around about midnight, I wasn’t able to get back to get back to the cake until the next evening. (We went and had a 3D/4D ultrasound done so my parents could watch it. Very cool!) The roll set up nicely in the fridge, and I got it all laid out with cut stumps and limbs on a brand-new platter purchased just for the occasion. The chocolate genoise was so rough and bark-ish by itself that it almost didn’t even need frosting, but where would the fun be in that?
The branches held together just fine without toothpicks, as you can see, but I took no chances and frosted all the joints first. I left the cut edges bare so that the roll itself could act as the tree’s rings. The frosting was just slathered on roughly and then scuffed up with a fork to look like bark.
Once I had the frosted log back in the fridge, I did all the advance prep for the decorations. First I made meringue for the mushrooms. Although I purchased a set of pastry bags and tips especially for the occasion, none of the tips were the right size or shape for the mushrooms, so I ended up using a snipped plastic bag after all.
It worked out alright, and I just left the meringues in the cooling oven overnight to dry out as much as possible. As you can see, I dusted the caps with cocoa powder, and when I put them together this afternoon shortly before we left for the party, I used melted chocolate for the “glue” that stuck the pieces together. The finished mushrooms came out really cute and surprisingly realistic. Half my family thought they were real mushrooms at first glance.
Next, I made homemade marzipan. Since I forgot to buy almond paste when we were at the grocery store earlier in the day, I also ended up making that, using equal parts whole almonds and powdered sugar, whizzed together in the food processor with an egg white and a bit of almond extract until they formed a smooth, uniform ball. It was much easier to make than I had expected, and tasted better than the marzipan I’ve encountered in the past. I left half of it uncolored (it was a nut-brown beige due to the almond skins) and tinted the rest a bright green. In the morning, I shaped the uncolored marzipan into little acorns and painted their caps with melted chocolate; the green marzipan was rolled out on a silpat and cut out in the shape of ivy leaves, with rolled vines and tendrils.
As finishing touches, I also made some sugared rosemary by brushing fresh rosemary branches with corn syrup and thoroughly sprinkling it with sugar. I used corn syrup because the alternative was egg white and I already had four orphaned yolks in the fridge. The corn syrup didn’t ever dry, though, so I’d use the egg white next time, regardless. Finally, as another decadent touch, I made some very simple bittersweet truffles rolled in cocoa powder. I’ve done these before, but ran into the unexpected snag of having warm hands. (I usually have ice-cold hands all the time, which is great for working with truffle ganache, but my hands have been really warm during my pregnancy. Weird.) Good thing they were meant to look rustic!
As you can see, I decided to play with the mushroom shapes a bit, and made some shelf mushrooms to insert on the sides of the log. They came out really cute, and were a nice detail.
Here’s the finished log in all its glory. It had a lot going on, but I think it came out beautifully, and I had a lot of fun playing around with the artistic aspects of decorating the cake. It was a big hit at my family party, too, though everyone assumed it was filled with ice cream for some reason. They also refused to cut it, so I ended up doing the serving myself, a bit of a challenge with the irregular shape. I wasn’t personally able to discern the chestnut flavor in the filling, but all the frosting was delicious and silky smooth, balancing well with the tender chocolate genoise.
This cake was a showstopper and delicious to boot. There is also a ton of room for creativity in flavoring and decorating it; so, although I might not make a yule log every year, it will definitely make an appearance on my holiday table again, in one form or another. For the full recipe, visit our gracious host, Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. And as always, be sure to check out all the other fabulously daring creations on the Daring Bakers Blogroll here.
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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