The more eagle-eyed among you will recognise this as a bit of a flashback from last year. Some time in the summer of 2012, Band of Bakers was approached by delicious. magazine to provide some recipes for their Christmas issue. The nature of publication schedules being as it is, I spent two weeks of the summer developing this recipe and then a blisteringly hot early September day in a studio, wearing winter clothes and pretending to drink mulled wine. As you can imagine, it was very difficult to get into the spirit of Christmas when your photographer is wearing shorts and you can see people sunbathing in a car park through a window. The magazine came out that November and we were very excited to see our recipes in print. Naomi made the mince pies; a delicious cranberry and orange version on an almond pastry, Charlie made an excellent rum and raisin Galette des Rois, Juliet made beautiful little Italian riciarelli biscuits (see also my post on some favourite Christmas recipes) and Jassy made an unusual and scrumptious Christmas cake made with walnuts and an obscenely generous amount of sloe gin (her blog is called Gin and Crumpets, so it is hardly surprising). My recipe was the dessert for people who hate Christmas pudding (and there are many!), a chocolate and salted caramel yule log.
I have yet to sit down to a Christmas dinner where there are not two desserts: the traditional Christmas pudding and an alternative option for those that refuse to eat it. In my house, it is the men that have an aversion to it. The women, myself included, adore Christmas pudding and eagerly anticipate the time of year when it is acceptable to eat one. My favourite recipe is Dan Lepard’s Simple Christmas Pudding from Short and Sweet, served hot with an enormous dollop of extra-thick double cream (the kind you have to extract from the tub with a spoon). When a dessert is required to please the naysayers, it is difficult to go wrong with chocolate. This chocolate and salted caramel yule log can be sliced up and served on its own, with cream or with some hot custard. The leftovers are robust enough to be kept and sliced up with tea for any afternoon guests. It does keep for a few days longer than a regular yule log as the filling is a meringue buttercream, rather than fresh cream which has an extremely short shelf-life.
The recipe has a lot of processes and can look daunting on first glance, but it need not take too long to make. When you consider the length of time it takes to prepare, bake, ice and decorate a traditional Christmas cake, you are scarcely worse off. Last year, not counting the ones I made when developing the recipes, I managed to churn out four of these: one for my colleagues, one for my family, one for Ollie’s family and one for some pre-Christmas visitors who scarfed a whole yule log in an afternoon. Salted caramel was the big flavour that everybody was going gaga over in 2012, so that was the inspiration for the filling, but any other flavoured buttercream would work just as well – you could add booze or even make a chocolate buttercream for ultimate decadence. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, just fill it up with fresh cream and a jar of Nutella. If you’re really pushed for time, you could even omit the ganache and finish off the log with a mere sprinkling of icing sugar.
Chocolate and Salted Caramel Yule Log
For the sponge
- 3 large eggs, separated
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp milk
- 30g cocoa powder
- 30g plain flour
- ¼tsp fine salt
- Icing sugar, for dusting
For the salted caramel meringue buttercream
- 120g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 120ml double cream
- 1 tsp Maldon sea salt
- 2 large egg whites (about 75g)
- 150g granulated sugar
- 200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the chocolate ganache frosting
- 200g good-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 100ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 180ºc / 350ºf / gas 4. Grease and line a swiss roll tin (approx. 25cm x 35cm) with baking paper. To make the sponge, whisk together the three egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and whisk until stiff. In a separate bowl, whisk together the caster sugar and egg yolks until thickened and pale yellow. Add the milk and whisk again until just combined. Sift the cocoa powder, plain flour and salt on to the egg yolk mixture and, using a metal spoon, fold together until just combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites, being careful not to knock too much of the air from them as you fold. Once fully combined with no streaks of egg white, repeat with the other two-thirds of the mixture.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 15 minutes until the top is springy and the sides have shrunk away from the edge of the tin. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Whilst still warm, roll up the sponge from the short end with the baking paper still on. Leave to cool completely then carefully unroll. This will help when rolling the cake.
To make the buttercream, combine the caster sugar, golden syrup and 120ml cold water in a heavy based saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for 3-5 minutes until it becomes a dark caramel (watch it closely to make sure it doesn’t burn.) Immediately remove from the heat and carefully add the cream and salt, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool completely.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the two egg whites with the granulated sugar. When soft peaks form, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the water touch the bowl) and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture begins to resemble a runny marshmallow. Remove from the heat and whisk with an electric mixer until the bottom of the bowl feels cool. Add the butter, about 25g at a time, whisking continuously until thick. Add the cooled caramel to the buttercream and whisk until just combined. Transfer to the fridge and chill until needed.
For the frosting, break the dark chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it is just about to boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is thick enough to spread. Allow to cool completely.
To assemble the cake, peel the baking paper from the sponge and place, smooth side down, on a fresh piece of baking paper dusted with icing sugar. Spread the buttercream across the sponge and gently roll up from the short end, as before. Place on a serving plate and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Spread the ganache on to the cake, leaving the ends bare, and use a fork to create a bark-like texture. Dust with more icing sugar and serve.