Chocolate & Cream Yule Log

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The Christmas and New Year Season has died down, the kids and my husband and I are all back in school, and I’m finally getting a moment to record the fun baking we did at Christmas this year. My favorite part: the Buche de Noel. This Christmas cake is a tradition my dad brought home with him from France, and he’s usually the one who bakes it each year, but I was excited that he let me make it this year.

I found this recipe in one of the funnest baking books I own, called Baked. I will include their directions, though I changed them a bit. I’m not as big of a fan of malted milk balls as they are, so I substituted chestnut paste  (which is a more traditional French flavor) and I also made it into the more traditional log instead of a stump. Otherwise, I was super happy with how it turned out. Hope it goes this well again next year!

Chocolate & Cream Yule Log

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/4 cup of hot water (I would cut this down to 1 T. next time. I thought it was the dominant flavor as is)
  • 1 dozen large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Malted Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Buttercream
  • Meringue mushrooms, candied cranberries and candied rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional; see Note)

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter two 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheets and line them with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all of the short sides. Butter the paper and dust with flour.

In a small bowl, whisk the 1 cup of flour with the cocoa and salt. In another small bowl, combine the chocolate and espresso. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg yolks with 2/3 cup of the sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk and beat at high speed until the yolks are pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture along with the vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.

Thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on moderately high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar and continue beating at high speed until the whites are glossy, about 2 minutes longer. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the cake batter, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.

In a small bowl, whisk the melted butter with 1/2 cup of the batter; fold this mixture into the batter. Working in 2 batches, sift the cocoa powder mixture over the batter and gently fold it in. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading it out to fill the pans. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the cake feels springy and dry; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the pans to racks to cool completely. Run the tip of a knife around the edges, cover with parchment paper and a baking sheet and invert; peel off the parchment on top.

Spread the Malted Buttercream over the cakes. Using a ruler, cut each cake precisely in half lengthwise, cutting through the paper; you should have four 6-by-17-inch strips of cake. Roll one strip into a tight coil, leaving the paper behind. Roll the 3 remaining cake strips around the coil in the same way to form a very wide, short jelly roll. Set the cake on a large plate, spiraled end up. Frost the outside of the cake with the Dark Chocolate Buttercream. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours. Decorate the cake with meringue mushrooms, cranberries and rosemary sprigs and serve, cutting the cake into wedges or horizontal slices.

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Chocolate & Malted Buttercream

  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup malt powder, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water
  • 12 malted milk balls, crushed (I used chestnut paste instead. Or, I think I would just use vanilla bean paste)

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are just warm to the touch. Return the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk. Add the vanilla and beat the egg whites at high speed until firm and glossy, about 5 minutes. With the machine on, whisk in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to beat until smooth before adding more butter. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream to a bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate. Beat the dissolved malt powder into the remaining buttercream, then beat in the milk balls.

 

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

626-52_choco_zucchini_cake_300This cake has become a favorite this season, after Henry, my son, grew his first zucchini (in our neighbor’s garden, I should add. Our patch did not do so well). He wanted to eat the zucchini, but frankly hates the vegetable, so I made this for him instead. He loved the cake, but suggested we just call it “Chocolate Cake,” because calling it “Zucchini Chocolate Cake” freaks him out. This recipe comes from May 2004 Saveur. It’s not a difficult recipe, even though the first step is a bit unusual (but makes for a great cake), just make sure to allow for quite a long baking time. 

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2 medium zucchini, trimmed and
grated on large holes of box grater
9 T. butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 c. flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. corn oil
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar

1. Working in batches, put a small mound of zucchini in center of large square of double-layer cheesecloth. Gather corners together and squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer zucchini to a bowl and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 325º. Butter a deep 9″ cake pan with 1 tbsp. of the butter. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together into a mixing bowl and set aside. Beat together remaining 8 tbsp. butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 3-4 minutes.

3. Add oil, beating well. Beat in one egg at a time, add vanilla, reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 alternate batches. Stir in reserved zucchini.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to let cool. Invert onto a plate and dust with sugar.