Saturday, December 22, 2007

Daring Bakers December Challenge!

I was extra excited to join the Daring Bakers group this month. The challenge was to make a Yule Log, and the baking part was lots of fun. I had never made a genoise cake before, but it all seemed to go pretty smoothly. The frosting was perfect--I don't think I've ever made such a smooth buttercream before! It was great to frost given the smooth buttercream and the texture of the cake (not too crumbly). I did have some troubles with rolling the cake...I tried the dishtowel approach that some people had mentioned, but my cake still cracked...oh well, it still looks nice when it's put together! My mushrooms didn't turn out quite right, I don't think, but they were still cute. I was very excited about it because everything looked perfect...but then came the taste test. :( Not my greatest culinary achievement. Not sure if I did something wrong or if it was just a preference thing, but neither my housemate nor I thought it was very good. The cake was really sweet and the texture seemed overly sponge-y. The frosting was pretty good when I tasted it before adding the coffee flavor, but I wasn't crazy about it afterward. Anyway, I was still glad to try out some new techniques, and I will definitely try this buttercream again with some different flavorings because I did love how it spread and I thought it tasted good plain.

Yule Log

Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).

4. Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5. While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6. Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9. While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

10. Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2. Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3. Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

Assembling the Yule Log:

1. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

2. Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

3. Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

4. Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

5. Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

6. Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

7. Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

8. Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

9. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

10. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

11. Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.


  1. I have issues with my genoise, too...spongy. Mine was really heavy. But, yours look great, Sara! Well done. Happy Holidays!

  2. Congrats on completing your first challenge! Great job on your yule log.

  3. Nice Yule Log! It was my first DB challenge, too. Fun, wasn't it?


  4. Congrats on completing your first DB challenge! Great job! It looks delish and I agree with you about the coffee flavor. I'm no big fan, so I substituted it with chocolate :) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  5. I agree...the genoise was a bit spongy. Although, I must admit, I did like the coffee flavor. Nice job!

  6. Sara, your yule log turned out way better than Tyler Florence's did when he tried to make one in the special battle of Iron Chef: America when he and Robert Irvine took on Paula Deen and Cat Cora. Therefore, you should be a celebrity chef.

  7. Aww am sorry you didn't like the final outcome, but you sure did a beautiful job in constructing and decorating it!

    Welcome to the Daring Bakers, Sara! Can't wait to see what you come up with next month. :D


  8. My cake cracked too but the wonderful icing was ideal for hiding it. Great first challenge! Looks delicious.

  9. Congrats on your first challenge!! Great job :)

  10. Congratulations from another first-timer, your log turned out great! I loved that buttercream too - wanted to bathe in it :)

  11. Job well done on your first challenge!

  12. Very nice! The buttercream looks like it was incredibly satiny.

  13. Perfect. Great 1st time, welcome to the group.

  14. Beautiful job Sara! Welcome to the Daring Bakers! Even if it dd not rise to your expectations it still looks gorgeous!

  15. Congratulations Sara, and welcome! Your log turned out beautiful... I'm sorry the taste didn't work for you.

    I hope your holidays were full of peace and joy, and that 2008 brings you nothing but the best.

  16. Congrats on your first DB challenge! Great job facing the challenges, too bad you didn't much enjoy the final outcome. Looking forward to next month's challenge!

  17. Great job! you are now a Daring Baker, welcome to the group! Genoise is a strange thing, doesn't always want to behave, but you pulled it off.
    Happy Holidays!

  18. It looks great, even if you didn't love the taste.

  19. Welcome! Your Yule looks great. I agree the buttercream was oh so good!

  20. Mmm, looks perfect to me. The nice thing about the buttercream frosting is that it covers any of those insignificant (and some significant!) cracks :) Congratulations!

    jen at use real butter