The Yule log was originally a pagan tradition. A large log would be specially selected, then lit in the fire on winter solstice night to symbolise the rebirth of the sun. It would be kept burning for 12 days. Burning the log would serve both spiritual and practical purposes, as it offered prosperity and warmth.
I really wanted to create a very special cake that doesn’t require a trip to the shops or lots of special ingredients. So this divine Yule log cake is made from pantry staples like cocoa and flour. No cream or couverture needed here! You can whip this up at the last minute.
You can use the chocolate buttercream on its own or melt some chocolate to make the leaves and bark. Painting the backs of bay leaves makes very pretty decorations that are gorgeous on cupcakes too. I’ve added the traditional marzipan mushrooms and some sugar-dusted rosemary for an organic, natural, just-stepped-out-of-the-forest look. This is a very pretty cake that makes a gorgeous table centrepiece and the perfect dessert.
Chocolate Yule Log Recipe
For the cake:
- 6 large eggs
- 150g caster sugar
- 100g self-raising flour
- 40g cocoa powder
For icing & decorating:
- 110g salted butter, softened
- 460g icing sugar, sieved
- 80g cocoa powder, sieved
- 100ml–120ml milk (or use Irish cream liqueur for an adults’ dessert)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Optional extras: chocolate for making leaves and bark, marzipan mushrooms, rosemary, extra icing sugar for dusting
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a Swiss roll tin with non-stick baking paper.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric whisk until pale, light and frothy.
- Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl. Use a spatula to cut through the light egg mix, folding in the flour and cocoa as you go. Try not to beat out any air. A light touch is needed here.
- Once combined, pour the batter into the lined tin and spread out evenly into the corners.
- Bake for 8–10 minutes until the edges have shrunk away from the sides of the tin.
- Place a large piece of baking paper on your worktop. Invert the cake onto the paper, and peel off the first piece of baking paper attached to the bottom of the cake. Roll the cake up tightly with the new paper inside. Leave to cool while you make the icing.
For the icing:
- Beat the butter with half the icing sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the remaining icing sugar and the cocoa, milk and vanilla. The more you mix this, the lighter and fluffier it will become.
- Uncurl the Swiss roll and remove the paper. Spread a layer of icing over the surface – you don’t need too much – then re-roll tightly.
- Next for the fun part! Cut off ¼ of the cake using a diagonal cut to make it look more natural and show a nice cross-section of the Swiss roll. Place the large part of the cake on a serving platter. Angle the cut-off piece onto the side of the cake to make it look like a branch. Use the chocolate buttercream to stick it in place.
- Spread a layer of buttercream over the entire cake. You can use a fork to create a wood effect or cover the cake with the chocolate shards (see below).
- Place the mushrooms and chocolate leaves (if using) in place. Tuck sprigs of rosemary around the edges. Dust the entire cake with icing sugar or a little cocoa powder.
- To make the shards of bark, melt 200g chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Line a tray with greaseproof paper. Spread the chocolate onto the paper in a thin, even layer. Once the chocolate has set, you can break it into random shards that look like tree bark.
- To make the leaves, simply use a pastry brush to paint the backs of bay or mint leaves with melted chocolate. Leave to set fully before peeling the leaves away.
“You won’t find a pipe cleaner in this book! With a basic arsenal of sticky tape, paper, glue stick and twine you can create magic. Egg boxes, twigs and old clothes can all be transformed into hot water bottle covers, table centrepieces and scented diffusers. Creativity can often be a spur of the moment thing, you feel like making something or a window of time has suddenly opened up (the baby is sleeping or that zoom call is cancelled!) Having to run to the shop for special equipment can dampen the mood.
There are at least six projects for each month of the year that will give you ideas for celebrations, crafts, self care, activities to do with kids, ways to decorate your home and seasonal recipes, all of which are guided by the Irish calendar year, from St Brigid’s crosses in February to Yule Logs in December. These activities are about making the most of what we’ve got, providing inspiration for fun and creativity off screen, slowing down and making the everyday moments special. As we’ve all discovered it’s more important than ever to celebrate the small things.”
Chocolate Yule Log Recipe – Lilly Higgins – The Homemade Year