Yule logs date back to ancient Nordic traditions. The word comes from the Norse word hweol, meaning wheel, and over time the yule log came to symbolize the wood logs often burnt at Christmas time. Yule logs consist of a sponge cake with some type of filling rolled into a log shape. This recipe uses light as air vanilla genoise and a rich and decadent mascarpone buttercream. The candied nuts add just the right amount of salt to contrast the sweet.
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
Ingredients – Candied Pecans
1 egg white
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups pecans
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon water
Ingredients – Mascarpone Buttercream
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A few drops of brown food coloring
Ingredients – Royal Icing Decoration
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon meringue powder
6 – 10 tablespoons water
Gel food coloring
Additional confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Separate the egg whites and yolks. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until frothy and slowly add in the sugar. Add the yolks one at a time. Continue to beat the eggs for 10 minutes.
Sift in the flour a little at a time and fold into the egg mixture. Once all the flour has been incorporated, transfer it into the baking sheet, spreading the batter out evenly. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a tea towel to roll while still warm.
To make your roll, dampen a tea towel with water (note: the tea towel must be wider than the genoise). Sprinkle damp towel with sugar. Flip your cake onto the tea towel and slowly peel back the parchment paper. Fold the bottom edge of the towel over the cake and start to roll the edge tightly using the towel. When it is completely rolled, close the edges and allow the wrapped cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
While the cake is cooling, prepare your candied pecan filling (note: you will have more candied pecans than what you need for the cake, but they can be served and eaten on their own). Start by lowering your oven temperature to 250°F. To prepare the candied pecans, whip the egg white until frothy. Toss the pecans into the egg white, coating them completely. Add the water, sugar, and ground cinnamon and toss. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat and sprinkle with the Kosher salt. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Roughly chop up one cup of the candied pecans for the cake (and enjoy the rest).
Next prepare your buttercream. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the mascarpone cheese, vanilla, and confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat until incorporated. Add a few drops of brown food coloring to achieve a wood color.
Prepare the icing for decoration by mixing together the confectioner’s sugar, meringue powder, and 6 tablespoons of water. Add additional water to achieve the consistency desired (for this cake, extra water was added to create a drip effect on the side of the cake). To 1/4 of the icing and add red food coloring and to another 1/4 add green. These colors will be used to make the Christmas ivy. Transfer all colors to piping bags and set aside.
To frost your cake, unroll from the tea towel slowly, taking care not to break the cake. Your cake will have retained the spiral shape. Using your hands to hold the edges open, frost the inside of the cake with the mascarpone buttercream. Sprinkle the candied pecans on top of the buttercream and roll up the cake off the tea towel as tightly as possible to create the log. Transfer the rolled cake to your serving platter.
With the remaining buttercream, frost the outside using straight strokes across the length. Frosting the entire outside length in this manner mimics wood. Lightly frost the two end edges to create a crumb coat. Snip the edge of the piping bag with the white royal icing. Using the white royal icing, drip the icing over the edges. Repeat along the bottom edge of the cake that is resting on the platter. Once the entire cake is frosted, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar through a small sieve.
To finish the holiday decoration, make a holly (or two) on the top of the cake using the green and red royal icing. You can also write a message on your platter with the same frosting.
Makes one 12″ log.