Phew! *Wipes sweat off her brow*. That was tough, and involved quite a few unwarranted jokes at my expense. In fact, a certain someone in my life was known to comment “Wow! That’s going to look the same going in as coming out.” *Pout* Of course, he was also the same person to comment the next day that the mushrooms on it looked “yummy” and to want to eat some early. Ahem. There was no eating, though, as this was made, for Amanda’s birthday. Of course, wanting to take decent pictures, I borrowed her camera, and… well, they haven’t come back from their Christmas vacation in the Berkshires yet, so they’re going to have to come home to their permanent location here post-publishing date; when they do, though, I’ll let you know.
Those of you who spend time in this little corner of the blogosphere probably know the story by now: the Daring Bakers are a group dedicated to pushing their baking limits. Each month, a member sets a new challenge. Everyone else has to make that recipe, exactly as stated except when the exceptions are stated in the challenge. Everything is a secret for the rest of the month until the big reveal day- today!
Now, I feel truly lucky to have had this be my first month (thanks, guys!); it looks much easier than the million-layer crepe cake (I can’t imagine flipping so many crepes, I’m a giant klutz), and requires far less perfectionism than the strawberry mirror cake. Plus, you can make lots of adjustments to this challenge. this cake was originally supposed to be vanilla cake with espresso frosting, but me? I made chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate-strawberry filling. Anything for the birthday girl, of course ;). I thought the cake was good– the buttercream, in particular, was much easier to work with than my standard recipe, but my genoise tasted too eggy; its one of the recipes that doesnt stand up as well to farm-fresh eggs, in my opinion. I would have had to adjust the recipe to have one less egg and a little more other liquid for it to taste just right. I might also choose to cover the whole thing with chocolate ganache, too, and just use almond paste rather than marzipan– the raw material tastes better to me.
Without further ado, the recipe:
Plain or Chocolate 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)– I just substituted cocoa powder to make it chocolate
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 or Chocolate 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 (I used 3T cocoa powder thinned with vanilla)
2 tablespoons rum or brandy (I used butterscotch schnapps)
Strawberry jam for filling (if desired)
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.
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.
2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.
4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.
7.Smudge with cocoa powder.
Assemble 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)– I used strawberry jam and chocolate buttercream.
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.
Adapted from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert