Saturday, December 21, 2013

Yule Log with Vanilla Sponge Cake, Caramel Cream Filling, and Chocolate Frosting

Yup. Looks like a log. With yuliness.

I've never made a Yule log before. The whole idea of rolling up a cake has just always seemed too fussy and disaster prone for me to want to mess with. But when we got a cookbook called Baking with Kids from the library and there was a Yule log in it, well, after the kids saw it, I didn't have much choice.

And the fact is that I did everything within my power to mess up this dessert and it still came out tasty and log-shaped. By which I mean--if I can do it, so can you.

For this recipe, you're going to make a simple sponge cake. I realized something when I made it--sponge cake--sponge cake is what a Twinkie is supposed to be. Sure, a Twinkie is an Americanized, processed version of the sponge cake, but that's what it's supposed to be. Anyway, I'd never made a sponge cake before. It's an airy, yet dense-ish cake that uses a lot of eggs and is very very simple to make. On it's own, it seemed kind of European--by which I mean not intensely sweet. Don't worry. Because I'm an American, darn it. So I filled it with caramel cream. Which is definitely one of the best concoctions I have ever discovered in my cooking journey and the thing I would ask for in my stocking if a) it wouldn't be a crazy mess and b) it wouldn't cause me to gain 400 pounds. And then we frosted it with Kip's fudge frosting.

Now a few things are important to make this log successful. I'm going to give detailed instructions with the recipe, but let me give you a head's up. First, you need to roll the cake up (unfilled) while it's hot. I know that sounds a little counter-intuitive, but it works. You cover it with parchment paper, you roll it up. And then when it's cool and ready to fill, you unroll it and fill it and it rolls right back up because it's in a shape and it wants to be rolled. However, if you try to roll it when it's cool, well, you simply can't, so don't try.

Second, the caramel cream is not really firm enough to be the filling. I was really mad at Martha Stewart for this for a few minutes, but then I tasted it and sort of forgave her, but let me take a small minute to rant and say that celebrity chefs have NO excuse for turning out ANY recipes that absolutely do not work in every way that they are supposed to work. These chefs have money and staff and just everything. Their recipes should be perfect in every way. So when Martha simply tells me to fill my log, I don't expect it to ooze out the ends of the log. But it did. As a result, I had to plug my log. When you make your cake you need to cut off part of the end so you have two little bits to plug the ends of your log. Or find a different filling (the original book recommended Nutella and that would have been nice too--and easy), but I have to tell you that for all its ooziness, this filling is incredible. Incredible. Still, Martha, shame on you and your fake posed pictures of food that was clearly not made with this recipe.

Third. This recipe calls for an 8x12 jelly roll pan. I didn't have that and used a 9x13 inch pan and it worked fine.

Fourth: Everything has to have time to cool--the cake and the caramel for the filling. So don't try to whip this up in an hour or two. It won't work. You need to start 4 hours ahead of time so things get cool enough.

Yule Log with Vanilla Sponge Cake, Caramel Cream Filling, and Chocolate Frosting
adapted from Baking with Kids (cake) and Martha Stewart (filling)
makes 1 9x13 cake worth of logginess
Prep time: 15 minutes cake, 40 minutes filling, 7 minutes frosting
Cook time: 10 minutes (cake)
Cooling time: 4 hours
Cost: cake: $.80, filling: $2.50
sugar: .10, eggs: .40, butter: .20. flour: .10
cream: 2.00, sugar: .25, sour cream: .25

For the Cake:

1/2 C plus 1 Tbsp sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp butter
1 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 400.

Spray an 8x12 inch Swiss roll pan or a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray. Then lay parchment paper over the bottom (note: if you skip the parchment paper, you will want to murder yourself).

Melt butter and leave it there to cool while you do the rest.

Combine sugar and eggs. Beat for about 5 minutes or until they're lighter in color and a bit thicker.

Add vanilla.

Add flour and baking powder and fold in. I folded it and my cake came out perfectly, but folding does take a while if you want to get the flour lumps out. I was very tempted to beat the flour in and I felt like it would have worked fine. However, try this at your own risk. You don't want to beat the air out of the eggs mixture.

Drizzle butter in and fold it in.

Pour into pan and bake for 9-10 minutes or until you press the cake and it springs back.

Take out of the oven. Let cool for 1 (ONE) minute. Lay a piece of parchment paper on your counter and dump the cake onto that parchment paper. (This will work fine if you put parchment paper in your pan; if not, you're going to want to start stabbing things.)

Peel the top layer of parchment paper off (this will be the parchment that was in the pan while the cake cooked). Now, roll up that cake with the other parchment paper (the new one you dumped it onto; yes, I should have taken pictures; I was just so sure it wasn't going to work, but then it did). Be gentle, but firm. I rolled mine long-ways so I had a long roll. Roll it up, then let it sit seam-side down and cool COMPLETELY.

Do you see how it's been rolled with that parchment paper around it? That will make it easy to unroll when the time comes. 

For the filling: 

Note: you can use Nutella and make your life easier. You can. No one will judge you. This filling is fussy and time consuming. But I cannot emphasize enough how thoroughly awesome it is. This makes too much for the log and you'll have tons leftover with which to sabotage any healthy lifestyle habits you have, so consider that a bonus if you wish. 

1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 C cream, warmed
1/4 C sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C cream, whipped (yes, another C cream--this one you will whip)

Pour water into a pan. Pour sugar into the center of pan in a mound. You can gently nudge the sugar into the water so it soaks it up. Cover pan and let the sugar melt and the water boil. Eventually it will start to darken. Remove the lid and reduce the heat to low. Let the liquid darken until it is amber-colored.

When you reach that point, whisk in the cream. It will bubble and may seize (harden) a bit, but just keep whisking. You'll have beautiful caramel. Let this cool in the refrigerator (I put it in a separate dish; I don't want it to keep cooking in the pan.) until it's cool.

Note: That was a best case scenario. I messed mine up, but it still worked out. If your sugar re-crystalizes, that's annoying (it'll look like clumps of sugar in your pan), but just stir it patiently and smash any big lumps until it melts, turning dark. If it seems to be darkening before all your clumps are melting, take it off the heat, smash the clumps, then put it back on and keep repeating that as necessary. (Yeah, it's a pain.) When I was done, I still had some good lumps, but didn't dare leave it on the heat longer because I thought it might burn. So I just strained out the lumps and all was well. I put in in the fridge and let it cool.

When it's cool, add sour cream and vanilla.

Leave this to sit for 2 hours (yes).

When you're ready, whip the last cup of cream and then fold that into your cooled caramel mixture. It will be awesome and any mean words you said while you were fussing with your caramel you will take back.

For frosting:

Kip's fudge frosting

To assemble:

Okay, so your log is thoroughly cool. Unroll it and peel that parchment paper off.  It will still be sort of rolled up. Cut about 1 1/2 inches off the end (this is the bit of cake you'll use to plug the ends of your log).

Plop in some of your caramel cream filling. When you get enough in that it's threatening to come out the ends, use some bits of the cake you cut off and put them into the ends to sort of plug the ends. It sounds crazy and it was slightly annoying, but I liked that caramel cream enough to get over it. Add more cream until it fills your log.

Put the log seam side down on your dish.

Frost it to look log-like.  I had a pretty little topper and used that. You can use powdered sugar sprinkled on to look like snow, or candles, or figurines, or whatever you want.


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