The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, is the shortest day of the year with only about 8 hours of light out of the 24. I like to acknowledge Yule every year, partly because it is nice to think that after that day it will start being lighter for longer, but also because it has it's own special cake and I will celebrate just about anything if I can make a nice cake for it. The cake for Winter Solstice is known as a Yule log and I'm sure most people will have heard of it.
Traditionally Yule logs were actual logs which you brought into the house and decorated, then saved until the following year to burn on the fire. Not many people have log fires any more so it would not make much sense for people to bring real logs into the house. At some point people started making a chocolate cake in the shape of a log instead of bringing in a real one and this practice has continued. Chocolate Yule logs are commonly found in shops around Christmas time, though most people do not know their significance and don't even know that Yule is a day in it's own right. I am the kind of person who does not like to just blindly follow traditions, I like to know the meanings behind the traditions first, otherwise how would I know what I am celebrating?
A Yule log is made in a similar way to a swiss roll, very apt for a representative log since it has the circles inside it which look like the rings in trees. I don't have a recipe which I use every year, I probably should come up with one, so I just look up one on the internet each time. This year I used a recipe from the Good Food website, though I did not follow their icing recipe. Here is a summarised version of the recipe:
140g light brown sugar
100g S.R. flour
Swiss roll tin
Electric whisk (you can use a normal whisk but it will take much longer)
Chopping board covered in foil
- Put the oven on at 190 degrees or gas mark 5 and line your swiss roll tin
- Separate the eggs, add the sugar and 2tbs of water to the yolks and whisk with the electric whisk until thick and pale. Then sift in the flour and cocoa and fold it in.
- Clean the whisk and use it to whip up the egg whites until they are stiff, then fold them into the other mixture, making sure to beat a spoonful in first to loosen it up.
- Pour the mixture into the tin, spreading it very carefully to the edges, lift the tin up and tilt it to each side so that the mixture is even.
- Bake in the oven for 10-12 mins or until firm to the touch.
- Lay out a large piece of baking parchment on the work surface and sprinkle with caster sugar - this will stop the cake from sticking. When the cake is out of the oven tip it over onto this paper and peel off the lining, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to cool completely.
- Trim a little cake from each edge and score along one of the long edges, then roll up the cake with the paper, don't take the paper off yet, this is just to keep the cake in shape while you make the icing.
Instead of making ganache which the recipe says to make, I made chocolate buttercream icing, I am not saying that it is better, I just didn't have the ingredients or time to make ganache so I did what was easier for me. I'm afraid I also don't have a recipe for it since the way I make buttercream is to just add ingredients together until it tastes nice. I used a few tablespoons of margarine then added icing sugar, cocoa powder and a bit of melted chocolate and just kept adding the icing sugar and cocoa until it was the right flavour, colour and consistency. After making it I unrolled the cake, spread some icing on it, then rolled it up again, making sure to peel the paper off as I went. Then I cut some of the cake off and placed the two pieces on a board in the shape I wanted, then spread the rest of the icing over it all. After this I got a fork and scraped lines into the icing to give it a more log-like look, put a bit of holly on it for decoration and then sprinkled it all with icing sugar.
Et voila, my very own chocolate Yule log.