I think I invented something new today: a spring Yule log. Please tell me that nobody has ever tried this before!
I made a proper Yule log at Christmas using Nigella's Bûche de Noël recipe from Feast, and it was out of sight:
Over the past few months I've thought about this log repeatedly, wishing I could make it again for no reason. This was mainly because the cake and the frosting were especially good, and of course it was also fun to decorate it and make little mushrooms, etc. I could see a lot of potential in this log, but it seemed a shame that I could only make it once a year.
Until today. My parents, Poof, and her husband Tyler are visiting us for the weekend, and I wanted to make some kind of Easter dessert for Saturday. I saw a couple of nest ideas, such as the one where you bake a crackly, sunken chocolate cake and fill the crater with frosting and a whole bunch of those really cute Cadbury eggs that sort of look like the real thing (tip: you can't find them anywhere this late in the game). Then there was another recipe involving making little nests out of Shredded Wheat and melted chocolate and filling those with the same unfindable Cadbury eggs. Then I thought, Hey. Where do you find nests? A tree. OR MAYBE A LOG. And thus the Easter log was born. I mean, think about it: it's so easy to make a log look springlike. Add some flowers, a little greenery, the aforementioned nest, and OMG birds! Those little birds you sometimes see in floral arrangements--I can find those, right?
And in the floral area of a certain evil superstore, next to the birds (goldfinches, how CUTE), were some perfectly believable fake eggs. And while I was there, I picked up a $1.99 lily of the valley sprig and some mystery blue flowers.
Excited beyond belief, I rushed home to make my Easter log. (I had a lot of other things to do, including taking Bun to the vet: yep, she's got a urinary tract infection!, but all of them are boring compared with the creation of the log.)
for the cake
- 6 eggs, separated
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
for the icing
- 6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 sticks butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- healthy pinch salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a jelly roll with parchment paper leaving a generous overhang at the ends.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy and thick. Then add 1/4 cup of the sugar and continue whisking until the whites hold peaks.
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar until pale yellow and thick. Add the vanilla and sift in cocoa powder before gently folding to incorporate. Next, fold a dollop of the egg whites into the yolks before gently folding in the remaining whites in thirds. And hey, did you notice? No flour in this cake!
Pour the cake mixture into the lined cake pan and bake for twenty minutes.
While the cake is in the oven you can make the icing. In a double boiler or the microwave, melt the chocolate. Cool, then beat in butter. Stir in the vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar.
When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes before trimming both long and short ends (this will make it easier to roll and give a neater look). Spread on a thin coat of icing. Then, starting at the short end, tightly roll the cake into a cylinder. Use scraps to fashion small branches. Cover the log in frosting and then drag a toothpick or fork through the icing to make bark and age rings.
A word, if I may, about that last paragraph. When you trim the edges, know that they will probably not cut smoothly. It's not going to affect the end product in any way, but it's discouraging when you're this far into a recipe and things seem to go wrong. Also, the cake will want to stick to the parchment paper more than just a bit, so you will have to coax it off the paper a few inches at a time with a spatula as you roll the cake. It may not look perfect, but it will work. Please know that the frosting will hide a multitude of sins. I ended up using nearly all of the frosting (which is so good that you will want to lay it on thick).
Now decorate that sucker!
The nest, as mentioned above, was made from melted chocolate (like about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips), a half tablespoon of butter (which you probably could skip), and a few crumbled up Frosted Mini-Wheats (honestly, I could not bring myself to buy a whole package of regular Shredded Wheat, which does nothing more than make me feel like a horse when I eat it). Mash this together with your hands, form a nest with a little hollow, and let it harden somewhere cool, but not the refrigerator. It will firm up in no time.
I was highly amused when I realized that the goldfinches, which came two to a package, were both males. Delighted to use my Easter log as a platform to promote nontraditional families and gay marriage while still celebrating spring and the majesty of nature, I placed them together near the nest and squeeled with glee.
I think I can say without reservation that this is the cutest thing I have ever baked and possibly ever made. As much as I covet the cake inside, I do not want to cut into this tomorrow at all.