Chocolate Peppermint Yule LogPosted: December 17, 2013
Here’s what happened while I was making this cake. The eggs were all separated and ready to go at room temperature. The parchment paper was buttered and floured. All the ingredients were measured and set in their own containers at my fingertips. The bowls were ready. The beaters – which belong to my roommate – were plugged in and reporting for duty. The sugar was in the egg yolks, I was ready to go. And then, I turned on the beaters.
Level 1 speed: they give a little kick, start spinning reeeeaaaallll slow. No cause for concern, right? I’m only at level 1. Turn it up to level 2. They give a decent effort to speed up but it’s not going to happen. Hmmmm. Turn the speed up to level 3. The beaters don’t even try this time. They sputter a little, and weakly plug along at a glacial pace. Up another notch to 4, and they actually slow down. And start emitting the same weird and highly unpleasant smoky smell that the really high pitched spinning drill/cleaner thingy at the dentist has. Just one more notch to go. Level 5, and the beaters are totally out of gas. Except they don’t run on gas, so I can’t just fill them up. But it’s pretty clear they’re done for. So at about 8 pm, I bundle up and head out in the 20-degree night and iced-over roads in search of beaters. And find them tucked in a corner among a beautiful forest of brightly hued Kitchen Aids and high-tech juicers and almost-industrial food processors (I can dream, can’t I?).
I bring my new beaters home, take the already-separated eggs out of the fridge to come to room temperature again, and finally get down to business. And let me tell you, this cake was worth the extra trip and $30 for beaters. And the waiting while the eggs warmed up. And everything else. It’s light and fluffy (even though it totally doesn’t look like it) and pretty and impressive and delicious.
What makes this cake light and fluffy? EGGS. Beaten yolks. Beaten whites. And no flour. It’s gluten-free! The peppermint goes right into the whipped cream, so it’s a big flavor in this cake. Not hiding behind the chocolate at all.
If you’re not a peppermint fan, this cake would be wonderful with a myriad of other flavorings. I think I’m going to make it with Grand Marnier for my family at Christmas, and candied orange peel on top. It would of course be great with Kahlua and cinnamon and chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish. I think Kirschwasser could be tasty, too. Raspberry liquor. Hazelnut liquor. Some kind of coconut situation? Endless possibilities with this one.
Meanwhile we’re melting chocolate, and then mixing it in the egg yolks.
Then we’ll be the egg whites. At first they turn frothy.
And then they turn into a dreamy white cloud that I want to curl up in forever. See those peaks? That’s how you know they’re ready.
Then the egg whites get gently folded into the yolk-chocolate mixture.
Cake goes in the oven, comes out and gets slathered in whipped cream.
And now, we roll.
Those cracks? Totally cool. No one can tell once it’s all rolled up.
And then we cover it in ganache, because why wouldn’t we. And put some candy cane on top, because we’re fancy like that.
This cake is a perfect holiday dessert. Gorgeous and satisfying, but light enough that you won’t have to loosen your belt after a big dinner.
Chocolate Peppermint Yule Log
Makes 1 roll cake, enough to serve about 8
For the Cake:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chopped fine (I measured 4 oz chocolate chips from the bulk section)
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the Whipped Cream Filling:
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
1-2 teaspoons peppermint extract or your preferred flavoring (start with 1 and add more to taste)
For the Ganache:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces (I used chocolate chips again)
2/3 cup heavy cream
Make the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Grease a 17×12-inch baking sheet with butter or vegetable spray. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper (don’t use foil). It should overhang the sides of the pan about an inch. Grease and flour the parchment.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites while the eggs are cold. After separating, allow them 20 minutes to warm to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a medium bowl with hand beaters, beat together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar at medium-high speed until the yolks are thick and pale in color. This will take about 5-7 minutes. (It took me a bit longer with my hand beaters.) You’ll know it’s been beaten enough when the mixture pours from the beater in a thick ribbon.
While the eggs are beating, melt the chocolate pieces. (Since I have to hold my beaters, I melted the chocolate in the microwave in a small glass measuring cup, and then sat it on the back of the stove where the preheated oven would keep it warm and melty.) You can melt the chocolate in the microwave with low heat for a few seconds at a time, stirring every once in while. You can also use a double boiler, or makeshift one. Place a few inches of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl – this bowl will eventually hold everything – and set the bowl over the boiling water. The bowl should not touch the water. Stir the chocolate until it is melted completely. Remove from heat, and remove the bowl from the water. Let the chocolate cool a few minutes.
Place the chocolate in a large bowl if it isn’t already. Add the beaten egg yolk mixture to the chocolate. Gently stir until just incorporated. Stir in the vanilla. The mixing will thicken the egg yolks even further, and the chocolate will appear fluffy. Set aside.
Clean the mixer bowl and whisk attachment or beaters. Dry to ensure that no yolk is left. Add the egg whites to the bowl. With the whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until the whites are frothy, about 2 minutes. Add the salt, and gradually add the cream of tartar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. There will be peaks when you lift the whisk out of the whites, but they won’t hold their shape. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar while beating. Beat until stiff peaks form.
Grab your chocolate-egg yolk mixture in its large bowl. Place about 1/3 of the egg whites in the bowl and gently fold to combine. Using a light hand, sweep the egg whites up and under through the center of the chocolate mixture. Fold until just incorporated. Large egg white and chocolate streaks will remain. Add another 1/3 of the egg whites and continue to mix in the same manner. The batter will be fluffy and glossy. The fluffiness creates the spongy cake texture, so try to deflate the egg whites as little as possible. Fold in the remaining egg whites and fold gently until entirely incorporated.
Immediately transfer the batter to the prepared baking sheet. Carefully smooth into the pan, making sure there’s an even thickness. Don’t mess with the batter too much. The more you do, the more it deflates. If the batter won’t reach the ends of the pan, no big deal. Just try to make an even rectangle.
Bake the cake 15-17 minutes. When done, the top will be dry and it will have a spongy, bounce-back feel. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
While the cake cools, make the whipped cream and ganache.
Make the Whipped Cream:
Place the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and peppermint extract in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, or if using beaters, in a medium bowl. Beat until there are soft peaks. It should hold its shape but still be soft and spreadable. Let rest in the refrigerator.
Make the Ganache:
Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small sauce pan until it’s almost boiling. It will be steaming hot. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute. Whisk into a smooth and glossy sauce. Let rest in the fridge about 30 minutes, until thickened slightly.
Assemble the Cake:
Once the cake has cooled completely, use the overhang of the parchment paper to remove it from the baking sheet. Spread with a thin layer of whipped cream filling. It does not need to be a thick layer, but I did use all the whipped cream.
Place the cake so the 12-inch side (the shorter one) is facing you. We’ll roll from this side.
Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake. It doesn’t need to be tight. Roll the cake gently, removing the parchment as you go. The first roll or two will probably crack, but that’s okay. It will crack less as the roll gets larger.
End with the seam side down and gently lift the cake onto a serving board or plate. Let rest in the fridge about 30 minutes.
Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the chocolate ganache over it. Let chill until you are ready to serve it. Garnish with a crushed candy cane just before serving. If you garnish early, the candy will ooze and color will seep out a bit.
The cake will last, wrapped and refrigerated, for 3 days.