I fear that for many of you the first installment of the Perky Christmas Series would have been something of a disappointment. Most people I know don’t actually like Christmas cake after all. So hopefully today’s post will rectify that and appeal to all you chocolate fans out there.
The recipe is for a yule log, aka a giant swiss roll, lathered in textured chocolate icing. Delicious and a great alternative to Christmas pudding for those of you who, like me, aren’t keen on that particular brandy-soaked concoction.
Now, swiss rolls and I do not have a good history. Well, to say we have a history is probably going too far. My only encounter with a swiss roll was aged 14 when I decided to make one for my Father’s 50th birthday. With hindsight I have no idea what possessed me to make a swiss roll a) as a birthday cake or b) for my father who likes nothing better than a fruit cake and I suspect probably doesn’t actually like swiss rolls!!
Anyway, a swiss roll was on the menu and I set about my task with great enthusiasm and glee under Delia’s watchful eye.
I can’t fault Delia’s sponge. It came out of the oven looking great and I’ve used this recipe again as the basis for my yule log in the recipe below. After patiently waiting for the sponge to cool, I spread it lovingly with whipped cream and readied myself for the grand roll-up. Delia had warned that there might be some cracking in the process but not to worry. She did not, however, mention that the roll would completely collapse. In half. Crumbs everywhere.
So rather than presenting my father with a perfectly formed swiss roll as planned, he ended up with 2 wonky rectangles of chocolate cake sandwiched together with whipped cream. Not quite what I was aiming for. No doubt there were tears but I have, until now, blocked this traumatic event from my mind.
So scarred was I by the experience that I have never dared venture into the world of swiss roll production again….until now. After my complete loss of faith in Delia’s swiss roll technique, I saw an article which says that to get your swiss roll to roll up smoothly, you have to roll it up whilst it’s still warm. Then you wait for it to cool down before gently unrolling it, filling it and rolling it up again. I agree this sounds rather high risk – 3x the rolling to your standard 1 roll – but it really is so much easier.
As you can see from the photos, the result was still far from perfect. There were still cracks and it was a little wonky, but nothing that a good dose of chestnut cream and ganache couldn’t hide…mostly anyway. Then again, you don’t want people to think you bought it from M&S so a few imperfections are a good thing!
After deciding plain old whipped cream or even chocolate mousse were not quite up to the festive season, I added chestnut puree to whipped cream to make the filling. You could also add a drop or two of brandy for that extra festive touch. The icing/bark is just a simple chocolate ganache made with cream and chocolate.
It might not look perfect, but it tastes delicious and makes the perfect decadent dessert to enjoy over Christmas.
Chocolate and Chestnut Yule Log
Sponge recipe is Delia Smith’s “Squidy Chocolate Log” in her “Complete Cookery Course”
For the sponge:
6 large eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
For the filling:
100ml double cream
200g chestnut puree
1 tablespoon icing sugar (if you like your desserts sweet, you might want to up this to 2 or 3 tablespoons)
For the icing:
150g dark chocolate broken into small pieces
150ml double cream
1. Grease a 30cm x 20cm swiss roll tin and line with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180°c/160°c/gas mark 4.
2. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk using an electric hand whisk until they start to thicken. Then add the sugar and whisk until slightly thicker (don’t let it get too thick though). Next, sift in the cocoa powder and whisk in thoroughly.
3. In a separate bowl and using a clean set of beaters, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add the egg whites to the chocolate mix and gently fold in using a large spoon, trying to keep as much air in the mix a possible.
4. Pour the mix into your tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until the cake is springy and cooked through.
5. Leave to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a clean tea towel (it’s best to place a tea towel on top of the cake, a baking tray over it and then flip it over, so you can remove the tin you cooked it in and the baking parchment without ruining your cake – see pictures above). Using the tea towel to help you, immediately roll up the cake with the tea towel inside and leave to cool for about 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, make your icing and filling. For the icing, pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat until small bubbles start to form around the sides – don’t allow it to boil completely. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Leave to cool. It’s best to put it in the fridge for at least an hour until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency.
7. For the filling, whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks and then add the chestnut puree and icing sugar and whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy.
8. Once the cake is cool, gently unroll the tea towel and sponge – don’t worry if it cracks a little. Spread the chestnut cream over the surface of the cake, leaving a 1cm border around the edges. Then gently re-roll your cake to form your yule log.
9. Once the icing has reached spreadable consistency, spread evenly all over your log, using either a fork or knife to make some bark-like markings all over. Dust with icing sugar if you like or decorate with some sugar paste holly leaves and berries. It’s best eaten immediately but will keep happily overnight in the fridge.