Almond, Raisin and Chocolate Yule Log

This year was the first in nearly a decade that I remained home for the holidays, and I decided to make up for all that lost time by making an abundance of holiday-themed dishes. Some might say an overabundance, but is there really such a thing?!

The Yule log was originally a large wooden log burnt in the hearth during Christmas celebrations in several European cultures. In France, with the disappearance of old-fashioned fireplaces around the middle of the 20th century, the wooden log was slowly replaced with an edible dessert imitation whose exact origins remain unknown. Here is my version, with more Eastern European flavors such as honey, nuts and raisins.

I used the recipe from Desserts by Pierre Hermé as a starting point, but I completely changed the flavor profile. I didn’t have a chance to tackle any log decorations this year, but here is a recipe for meringue mushrooms, and you can buy some Christmas-themed accessories here (look under Novelties).

The cake, syrup and raisins can be prepared 1 day in advance. You could even go so far as rolling the log 1 day in advance, as the whole dessert tends to taste best on the second day and can be kept in the refrigerator for little while.

Cake
Yields enough for 1 log

6 egg whites
5 1/2 oz sugar
5 egg yolks
4 1/2 oz flour

  • Whip the egg whites to soft peaks. While still whipping on high speed, gradually pour 4 1/2 oz of the sugar, and beat to very firm peaks to make a meringue.
  • In a bowl, whisk the yolks and remaining sugar to a ribbon consistency. Fold into the meringue, then gradually sift the flour over the bowl and incorporate gently.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, pour the batter, and shape into a 10″ x 16″ rectangle, using an offset spatula to spread evenly. Bake in a 425 F oven for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer the cake still on the parchment paper to a cooling rack, cool to room temperature and peel off the parchment paper. You can store the cake in plastic wrap for a day.

Honey-rum syrup
Yields enough for 1 log

2 1/2 oz water
2 oz honey
3 oz dark rum

  • Place the water and honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, let cool, then stir in the rum.

Soaked raisins
Yields enough for 1 log

3 oz raisins
1 cup black tea, hot

  • Soak the raisins in the tea for 30 minutes.
  • Drain and reserve both the raisins and the tea.

Almond filling
Yields enough for 1 log

7 oz heavy cream
9 oz almond butter
1 oz butter
2 1/2 oz sugar
1 tbsp rum
2 oz tea from soaked raisins

  • Whip the heavy cream to firm peaks and reserve.
  • In the bowl of the electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, beat the almond butter, butter and sugar for 2 minutes on high speed. Add the rum and tea, and beat until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream and refrigerate.

Rolling the log
Yields 1 log

cake
honey-rum syrup
almond filling
soaked raisins

  • Line a work surface with plastic wrap and place the cake on top, with the bottom side facing up, and the short side of the rectangle facing you. Using a brush, moisten the cake with the syrup, and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Spread the almond filling over the cake with an offset spatula, leaving 1/2″ clear at the far edge, then scatter the raisins over the filling. Starting from the end nearest you, roll the cake into a tight spiral. Once you start rolling, don’t stop: even if the cake breaks or the filling runs off the sides, there is nothing you can do at this point, and the chocolate buttercream frosting will mask any imperfections. Tightly wrap in plastic film to keep the log shape, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, seam side down.

Chocolate buttercream
Yields enough for 1 log

4 oz sugar
1 1/2 oz water
3 oz 70% chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 egg yolks
5 oz butter, softened

  • In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water over medium heat, stirring constantly until fully dissolved. Add the chocolate, stir until melted, then remove from heat.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks on high speed, slowly pour in the chocolate mixture, and keep beating until the completely cool.
  • Mix in the butter in a few additions, then refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Decorating the log
Yields 1 log

rolled log
chocolate buttercream

  • Unwrap the log and place on a rectangular dish or cutting board, seam side down. Slice off the ends on a bias, with the thicker  part of each slice about 1″ wide. Arrange these pieces on top of the cake to form bumps on the log. Cover the entire log evenly with the buttercream, then run a fork lengthwise over the log to create bark marks. Refrigerate for at least two hours, until the buttercream is firm.
  • Cut into slices and serve cold.
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