Daring Baker’s December Challenge!

22 Dec

So, this past month I joined a group of online people called The Daring Bakers.

DB logo

Daring Bakers are a group of people online who tackle one recipe a month, then blog about it all on the same day.  Here is more detailed information about how it began if you are interested in it http://daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com/2007/07/welcome.html.

So, what was December’s Challenge you say?  It was a Yule Log!

Yule Log

(Mine isn’t the prettiest, but I think it’s pretty good for my first Daring Baker’s Challenge. 🙂

We made a genoise, buttercream frosting and either marzipan or meringue mushrooms.

I made the genoise first.  It was a little tedious whisking the eggs over the boiling water, but I made it.  I whipped it up in my mixer, put it in the oven and waited for it to be done.  I had read if you roll the log as soon as it comes out of the oven, then unroll it, it won’t crack when you try to roll it after it has been filled.  So, I did that.  Did it help? I don’t think so, you be the judge though….

Cracked log

But don’t worry, I didn’t throw in the towel just yet.  On to the buttercream frosting…  I decided not to use the coffee flavoring, so I needed something to make my buttercream brown.  So I bought some food coloring…. except I left it at work…. ooops, so after a quick trip to my office to get the food coloring I was ready to go!  More whisking of eggs over water? seriously…. (I guess I should’ve read through the recipe first, I just looked at the ingredients, lol).  So, the buttercream went well, no incidents, everything is how it’s suppossed to be…. so far….. yay!

Next Marzipan.  Hmm, almond paste? I don’t think they sell that in my town, or I can’t find it at least, so I used the recipe for almond paste…. (maybe I should have looked harder in the stores…)  As I’m making the recipe for almond paste, I’m noticing it calls for a food processor, oops, don’t have one of those, BUT I do have a blender, surely it’s the same concept…. so off I go making my almond paste.  I don’t really know what it’s suppossed to look like, but it seems to be working… next to turn the almond paste into marzipan…. hmm, this is really really really runny, quick how do I fix it!  So, I just kept adding more and more “blended” almonds, then lots of powedered sugar, and finally some flour.  Yay, the flour worked!  Now, it’s more sticky and less runny… hmm, how will it taste though… oh well, we’ll worry about that later.

So, after looking at other people’s marzipan mushrooms, I realized that a food processor and blender apparently cannont be interchanged… most people’s marzipan is white and smooth, where mine is full of brown chucks (almond skin perhaps…)  But, thankfully we were making mushrooms with the marzipan, so I think the flecks just make it look more authentic, hee hee.  That’s what my story is and I’m sticking to it. 🙂  Here are the beloved mushrooms.


Oh yea!  I almost forgot my buttercream disaster!  I made it a couple of days early since it was mentioned that it would keep for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.  So, I pulled the icing out to frost the log and uh-oh… what’s this?  This is all hard and yucky, what happened to my dear buttercream that I labored so hard on!  Luckily, my dear friend Nikki (http://crazydeliciousfood.wordpress.com/)  happened to be on gchat so I frantically messaged her asking what to do.  She mentioned I might try putting it in the mixer and try whipping it.  So, I tried that, no go… nothing changed.  Then, she mentioned maybe adding a little milk.  So I did that and it looked like chocolate syrup with big chunkies in it… uh-oh, it’s getting worse… So, Nikki said since it can’t get any worse try adding a tiny bit of powdered sugar in it.  So, about half a bag ( 🙂 ) of powdered sugar later I had my pretty buttercream back!  Yay!  Thanks Nikki for helping make my Daring Bakers adventure not a huge disaster.

My work Christmas party theme was “Around the World” so I figured this would be perfect.  All of my coworkers seemed to enjoy eating the cake very much also. 

So, there is my yule log story. (Now you know the secret recipe is Clara 🙂 ) I hope you have enjoyed it.  If you would like to hear other Daring Bakers retell about their adventure visit http://daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com/

Oh yea, here’s the recipes and instructions in case you want to make a yule log also.

The December 2007 DB Challenge: Yule Log

Sources: Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
Serves 12
Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated

What Is Required

• A genoise cake (using the recipe below)
• A coffee buttercream frosting (using the recipe below)(Note: For those of you that have an aversion to coffee, you can use another flavour for your buttercream, however, the buttercream must be dark in colour. We don’t want any white or cream-coloured Yule Logs!)
• Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms (using the recipes below)

What You are Free to Do

– Your genoise must be made using the recipe provided; however, it can be flavoured however you wish. Make it chocolate, add nuts, douse it in liquor, throw in some citrus or just leave it plain. It’s entirely up to you how you flavour it. (Substitutions for health reasons are allowed but you must let us know.)

– While the outside of your Yule Log must be frosted with the coffee buttercream using the recipe provided here, you are free to fill the recipe however you choose. Fill it with fruit, jam, melted chocolate, pudding, whipped cream, or another frosting of your choice. You have complete freedom when it comes to the FILLING. (Substitutions for health reasons are allowed but you must let us know.)

– At the very least, besides the coffee buttercream, you must decorate your log with mushrooms. We have provided a recipe for meringue mushrooms and marzipan mushrooms. You can choose one or the other or you can try both. But you must try at least one type of mushroom.

– You have complete freedom, besides the mushrooms, to decorate your logs however you wish.

– You have complete freedom to make your logs in whatever shape you like (mini logs, one huge log, an upright log, etc.)

Note: If you are not going to use the coffee buttercream to fill your log, be sure to have the filling ready once the genoise comes out of the oven. If you do fill your Yule Log with fruit or with soemthing other than buttercream, please note that you may not be able to freeze the Log because the filling may not last.

Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour – spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger – it should be warm to the touch).

4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Filling and frosting the log:

1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.

Marzipan Mushrooms:

8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Cocoa powder

1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.

2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.

4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.

5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.

6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.

7.Smudge with cocoa powder.


17 Responses to “Daring Baker’s December Challenge!”

  1. culinography December 22, 2007 at 9:35 AM #

    Glad that you persevered through the challenge! Looks great!

  2. cuppycakes December 22, 2007 at 9:39 AM #

    w00tw00t! My curiosity is satisfied! LOL. I think you did great! I can’t wait to see your next DB challenge! 🙂

  3. maria~ December 22, 2007 at 4:24 PM #

    Hey, I had a buttercream nightmare too but I’m glad you worked through it. Congrats on your first DB challenge! I agree that the brown flecks on the shrooms make them look more real. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  4. Gigi December 22, 2007 at 4:52 PM #

    Great job! The mushrooms are exquisite.

  5. Alanna December 22, 2007 at 10:57 PM #

    Great job, Nina!!! 🙂

  6. Little Old Lady Next Door December 23, 2007 at 8:42 AM #

    I didn’t taste your Yule Log (health reasons) but I loved the way it looked and when they cut into in it was lovely. I think you did a great job! Reminds me of my mother’s that she made when I was a little girl. Nina, you inspire me to try new things!

  7. veggielove December 23, 2007 at 3:40 PM #

    Yay! My first, too.
    Ummm, any luck getting your image into your sidebar? I’m having trouble.

  8. Julius December 23, 2007 at 9:54 PM #

    Your bûche de Noël looks great. 🙂

    Julius from Occasional Baker

  9. Susan December 24, 2007 at 2:10 AM #

    I’m glad the buttercream came through in the end. The log looks great!

  10. Lisa December 24, 2007 at 2:20 PM #

    Congratulations on your first DB challenge, it looks great!

  11. Tartelette December 25, 2007 at 1:25 AM #

    You did great on your first challenge! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!
    Happy holidays to you and your loved ones!

  12. Claire December 25, 2007 at 12:41 PM #

    My genoise cracked about the same…thank goodness we have the buttercream to cover those cracks! Great job!

  13. Gretchen Noelle December 27, 2007 at 1:39 PM #

    So glad I am not the only one who attempted almond paste with a blender who then had to fix it and who also had brown flecked mushrooms! Yeah! Congrats on completing your first DB challenge! Looks great!!

  14. Deborah December 28, 2007 at 1:20 PM #

    I think you did a great job! And the almonds in the mushrooms DO add to the authenticity! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

  15. Ivonne December 29, 2007 at 9:30 PM #

    Way to go on your first challenge! You did a great job!

  16. Julius December 29, 2007 at 11:29 PM #

    Congrats on your first challenge.

    I love your yule log and your blog – both are pretty. 🙂

    Happy Holidays.

    Julius from Occasional Baker

  17. Jen December 31, 2007 at 12:04 PM #

    My genoise cracked too, but not to worry – that’s what the beauty of buttercream frosting is! It looks awesome. You did a great job and now you’re a Daring Baker 🙂 Happy new year!

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