stollen-inspired yule log

© Nick Loven© Lydia,

Ahh, I do love Christmas, the spices, the family time, the cosy. All lovely.

For the past few years I've meant to make a yule log, but as Christmas got closer, I somehow managed to forget. This year I've remembered, but I've also remembered something which will come across as a bit of a confession: I don't like chocolate cake. Sacrilegious I know, but in general I find chocolate cakes disappointing - too often it doesn't taste of chocolate, and can be incredibly dry, relying far too heavily on an over-rich frosting for the taste and the moisture. Even then, to me it just tastes of "sweet", not choc.

So rather than make a traditional chocolatey choccy choccy yule log I decided to make a Stollen-inspired log. For those of you that don't know Stollen, it's a yeast-based fruit bread/cake, often laced with marzipan, which originates from Germany and is the epitome of Christmas-in-your-mouth as far as I'm concerned. I paired it with a variation of the buttercream I made for the warm spice cake, which was chai-inspired, only this time without the tea, which seemed Christmassy as it's full of cloves, ginger and cinnamon, and also a pinch of pepper.

Here it is, a marzipan-laced no-flour swiss roll/roulade with Stollen fruit and a smells-like-christmas (and, interestingly, chai latte) buttercream. Enjoy!

© Lydia,

Lydia's Stollen-Inspired Yule Log - serves about 16
If you want a 1 swiss-roll tin amount for 8ish people, halve the quantities and bake for 20 minutes
12 eggs, separated
300g (1 1/3 cup) caster sugar
100g (1 scant cup) ground almonds
2 tsp vanilla extract
50g (2 oz) glacé cherries (about 8 cherries), chopped,
100g (4 oz) mixed peel
     or substitute the cherries and peel for a dried fruit mix with sultanas and mixed peel

650g (23oz) marzipan
375g (scant 2 cups confectioner's sugar) icing sugar plus extra for dusting
250g (2 1/4 sticks, 9oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1½ tsp ground cloves
1½ tsp ground black pepper - it should still look flecky and black, not so finely ground that it's brown - if you only have finely ground pepper, use about ½ to 2/3 of the amount stated here.
pinch of ground star anise (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract

You'll also need 2 swiss roll tins (about 30 x 20cm - 12 x 8 inches) , or one 30 x 30cm square tin for the 16-serving amount.

© Lydia,

Preheat the oven to 170°C (375°F, Gas Mark 3) and line a 30x30cm square tin, or 2 swiss roll tins with baking parchment.

Clean your whisk and bowl thoroughly to ensure no fat is present (which will stop the egg whites from foaming properly) - I usually do this by swilling boiling water in the bowl and over the whisk attachments, but you can also rub a sliced lemon over the surface, then dry with a clean towel.

Whisk the egg whites until very light and fluffy, then add 100g (just under half a cup) of the sugar while whisking. Continue whisking just until you have peaks that can stand alone.

Whisk the yolks with the remaining sugar until very light, fluffy and foamy, then fold in the almonds, vanilla extract, fruit and about a quarter of the egg white mixture.

Fold in the remaining egg white mixture delicately, in about 3 batches, being careful not to beat out the air you've incorporated. Pour into the prepared tin(s) and smooth into the corners.

Bake for 25-30 minutes in the large square tin or (20-25 minutes in swiss roll tins) until golden and springy, and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Leave in the tin for about 5 minutes then turn out onto baking parchment dusted well with icing sugar, gently peel off the parchment the cake was cooked on, and cover the cake with a clean towel.

To make the buttercream, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the spices and vanilla extract, along with 2 tbsp water to help lighten the mixture a little.

© Lydia,
To assemble the log, when cooled, trim the edges off the cake and spread with a thin layer of buttercream.

Separate 150g (about 5oz) of marzipan from the rest and set aside. Roll out the rest of the marzipan to form a sheet and place on top of the buttercream layer.

If using swiss roll tins, turn the cakes so the short sides are closest to you (and you're looking at the cakes in portrait orientation) - if you're doing a half batch using only 1 tin, lay the cake so a long side is closest to you, landscape orientation.

Roll the remaining marzipan to a sausage shape the length/width of your cake (short side if you've used 2 swiss roll tins with 75g (about 2.5oz) marzipan per 1 tin's-worth of cake, long side if you're making a half-batch with 1 swiss roll tin) and lay on the cake closest to the edge facing you. When rolled up, this will form a marzipan core.

To make the roll, fold the cake edge closest to you, away from you, using the marzipan sausage as leverage. Using the baking parchment, tightly roll the cake away from you and when you get to the end, firmly squeeze it to help it keep it's shape.

© Lydia,
If using 2 tins, join the ends of your two rolls together with buttercream to form one long roll.

Cut the last third off your log at roughly a 60° angle, place the log on your serving plate with the seam on the bottom, and join the cut third to the main log about half way up, using buttercream on the angled, cut portion, to form a branch. I also cut a chunk off the main log near where the previous cut was made and turned it round so the branch end was straight again, but this is not really necessary.

Cover with the remaining buttercream and score bark shapes and tree-rings into it using the blunt edge of a butter knife, or a knitting needle.

Top with a dusting of icing sugar, and place in the fridge to set nicely until munch-time.

© Nick Loven© Lydia,

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