Roxana Jullapat, the pastry chef at Cooks County restaurant in Los Angeles, knows a thing or two about yule logs -- not the ones you put on the fire, but the traditional Christmas cake, also known as bûche de Noël.
They're usually filled and frosted with chocolate buttercream, dusted with powdered sugar and decorated with meringue mushrooms.
Jullapat's version is a pastry-cream filled, chocolate-glazed frozen yule log that she serves at the restaurant. "It's really nice because it's like an ice cream cake and can be made in advance," she says. "I can make a week's worth in one day. [This cake] saves every holiday season."
Instead of the traditional genoise, hers is a moist chocolate cake, ever so slightly underbaked so that it's still pliable for rolling into a log (much like you would a jelly roll). The filling is a combination of whipped cream, pastry cream and chocolate.
Roll the yule log ("the fun part"), wrap it in plastic and let it freeze completely (ideally over night). Then you glaze the frozen cake, put it back in freezer for about 10 minutes, glaze the other side (optional), re-wrap it and put it back in the freezer until ready to serve.
You'll need to take it out of the freezer and let it soften a bit at room temperature (about 30 minutes), then cut into slices. Merry yule log!
Here's the recipe:
Frozen Chocolate Yule Log
Makes one yule log, enough for 12 guests
For the chocolate sheet cake:
7 tablespoons cocoa powder, Dutch processed
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water
1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the milk chocolate filling:
1 pound milk chocolate chips
1 ½ cups heavy cream
8 egg yolks
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
For the chocolate glaze:
6 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon dark rum
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and set the oven rack in the middle position.
2. Start by making the cake: Put the cocoa powder in a small saucepan and add ¾ cup vegetable oil plus 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously to prevent the cocoa from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside until completely cooled.
3. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, place the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in the mixer bowl. Mix for 1 minute to combine.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract with the cooled cocoa mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine at medium speed. Increase the speed to high and mix for 2 more minutes.
5. Line a jellyroll pan (about 12 by 17 inches) with parchment paper. Pour the cake batter onto the pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly on the pan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cake is just done but still a bit soft in the middle. Remove the cake from the oven. Let it cool completely. You may bake the cake a day or two in advance, and store it at room temperature, covered with plastic film until ready to use.
6. Make the filling: Place the chocolate in a non-reactive bowl. Put the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it is completely melted. Remove from the heat and set aside.
7. Whip the cream in the stand mixer still with the whisk attachment until it forms soft peaks. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.
8. Clean the mixer bowl and whisk attachment. Place the eggs yolks in the bowl. Whisk the yolks at medium speed for about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and add the sugar and continue to beat at full speed until the yolks turn pale yellow and the whisk leaves a trace on top of the mixture. Reduce the speed to low but keep whisking while you complete the next step.
9. In a medium-sized pot, bring the milk up to a boil. Remove from the heat. Slowly add the warm milk into the beaten eggs while the mixer is running. Transfer the mixture back to the pot and mix non-stop with a hand whisk over medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Immediately transfer the mixture back to the mixer and whisk it at medium speed to cool.
10. In a large mixing bowl, fold the melted chocolate into the egg yolk mixture. Lastly, fold in the whipped cream. The resulting filling will be soft and mousse-like. Spread the filling over the chocolate sheet cake, using a spatula to distribute it evenly. Put the cake in the freezer for one hour or until the filling is half frozen.
11. Assemble the yule log: Take the cake out of the freezer. Lay a sheet of plastic film at least twice as big as the cake on a working surface. Carefully remove the cake from the pan making sure not to peel it off from the parchment paper underneath. Transfer the cake, filling side up, on top of the plastic. Gently start to roll the cake like a jellyroll starting at the bottom, peeling the parchment off the cake as you roll; the parchment will prevent the cake from crumbling. Wrap the cake tightly with the plastic and place in the freezer for at least 1 hour.
12. In the meantime, make the chocolate glaze. Combine butter, chocolate and rum in a bowl, and melt over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally so that the butter and chocolate are well combined; always making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Keep chocolate glaze in a warm spot; if glaze cools down and starts to thicken, you can reheat it over the pot of water.
13. Place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet (or the jelly roll pan in which you baked the cake). To glaze the yule log, remove from the freezer and peel the plastic film off the cake. Put the cake over the cooling rack, while the glaze is still warm, ladle it over the cake, allow it to set completely. At this point, you may wrap the cake in plastic and keep it in the freezer until ready to slice and serve, or you may glaze the opposite side. To do so, place the just-glazed cake in the refrigerator until the glaze has hardened, about 10 minutes, remove from the refrigerator, invert over the cooling rack and ladle with warm chocolate glaze once again. Wait until the glaze is completely set and then wrap with plastic film and keep in the freezer until ready to serve.
13. To serve the yule log, remove from the freezer 30 minutes in advance to let it temp. Using a large knife, slice the yule log and serve immediately.