Chocolate Mocha Yule Log Cakes

Nothing beats a beautiful and classic bake for the holidays, like these Chocolate Mocha Yule Log Cakes. This recipe makes two yule log cakes from one sheet of sponge; one to give, and one to keep.

Chocolate Mocha Yule Log Cakes

This is my first yule log cake of the year, but I love the tradition so much I may post a second one this month. It’s my absolute favorite bake for Christmas, and for me, it’s right up there with making a gingerbread house. Silky-smooth crème au beurre au café (coffee-flavored French buttercream) fills a classic chocolate Swiss roll in these Chocolate Mocha Yule Log Cakes, and both cakes are wrapped in chocolate marzipan ‘bark’.

Swiss roll batter starts with well-whipped eggs. Beat them until they are pale, thick, and when the beater is lifted the batter forms a trail in the bowl. The mixture will deflate slightly when the other ingredients are added, but should still yield a thick yet pourable batter.

Bake the sponge in a 15×11-inch jelly roll pan (or similar size). When done, immediately turn it out and cut it in half so that you have two 7.5 x11 inch pieces. Then roll each half up into a sugar-dusted tea towel starting at a short end and cool completely.

Crème au beurre au café (French coffee buttercream).

While you’re waiting for the sponges to cool, whip up a batch of coffee-flavored whole egg French buttercream. It’s a lot like regular French buttercream, but instead of using egg yolks, you use whole eggs. Get out the ol’ candy thermometer for this one. It’s an extra step but worth it, I promise. Because it’s so silky-smooth and luxurious!

Unroll the sponge and let the most curved end stay curled. Pipe lines of buttercream onto the sponge, spread evenly and then roll it back up. Repeat this process with the second sponge.

Chocolate Mocha Yule Log Cakes

Wrap both of the swiss rolls , in a double thickness of waxed paper and then with plastic wrap. The waxed paper helps the cake keep its round shape, and the plastic wrap prevents it from drying out. Refrigerate until firm.

While you wait for the cake to chill, knead some marzipan with unsweet cocoa powder. We’re going to make faux tree bark, and marzipan makes a tasty and beautiful covering.

Tree bark impressions.

First, you’ll need to acquire a tree bark silicone mold, which can be found here. It’s inexpensive and easy to store because it’s flat. Apply some unsweet cocoa powder to the mold to ‘dust’ it before pressing the marzipan. Gently roll the marzipan onto the mold and then turn it out. Trim away the plain edges.

Chocolate Mocha Yule Log Cakes

Drape the marzipan over the cake and and fit around the top and sides. It should adhere naturally. But if it seems too dry, brush the cake with a little water before applying the covering. Trim away any excess ‘bark’.

Chocolate Mocha Yule Log Cakes

You just can’t go wrong with the flavors of chocolate and coffee together! The silky coffee buttercream is a lovely contrast to the sponge texture. The marzipan tastes mostly of chocolate instead of almond, as the addition of unsweet cocoa will overtake the delicate almond flavor. And that’s preferred for this deeply chocolaty confection!

Chocolate Mocha Yule Log Cakes

I opted for a simple presentation without meringue mushrooms (but if you’d like to make some, see this post!). Instead, I used some cute red axe cupcake picks, purchased from Cranky Cakes Shop. Although they are currently out of stock, you can find some for purchase here instead. I think they’re so funny and cute. And they’re perfect with this woodsy cake.

Chocolate Mocha Yule Log Cakes

Heather Baird
Nothing beats a beautiful and classic bake for the holidays, and Chocolate Mocha Yule Log Cakes tick both of those boxes. This recipe makes two yule log cakes from one sheet of sponge.
For the textured 'bark' marzipan topping, you'll need a silicone tree bark impression mat. See the blog post for shopping links. Or, if you're not keen on purchasing an impression mat, crumpled aluminum foil will create a vague tree bark appearance if you lightly press it into the rolled marzipan.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 12 mins
1 hour chill time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 52 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12

Equipment

Ingredients
 
 

Swiss roll

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

French coffee buttercream

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter softened
  • 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain salt

Assembly

  • 14 oz. marzipan
  • 1/4 cup unsweet dark cocoa powder plus extra for dusting

Instructions
 

Chocolate sponge

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 15×11 inch jelly roll pan (or similar size) with flour-based baking spray. Alternatively butter the pan and line with parchment paper.
  • Lay out two tea towels on a work surface. Sprinkle each tea towel with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and rub sugar into towel with your hands.
  • Place eggs in large bowl; beat using electric mixer on high speed, 5 minutes with a timer set. The whipped eggs will become thick and lightened in color. With the mixer still running, slowly add sugar and oil, followed by buttermilk and vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Slowly add to the liquid ingredients. Mix until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake 12-15 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back when pressed with fingers.
  • Immediately turn the sponge sheet out onto one of the sugar-covered tea towels. If you used parchment paper to line the pan, remove it, then cut the sponge in half width-wise so that you have two 7.5 x 11 inch pieces. Roll each cake into a tea towel from a short side. Place the rolled cakes on a wire rack, seam-side down, and let cool completely.

Make the French coffee buttercream

  • In a small heavy saucepan set over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to cook until it registers 240°F on a candy thermometer.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until they are thick and pale, about 5 minutes on medium high speed. While mixer is running, add the sugar syrup in a thin stream, carefully tempering the syrup into the eggs without cooking them. Beat until the mixing bowl is cool.
  • Change to the paddle attachment and add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. The mixture will deflate and look runny, then curdled. Keep adding butter and mixing. This buttercream goes through several ugly stages before it reaches fluffy consistency. When all the butter is added, add the espresso mixture and salt. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
  • Transfer buttercream to a piping bag with 1/2-inch hole cut in the end of the bag.
  • Gently unroll a cake, letting the end remain curled. Pipe lines of buttercream over top of cake; spread evenly. Roll the cake back up and wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining cake and the remaining buttercream. Refrigerate until the frosting is firm, about 1 hour.
  • Conservatively trim both ends of the cakes away with a serrated knife so the swirl is visible.

Assembly

  • Knead the marzipan and dark chocolate cocoa powder together until the marzipan is consistently dark brown in color. Dust the tree bark impression mat with cocoa powder using a small kitchen-dedicated art brush to get into all the nooks and crannies of the silicone mat.
  • Roll out half of the marzipan on a lightly cocoa-powder dusted work surface. Place it on the impression mat and roll so that the marzipan takes on the tree bark impression; don’t roll too hard or the marzipan will tear.
  • Turn the marzipan bark out of the mold and place on top of one of the cakes. Cover the top and sides of the cake entirely, but do not cover the bottom. Trim away excess marzipan. Repeat the process with the remaining cake.
  • Cut cake into rounds and add little axe cupcake picks, if using, before serving.
  • Serve cakes at room temperature. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. Return cakes to room temperature before serving.

Notes

What to expect:
This chocolate sponge is light in texture and deeply chocolaty. It does a good job of holding the rich coffee buttercream and supports the covering of marzipan very well. It’s a wonderfully rich coffee break treat. 
I chose to serve this cake as a grouping, with one whole yule log cake as the centerpiece, and the second cake I cut into rounds and decorated with the mini axe cupcake picks on plates for easy serving. However, ’tis the season to give. You may decide to keep a cake and give one away.
Keyword chocolate sponge cake, coffee buttercream, instant espresso powder, marzipan
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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Coco in the Kitchen
1 month ago

5 stars
Heather! This is just darling! And, my fav combination of flavs, to boot!
The little axes…….I can’t!

Donnabeth
Donnabeth
1 day ago

Could you freeze one of the cakes fully assembled?