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.
3tablespoonsinstant espresso powderdissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
1/4teaspoon fine grain salt
1/4cupunsweet dark cocoa powderplus extra for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 15x11 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.
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.
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.