“It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions. This recipe is a simplified, but just as good, version of a chocolate yule log that I used to make for my grandma when we would go to her house in Yorkshire, England, for the holidays.”
Burning the yule log is a Christmas tradition: A log from the family’s land was lit in the hearth and kept burning for 12 hours at a time. There were specific rules on how to tend to the lit log. Over time and due to difficulties keeping the fire going, the tradition evolved: A portion of the log was burnt each night beginning on Christmas Eve and ending on January 6 — the “Twelfth Night.”
The origins of the yule log hearken back to Germanic paganism, where Celtic and Gaelic people celebrated the winter solstice and the coming of days with more sunlight. They would add holly, ivy, pinecones, salt and a bit of wine to the log before burning. The ashes were said to protect the house and inhabitants throughout the next year. Eventually, the ritual morphed into a delicious cake — perhaps because of its association with the hearth (and who doesn’t like cake?).
- 6 ounces dark chocolate, high-quality and at least 60% cocoa solids
- 6 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 6 ounces white sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 10 ounces heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar for decoration
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 13” x 9” baking or brownie tin pan, then line the base and sides of the pan with a large sheet of greaseproof paper, pushing it into the corners.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. (Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water.) Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl or preferably mixer and whisk until stiff but not dry. If you turn the bowl upside down, the whites should be stiff enough not to fall out.
Place the egg yolks in a separate bowl with the sugar and whisk on high speed for 2 - 3 minutes or until thick and creamy and the mixture leaves a thick, ribbon-like trail when the beaters are lifted. Pour in the cooled chocolate and sift in the cocoa powder. Gently fold together until well-combined.
Gently stir two large spoonfuls of egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen the mix, then fold in the remaining egg whites using a large metal spoon. (You don’t want to squash out the air you have just beaten in.) Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and gently move the pan around until the mixture is level.
Bake 20 - 25 minutes or until it has risen and the top feels firm and slightly crisp. Remove from the oven, leave in the pan (expect the roulade to fall and crack a little) and set aside until cold.
Whip the cream with the vanilla extract until it just holds its shape. Lay a large piece of greaseproof paper on the work surface and dust it lightly with icing sugar. Turn the roulade out on to the paper so its lining paper is on top, then carefully peel off the paper. Spread the roulade with the whipped cream, leaving a border of about ½ inch all the way around the edges. With one of the shortest edges facing you, make a cut along it with a sharp knife, going about halfway through the sponge. This will help to start the rolling up. Roll this cut edge over tightly to start with and use the paper to help continue the tight rolling, pulling it away from you as you roll. Don’t worry if the roulade cracks — that is quite normal and all part of its charm.
Finish with the join underneath, then lift the roulade onto a serving plate or board using a large, wide spatula or two fish slices. Dust with icing sugar.