Happy Winter Solstice! Today marks the longest night of the year, the turning of the seasons, the return of the sun. Winter holidays around the world draw inspiration from the solstice, and it’s certainly an event worth celebrating.
We celebrated (a night early) with a potluck with friends, popping bottles of bubbly wine and feasting on the bounty of root vegetables. It’s one of my favorite nights of the holiday season, particularly because we always mark it with a small, low key dinner. It feels right to mark the occasion, to toast the changing of the seasons and the shifts as the earth makes its slow rotation around the sun.
This year I decided to try my hand at a fancy buche de noel, a yule log cake. A thin, almost flour-less cake layered with hazelnut mousse and rolled on itself, topped with more mousse and then decorated to look like a yule log. It’s above and beyond the effort I usually put into the appearance of cakes but Everett took a particularly long and agreeable nap yesterday, so I decided to challenge myself.
Probably because it’s mostly mousse, the end result was fantastic. Chocolatey and rich and soft and light and heavenly. And, amazingly, very easy. The hardest part of the whole process was picking holly from my yard in the rain.
All in all, it was a wonderful celebration. I’m ready to close the door on 2017, and it feels good to be turning the corner into a new season. Happy Solstice, friends!
Solstice Yule Log Cake
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder, plus 1 tbsp for dusting
1 tbsp all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Butter for greasing
7 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Handful of pomegranate seeds
Handful slivered almonds
Fresh holly leaves
Heat oven to 350F.
Grease a 10×15″ rimmed baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Whip together the eggs and sugar on high until they have thickened and doubled in volume. This takes approximately 3-5 minutes.
Mix together flour, cocoa, and salt and then fold into eggs. Carefully cut and fold, making sure to fully incorporate the dry ingredients. Pour gently onto the baking sheet and spread so it reaches the edges. Take care not to deflate. Bake for 15 minutes.
While the cake is baking, dust a second sheet of parchment with cocoa powder. When the cake is done allow it to cool for 5 minutes and then gently peel the edges of the cake away from the parchment. Flip the cake onto the second parchment paper and then, using a knife to help separate, peel the parchment off the cake. Cover with a towel and allow to cool.
Scald 1 1/4 cups of cream, removing from heat before it boils. Stir in chocolate chips and hazelnut spread, along with vanilla. Stir well, until the chocolate is melted and well incorporated. Whip remaining cream until stiff. Fold the ganache into the whipped cream, stirring until fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl!
Remove the towel from the cake and, using the parchment to help, roll the cake tightly on itself. Allow to sit, rolled, for 5 minutes, and then unroll it. Top the cake with a thick layer (1/4″) of mousse. Again using the parchment to guide, roll the cake onto itself. Have your serving platter ready and use the parchment to roll the cake directly onto your serving platter.
Cut a 3-4″ piece of the cake off at an angle, and position it on the side so it resembles a log. Use a pastry knife to spread the remaining mouse thickly over the cake. Then use a fork to add bark texture, and decorate as you’d like with holly leaves, pomegranate seeds, and almond slivers. Chill for 3-4 hours.
Directly before serving top with powdered sugar. Enjoy!
Make this gluten free:
This is an easy one! Simply substitute measure for measure gluten free flour (I used King Arthur) and follow the recipe as written!