Tiramisu Yule Log
Learn how to make this show-stopping centerpiece with video tutorials!
A literal twist transforms a classic Yule Log into a festive show-stopper. By simply cutting the cake before rolling and giving it a little flip, the sponge cake turns into a whimsical, woodland tree stump! Slicing the cake reveals magical vertical layers that are stuffed with the creamiest mascarpone and coffee filling.
This cake wears tons of flair. The “tree bark” exterior is made from whipped chocolate ganache that is covered in edible moss and drifts of snow. From glittery cranberries to crisp meringue mushrooms, decorating this cake is almost as satisfying as eating a slice. Enjoy!
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Tiramisu Yule Log
Vanilla Sponge Cake
5 large eggs
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons (235 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 18” X 13” jelly roll pan with cooking spray and line it with a non-stick baking mat (the same size as the pan) or a fitted piece of parchment paper. Set aside.
Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg mixture on medium-high speed until the batter reaches ribbon stage, 8 to 10 minutes. It is done when the mixture has tripled in volume, is very pale, and thick. When you lift the whisk from the batter and move it around, the batter should hold two figure-eights before melting back into the bowl.
Stop the mixer and sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt straight into the bowl. Use the whisk attachment to fold the dry ingredients into the batter, making sure to incorporate any dry pockets at the bottom of the bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the oil, vanilla extract, and about 1 cup of the batter. Stir together until thoroughly combined. Add the oil mixture into the batter and fold together with a flexible rubber spatula until combined.
Tip the batter into the prepared pan and gently spread it out into an even layer with an offset spatula. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating halfway if your oven heats inconsistently. When done, the surface of the sponge cake should start to brown and spring back when lightly poked with a finger.
While the cake bakes, set up your rolling station. Gather a clean dish towel, fine-mesh sieve, large cutting board or cooling rack (about the same size or larger than the baking sheet), and a thin paring knife or metal spatula. You will need to roll up the cake before it cools or the cake may crack.
When the cake is done, remove it from the oven. Sift confectioners’ sugar all over the top of the cake. Run the knife or metal spatula around the edges of the cake to release it from the pan. Place the clean towel on top, followed by the cutting board. Carefully flip everything upside-down (using oven mitts, if the pan is still hot to the touch). The cake should release onto the towel. Remove the pan and set aside.
Remove the parchment paper or baking mat from the bottom of the cake. Sift confectioners’ sugar all over the bottom of the cake. Starting with one of the long edges, gently roll the cake up lengthwise within the towel. You should have a long log of cake with the towel rolled into the spiral. Allow the cake to cool inside of the towel, seam-side down. This will take about an hour.
Meanwhile, make the coffee soak.
If the eggs and sugar are not whipped together properly, the cake may deflate and turn rubbery. Likewise, if you do not fold the batter carefully (both when adding the flour mixture and the oil mixture), the cake may deflate.
Coffee Simple Syrup
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
2 teaspoons instant coffee
2 tablespoons brandy, optional
Place the water, sugar, and instant coffee in a saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the brandy (optional).
Coffee Simple Syrup may be made in advance. Store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to a week.
1cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1/3 cup (50 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (225 g) mascarpone
3 tablespoons coffee simple syrup
Once the cake has cooled and is ready for assembly, make the filling. Place the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Add in the sugar and mix on high speed until the mixture holds soft peaks.
Add the mascarpone to the mixture. Whisk on medium-high speed until thickened. The mixture should be similar to stiff whipped cream. Do not overmix. If the filling starts to clump and/or appear grainy, then stop mixing immediately. Add the simple syrup and mix until combined.
If the filling appears too soft to spread on the on cake, pop it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up slightly before assembling. If the filling is over-mixed, add in a couple tablespoons of heavy cream and gently whisk to combine.
Whipped Ganache Frosting
6.5 ounces dark chocolate (65 to 70%), finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a heat-safe bowl. Pour the cream into a saucepan and place it over medium heat. Heat the cream until it simmers.
Pour the hot cream over the top of the chocolate and butter. Let stand for about 60 seconds. Starting in the center of the bowl and working outwards, whisk the ganache together until smooth.
Allow the ganache to completely cool, about 45 to 90 minutes at room temperature.
Once cool, whip the ganache. This should take no longer than 30 to 60 seconds using a hand mixer. The ganache will begin to thicken and be lighter in color. When done, it will still be soft but spreadable, like pudding. The ganache should thicken more as you frost the chilled cake.
I advise that you whip the ganache by hand for at least the last 30 seconds for better control. If it is over-whipped, the ganache will not spread smoothly on the cake and will turn grainy. Likewise, if the ganache is overmixed or you do not work quickly enough, the ganache may set too soon and create rough edges when you go to make the tree bark markings.
If the chocolate and butter do not completely melt when you add the hot cream, continue to heat the mixture using a double-boiler until everything is smooth. Bring a saucepan filled with a couple of inches of water to a simmer and place the bowl of ganache on top (making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl). Gently whisk until combined and melted.
To speed things up (or if your home is quite warm), you may cool the ganache in the refrigerator. Be sure to stir the ganache every 10 minutes or so to make sure that it is cooling evenly and doesn’t not harden around the sides of the bowl.
If the ganache does not seem to thicken when you go to whip it, place it in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes then try again.
Once the ganache is whipped, it must be used to frost the cake immediately or it may set and harden (especially in a cold kitchen).
Like whipped cream, ganache can easily and quickly be over-mixed and turn to butter, grainy chocolate butter. It should just barely be thick enough to spread on the cake. You can always give it a few more stirs later if it is too soft. If the ganache is over-whipped or sets too quickly, you can partially reheat it over a double-boiler and rewhip. Do not melt the whole bowl of chocolate.
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cocoa powder for dusting
Preheat the oven to 225°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Begin beating the eggs while on medium-low speed until foamy. Once a bunch of tiny bubbles form, raise the speed to medium and very slowly pour in the sugar. Add the cream of tartar and increase the speed to medium-high until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Add the vanilla and mix again until combined.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip with the meringue. Pipe an equal number of both mushroom bases and mushroom caps onto the parchment paper. For the stems, hold the piping bag straight down with the tip nearly touching the parchment. Begin to squeeze to establish the base then pull the bag straight up to grow the stem. Release the pressure at the top and pull away. For the cap, hold the piping bag straight down with the tip 1/2-inch above the parchment. Apply pressure to the piping bag and allow the meringue to form a mound first before slowly pulling up. Create a tiny spiral as you release the pressure on the piping bag to keep the top of the cap round.
Bake the meringues for 50 to 90 minutes. When done, they should be dry to the touch and easily peel off the parchment paper. If possible, allow them to cool in the turned-off oven with the door cracked open.
Dust the caps with cocoa powder using a mesh sieve. To assemble, use the tip of a paring knife to very carefully carve a small hole into the bottoms of the caps. Insert the bases into the holes.
Meringues may be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an air-tight container at room temperature.
If the caps and bases need reinforcement, “glue” the pieces together with melted chocolate.
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1 cup (110 g) whole fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup (50 g) cane sugar for rolling
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Place the granulated sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, stir in the cranberries and remove from the heat. Allow the cranberries to steep for about 5 minutes.
Strain out the cranberries and place them on the parchment paper. Separate any cranberries that stick together and allow to dry, about 1 hour. Sprinkle the cane sugar over the tops of the cranberries then shimmy the baking sheet so that the cranberries roll and cover themselves in sugar.
Store leftover cranberries in an air-tight container for a few days. If they weep, toss in more sugar to coat.
If you do not have cane sugar, regular granulated sugar is fine.
Carefully unroll the cooled cake and remove the towel. Place the cake on a cutting board. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the cake with the coffee simple syrup.
Measure the long side of the cake and divide into fourths. Cut the cake down the middle. Cut each piece in half again. You should have four strips of cake, about 4” wide and 12” long.
As the cake absorbs the simple syrup, make the filling. Doing this first makes it easier to roll up the cake.
Evenly distribute the filling on the four strips of cake. Use an offset spatula to smooth out the filling. Roll up the first strip of cake into a spiral. Rotate the cake and place it on a cake board or serving dish, spiral-end up.
Wrap the second, third and fourth pieces of cake around the center spiral. Try to keep the sides of the cakes from sagging. Loosely cover in plastic wrap and place the cake in the refrigerator to set as you make the ganache, or overnight.
If at any point the filling becomes too soft and difficult to roll, place everything in the refrigerator to firm up.
If the cake cracks as you are rolling, try your best to piece it together. Once placed in the refrigerator, it should hold together.
When you’re ready to ice the cake, remove it from the refrigerator and place it (still on its cake board or serving dish) on a rotating turntable (if available). Use a serrated knife to trim and level off the side where the last piece of spiraled cake ends so that it is more even and smooth with the rest of the round cake.
Frost the chilled cake with the ganache. You will need to move rather quickly to make sure that the ganache does not set and firm up too much before you have a chance to give it the tree bark markings.
Spread the ganache on the top of the cake with an offset spatula until smooth. To create a spiral on top, place tip of the offset spatula near the outer edge of the cake and gently press down. While spinning the turntable, gradually pull the tip of the spatula towards the center of the cake.
Next, apply ganache to the sides of the cake, making sure all of the cake is covered in an even layer of frosting. Use an icing smoother or your offset spatula to smooth out the sides of the cake. It does not have to be perfectly smooth, but there should be an even layer of ganache on all the sides of the cake.
Use the tines of a fork to make the tree bark markings. Hold the fork perpendicular to the cake board and touch the tines to the bottom of the cake. Gently drag the fork up the side of the cake. Place the fork at the bottom of the cake, next to the marks you just made, and repeat around the whole cake. For a more organic look, do not pull the fork up straight each time. It is okay if some of the markings are more wavy than others. If there are gaps between markings, use the tip of a chopstick to add more texture and tree knots.
Decorate the cake by dusting the top with cocoa powder. Press crushed pistachios in clusters to the sides of the cake to resemble moss. Adorn the top of the cake and around the cake board with the sugar cranberries, meringue mushrooms and sprigs of fresh rosemary. Finish the cake with a sprinkle of flaky coconut or grated white chocolate to resemble snow.
The ganache will take about 60 to 90 minutes to cool before being whipped. Once whipped, it should be used to ice the cake immediately.
Tips and Tricks:
The key to success is in the timing. Thankfully, many of the components may be made in advance. However, other parts of the cake need planning. The coffee soak, sugared cranberries and meringues may be made in advance (see Notes for storing).
The sponge cake needs about an hour to cool before being filled with the mascarpone filling. Once filled and rolled, I recommend refrigerating the cake for a few hours, or overnight.
The ganache needs about 45 to 90 minutes to cool. Once whipped, it must be used immediately. Plan accordingly.
If making in advance, store the cake in the refrigerator without the sugared cranberries or meringue mushrooms. Finish decorating before serving.
Store leftovers (ideally in an air-tight container) in the refrigerator for up to a few days.