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There are so many things to love about the festive cheer of this retro celebration yule log. For me, it marks the culmination of my cooking journey to date, so it feels fitting to leave the conversation here for now. It reflects the flavours that I love to share — something familiar and decadent like dark chocolate, with something a little bit Eastern Euro and exotic in the sour cherries. It’s gluten-free, which makes it infinitely inclusive. It leans on a bunch of techniques we’ve trekked through together, from melting chocolate to whipping egg whites. It’s also extremely forgiving – the cracks in the log aren’t just welcome, they’re encouraged: dust with icing sugar and they go from faulty to fancy. It’s also my chance to say ‘cheerio’ to you, with a sweetie that I hope you’ll challenge yourself to make and share with the ones you love. Go forth, cook, create — and remember, if things don’t go to plan, there’s nothing a bit of icing sugar can’t fix.
Page 294-7 from The Joy of Better Cooking
Dark chocolate roulade
200 g (7 oz) excellent-quality dark chocolate (above 50% cocoa solids)
6 eggs, at room temperature
A splash of vinegar
3/4 cup (165 g) caster (superfine) sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
¼ cup (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (optional, but excellent)
Chantilly cherry filling
1 cup (200 g) pitted sour morello cherries (from a jar or tin), plus 1 cup (250 ml) of the sour cherry juice
300 ml (10½ fl oz) whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Icing (confectioners’) sugar, for dusting
Foraged (unsprayed) foliage, for decorating
250 g (9 oz) fresh cherries (optional)
Preheat the oven to 175°C (340°F). Grease a 25 x 35 cm (10 x 14 inch) Swiss roll (jelly roll) or brownie tin and line with baking paper.
For the roulade, put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the base of the bowl isn’t touching the water. Stir occasionally to melt the chocolate, then leave to cool a little.
Separate the eggs into two small, clean bowls.
Splash some vinegar on a clean tea towel and wipe the mixing bowl of a stand mixer until scrupulously clean and dry. Place the egg whites into the bowl and, using the balloon whisk attachment, whisk on high speed for 5 minutes, until they form stiff peaks — you should be able to hold the bowl over your head without an egg hat appearing. Use a flexible spatula to carefully transfer the whisked whites into a new bowl. Set aside.
Add the egg yolks and sugar to the stand mixer bowl — no need to clean out any stray egg white. Whisk for 3–4 minutes, until thick and creamy. Pour in the melted chocolate, folding it through with a flexible spatula until incorporated. Sprinkle in the salt, with some firm encouragement from your fingertips to help with even distribution. Sift in the cocoa powder, if using.
Pull the bowl out of the mixer. Add a big spoonful of the beaten egg whites to lighten up the mixture, then add the rest, folding it through in a figure-eight motion, being careful not to knock the air out.
Transfer the batter to your lined tin and bake for 10–15 minutes, or until the top springs back when gently touched. Take out of the oven and leave to cool, covered with a tea towel.
Meanwhile, to make the filling, place the sour cherry juice in a small saucepan, bring to the boil over high heat, then allow to cook for a few minutes, until reduced by half. Pour over the sour cherries and pop into the fridge to chill.
Clean the stand mixer bowl and place in the fridge, ready for whipping the cream (this is much quicker when the cream and utensils are cold). Using the balloon whisk attachment, whip the cream with the vanilla bean paste until billowy but still soft, then briefly fold through the cooled cherries and juice to form a ripple.
Line a cooling rack with a fresh sheet of baking paper. When the sponge cake has cooled, lift off the tea towel and evenly sift some icing sugar across the sponge. Place the cooling rack over the sponge, baking paper face-side down, and invert the cake onto the rack, so it’s sitting face down on the fresh baking paper. Slide the baking paper and the cake onto your workbench and peel off the old paper that was used to line the tin.
Spoon and schmear the whipped cream over the sponge, leaving a 2 cm (3/4 inch) edge all around. Then, using the fresh baking paper underneath to help you, very gently roll your log from the short side, making allowance for the cream to spread. There will be a few cracks and graceful wrinkles in the sponge, but these are part of the festive charm. If you like, trim one of the log ends off on an angle, then add it to the side of the log, to make it look more loggy. Transfer to a serving platter or board.
Sift icing sugar all over and into the cracks. If there are any particularly gnarly cracks, sprinkle a little cocoa powder into them, then more icing sugar, and no-one will ever know. Garnish with foliage and serve with fresh cherries.
This log is best served on the day it is made, but you can make the filling the day before and assemble the rest of it on the day.
You can use a fine sieve as a sifter for icing sugar and cocoa (and flour for other recipes, I should add). If you don’t have a sifter, you can use a balloon whisk to help aerate and incorporate the dry ingredients before adding them to the wet mixture.