A traditional Yule log, or buche de noel, is a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate or vanilla filling. As migraine life doesn’t give me the option of chocolate, I decided to make one with my favorite flavors – almond and lemon – and jazz it up with some pine bough piping and almond pine cones.
While the flavors in this cake were delicious, my sponge wasn’t quite as light and airy as I’d like. The best sponge I’ve ever made was the spice roll with caramel sauce from Thanksgiving, so I’ll keep practicing this cake until I get the texture I want. That’s one of the many benefits of baking; you can keep working on something in order to perfect it, and still have tasty treats along the way.
For the cake
- 3/4 cup flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling and frosting
- About 2/3 to 3/4 cup lemon curd
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon almond extract
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon milk
- Brown food coloring
- Moss green food coloring
- Flaked almonds, for pine cones
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment. Place a lint-free tea towel on a heatproof surface (I use a cutting board) near your oven and dust it with powdered sugar.
In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add vanilla and almond extracts just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).
Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading with a spatula to create an even layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the top is golden brown and you hear a crackling from the surface of the cake. Remove from oven, then quickly and carefully flip your cake onto the powdered sugar-sprinkled tea towel. Gently peel the parchment away, then starting at one of the short ends, roll the cake up in a tight spiral and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.
To make the buttercream, in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter, about 3-5 minutes. Add vanilla and almond extracts and milk; continue to beat on medium-high speed for another 1-2 minutes. You can add a bit more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if necessary to thin your frosting.
To fill, frost, and decorate: unroll the cake and spread with lemon curd; re-roll and place in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes for it to set.
Frost the cake to cover it completely, then use your spatula to make long bark-like markings along the top and sides and swirls on the ends. Tint a small portion of frosting brown and place in a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip, then pipe pine branches. Tint another portion of frosting moss green and place in a piping bag fitted with a medium plain tip, then pipe needles.
To make almond pine cones, pipe blobs of frosting, then place flaked almonds in rows to create the cone shape.
Carefully cover your log with foil and place it back in the refrigerator until about 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve it. Store leftover cake in the fridge.
Makes about 10 servings.