Here's everything you could possibly need to know about Chocolate yule logs, the perfect alternative to Christmas cake!
The tradition of the yule log began in Norway, and was an actual wooden log cut from the forest. The bigger the better, and it was hoisted onto the hearth to celebrate the return of the sun each year, 'yule' being the Nordic word for Winter Solstice.
And, like any pagan/Christian tradition worth its salt, chocolate got involved...!! A chocolate yule log - a chocolate sponge Swiss Roll style dessert rolled with cream - is now a popular dessert around Christmas time. Festive pudding lovers in France and Belgium are especially keen.
How are chocolate yule logs decorated? Always with chocolate or chocolate icing, but you can make them as simple or decadent as you fancy. Why not try...
- marzipan mushrooms
- using a fork to score the chocolate icing to imitate tree bark
- an iced robin figure
- some icing sugar to look like it's been snowed upon
- a sprig of holly
- chocolate shapes
I personally think chocolate yule logs would work quite well at Halloween too, covered in plastic/iced creepy crawlies!
Do you need any specialist equipment to make a chocolate yule log? Not really, a baking tray will do! I do love my silicone baking tray though - it makes it really easy to roll. Greaseproof paper is essential for easy rolling, too.
Can chocolate yule logs be made gluten free or vegan? Yes, but I don't make them myself currently. Why not try the Doves Farm recipe, if you're after a good example of a gluten free recipe? The BBC Good Food website has a good vegan chocolate yule log recipe.
Finally, why do I love chocolate yule logs? Well, they are light and spongey (delish!), fab as a mouth-watering centrepiece, and they're great if some of your dinner guests aren't a fan of Christmas cakes and dried fruit. Plus, you can make so many variations. I like the sound of this gingerbread and dark chocolate log from A Taste of Home, and Martha Stewart's hazelnut and almond creation.
Make it or order it, just enjoy the luxury of the cream, the chocolate and the care that has gone into baking your dessert!
For Goodness Cake
Having recently moved to wales, my first bake in my new kitchen had to be a TRADITIONAL welsh recipe!
A good friend of mine gave me a Welsh recipe book as a house warming gift - she knows me so well - and this gem of a recipe was in the cake section. I baked it back in April (and again since, it's so good) but wanted to share the recipe with you, as I love a regional bake.
The sponge is firm but not heavy, a perfect cake. Funnily enough, as you see, there's no ginger - ground or fresh - in this gingerbread, but the zesty fruit peel gives it a zing.
You could even tweak it to make it vegan: Use dairy free 'butter' and soya milk instead of the dairy versions.
Top Tip: Make sure you have all the ingredients before you start, as obvious as it sounds. I had to buy in some cream of tartar powder, as I don't think I've ever used it before.
It's utterly delicious. Why don't you try the recipe yourself - or get me to deliver one for you!
For Goodness Cake
Sometimes I'm asked about flour - mainly why there are so many types... Someone asked me last week if you can bake cakes with plain flour...
Yes you can!
Self raising flour is basically plain flour (also called all-purpose flour) with a raising agent added. My good friend in Switzerland (let's call her Ernie!) tells me you can't even buy self raising flour in the supermarkets over there. Ernie needs to add her own ingredients to make the cakes rise - mainly baking powder.
I also have a theory that plain flour is often used in 'heavy cakes' like Christmas cake as the pure volume of dried fruit in them won't allow the cake to rise much anyway. Does anyone know if this is right?
**UPDATE** The Nigella Lawson website (yay Nigella!) says this: Nigella's Christmas cakes use plain flour rather than self-raising flour. This is partly as the amount of leavening needed for a rich fruit cake is different to that needed for a sponge cake and so the recipe needs a specific amount added separately. Ah ha, there we go!
I guess having a potential for no need for self raising flour is good news for some bakers - self raising flour remains my preferred choice of flour for cakes, but it may give you a little more space in your cupboard if you want to just stock plain flour. It's not just for cookies and shortbread!
Check out the BBC website for some great plain flour cake ideas - they are a real treasure trove of recipes.
Can't believe I missed this in January - a must-try for next festive season!
This New Orleans-style cake, a cousin of Hungary's Dobos torte, came to the United States in the 1930s and was transformed into doberge (pronounced DOH-bash) cake. Many countries now associate this bake with Epiphany in January, the end of the Christmas season.
It's an American recipe, so dig out your measuring cups for this recipe (serves 12-14). There's a lot of ingredients, and it takes a while to make, but it's worth it.
For the Chocolate Filling, Lemon Curd, and German Buttercream
1 1⁄4 cups plus 2 tbsp sugar, divided
2 tbsp. plus 2 1⁄2 tsp. constarch, divided
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
5 large eggs, divided, plus 5 large egg yolks, divided
3⁄4 cup heavy cream
1 3⁄4 cups whole milk, divided
1 vanilla bean, halved, each half split and seeds scraped
4 oz. (70 percent) dark chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided, cubed, plus 1 lb. (4 sticks) softened
1⁄4 cup lemon zest
1⁄2 cup lemon juice
For the Cake, Simple Syrup, and Chocolate Ganache
3 1⁄2 cups (1 lb. 1⁄4 oz.) cake flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups sugar, divided
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
4 large eggs, separated
12 oz. (70 percent) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream
Make the chocolate filling: In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk 1⁄4 cup sugar with 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch, cocoa powder, and 1 tsp. salt.
Whisk in 1 egg until smooth, then whisk in the cream, 3⁄4 cup milk, and seeds from 1⁄2 the vanilla bean. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the filling thickens to the consistency of loose pudding, 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chocolate and 2 tbsp. cubed butter until smooth. Scrape the filling through a fine sieve into a bowl. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the filling and refrigerate until chilled and thickened, at least 4 hours.
Make the lemon curd filling: In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk 1⁄2 cup sugar with 1⁄2 tsp. salt, 3 whole eggs, and 4 egg yolks until smooth, then whisk in the lemon zest and juice. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the filling thickens to the consistency of loose pudding, about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 4 tbsp. cubed butter until smooth. Scrape the filling through a fine sieve into a bowl. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the filling and refrigerate until chilled and thickened, at least 4 hours.
Make the German buttercream: In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar with 1 tbsp. plus 1 1⁄2 tsp. cornstarch, 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk, and remaining vanilla seeds until smooth, then whisk in the milk. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of loose pudding, 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the pudding through a fine sieve into a bowl. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until chilled and thickened, at least 2 hours.
Scrape the vanilla pudding into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle and turn the mixer on to medium speed. Add 1 tablespoon of the softened butter and let the butter disappear into the pudding before adding another tablespoon. Repeat adding butter in this manner until the buttercream is smooth, pale, and fluffy, about 8 minutes from start to finish. (The buttercream will look curdled at first, but will smooth out by the time the last of the softened butter is added.)
Scrape the buttercream into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. If not using right away, refrigerate the buttercream for up to 5 days. Allow it to return to room temperature and beat it again in the stand mixer until fluffy before using.
Make the cake layers: Heat the oven to 180°. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper circles and spray with nonstick baking spray. Sift the cake flour into a large bowl, then whisk in the baking powder. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk with the sour cream and vanilla until smooth. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream 2 cups sugar with the butter and 3⁄4 tsp. salt on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the lemon zest followed by the egg yolks, adding one at a time, beating well after each addition until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately add the dry ingredients in 3 batches and the wet ingredients in 2 batches, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and beat until the batter just comes together.
Using a rubber spatula, stir the batter again until smooth then scrape it into a large bowl. Clean and dry the bowl, return to the stand mixer, and fit with a whisk. Add the egg whites to the bowl and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Scrape the egg whites into the cake batter and gently fold until combined and smooth.
Divide the cake batter among the prepared cake pans and, using a small offset spatula, spread the batter evenly in each pan. Bake the cakes, rotating the pans halfway through cooking, until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle of each comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer the pans to a rack and let the cakes cool completely, then invert the cakes onto the rack and remove the parchment paper.
Once the cakes are completely cooled, use a serrated knife to halve each horizontally to produce 6 cake layers total. While the cakes cool, make the simple syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil the syrup for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool completely.
Assemble the cake: Using a pastry brush, brush each cake layer with some of the simple syrup, discarding any leftover syrup. Using a small offset spatula, spread 3 cake layers each with one-third of the chocolate filling. Spread 2 cake layers each with half the lemon filling.
Place 1 chocolate-covered cake layer on a cake stand, then quickly stack the remaining cake layers, alternating the lemon and chocolate fillings, and ending with the final, plain cake layer. Refrigerate the stacked cakes for 30 minutes. Using a small offset spatula spread the top and sides with the German buttercream until smooth. Place the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes.
While the cake is in the freezer, make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and 1⁄2 tsp. salt over medium until it begins to bubble at the edges.
Remove the pan from the heat, pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and let stand, undisturbed, for 1 minute. Whisk the chocolate and cream from the center until the ganache is smooth and shiny.
Remove the cake from the freezer and slowly pour the ganache over the top of the cake, using the offset spatula to guide and spread it over the side, until the cake is completely coated in the ganache. (You can also let the ganache drip down the side of the cake and set naturally, if you like.)
Let the cake stand for about 10 minutes to allow the ganache to set before serving. Store the cake, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (allow it to return to room temperature before serving).
The Team @ 280 Bakes
Blackberries are popping up everywhere now it's August, and we're collecting them like mad - we love a blackberry cake!
But what to do with the enormous mountain of blackberries? There's only so much cake you can eat (don't tell anyone I said that!!) and with so much other yummy summer fruit about, you can't just limit yourself like that.
That's when your trusty freezer comes in. You can freeze fruit, and blackberries freeze especially well. Simple follow these steps and you'll be enjoying blackberries and blackberry baking (check out our top 3 blackberry cake recipes!) well into the Autumn.
1. Remove any under- or over-ripe blackberries. You want to freeze them in their best state.
2. Spread the blackberries out on a baking tray in a single layer. Then put it in the freezer. This will stop the blackberries sticking together and make them easier to handle when defrosted.
3. Once the berries are frozen - about 2 hours or so - put them into a freezer bag or box for easy storage. They will keep for up to three months.
4. To de-frost, put the box in your kitchen and leave to soften naturally to bake with or eat as berries. Microwaving them will make them mushy - but then, this is great if you want them for smoothies only.
Enjoy - and carry on picking until your freezer is burstng!
We're firmly into Blackberry Season with local bushes bursting with fruit. What to do with them all? ... Make a cake, of course!
Here are three of our favourite blackberry cake recipes. Let us know how you get on trying them out - or give us a buzz if you'd like someone else to do the work for you!
RECIPE 1. BBC Good Food Recipe - simple and tasty blackberry and apple cake. Here's one our Louise made this weekend for the Portishead Triathlon.
RECIPE 2. Cygnet Kitchen - this gorgeous blogger uses sour cream in her blackberry and lemon cake recipe - divine!
RECIPE 3. Farm Flavor - an American website which hosts a fab recipe for a fluffier, creamier blackberry cake, if you'd prefer one like that
Which is your favourite?
The Team @ 280 Bakes
Some Rules are Good. Always Drive on the left. No heavy petting at the pool. However, these baking rules were meant to be broken!
1. WHEN USING BUTTER AND SUGAR IN THE CAKE MIX, CREAM IT TOGETHER FIRST BEFORE YOU ADD THE OTHER INGREDIENTS
This works with a lot of recipes, and is beneficial, but I saw Mary Berry has said that there's two ways to make a Victoria Sponge: The traditional way of creaming the butter and sugar together, then add the other ingredients, or there's the way she prefers, which is to put everything into the bowl together and then mix. I would say that not creaming the butter and sugar is totally ok, then, if Mrs B says so! Do follow the recipe though - some recipes it might be especially pertinent for.
Not sure what 'creaming' means, in baking terms? It's simply mixing the sugar and butter together until they are well combined, and you can't really see the sugar anymore.
2. ONLY USE HIGH QUALITY BUTTER FOR THE FAT NEEDED IN CAKES
Well, you can throw that one right out the window! Over 60% of the orders we have are for vegan cakes, so there's no butter at all there. We use other things like bananas, avocados, oil and dairy-free margarine.
Yes, the cakes will taste different, and if you'd prefer to use high quality butter when 'real' butter is required, that's a good thing, but cakes can easily be made with no butter at all. Check out our recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake, for example.
3. ALWAYS PRE-HEAT YOUR OVEN
If we were just talking cake baking, I'd agree. Pre-heating the oven is essential for cakes to ensure a consistent bake - and also for bread, actually, as the dough needs to be baked hot and fast. However, when baking pies or crumbles, it's totally fine to whack the dish in the over before it's up to temperature, and it makes the process more heat efficient too.
Can you think of any more rules you can break while baking, cakes, bread or otherwise?
The Team @ 280 Bakes
If you have no scales or your set has broken, don't despair! you can still bake a delicious cake!
It's always best to weigh your ingredients when you bake, especially flour, as it can be a huge variable in terms of the dryness of the cake and the quality of the bake if you get it wrong. However, you do have a few ways you can make a cake if you don't have any scales - let's take a look...
1. Bake a cake using a yoghurt pot
1 pot of yogurt
2 yogurt pots of sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
3 yogurt pots of flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 yogurt pot of neutral-tasting oil or melted butter
Heat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC.
Beat the yogurt and the sugar together in a bowl.
Beat in the eggs and lemon zest. Sift the flour with the baking powder and beat in.
Finally, add the melted butter (or oil, although it doesn't taste quite as nice) and beat the whole mixture well.
Pour into non-stick muffin tins or a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, approx. 25 minutes for a loaf, 15 mins for buns.
2 level tablespoons sugar
4 level tablespoons butter
9 level tablespoons flour
Cream together the butter & sugar, stir in flour.
Roll out the dough, shape/cut out, and cook for 10 mins at 180 degrees.
Look away now, we don't approve of this final idea!!
5. Buy a packet mix
Everything's already weighed out in these mixes, you just need to add eggs normally, sometimes oil or milk. I warn you now, it won't taste as good as 'proper' cake, but it kind of had to be included on the list as an option...
Next time your battery goes in your digital scales or you old ones break, don't give up. Why not try one of these baking hacks? Let us know how you get on!
Owner, 280 Bakes
A recent question we've been asked is 'does caffeine cook out when baked into a cake?' We answer that question here!
When you bake a boozy bake (and I know you do!) the alcohol in your G&T cake or the brandy in your Christmas cake bakes out and won't get you drunk, no matter how much of that liquored-up cake you eat.
However, the same is NOT true with coffee. When you bake a coffee cake, the caffeine stays in the cake. Cooking coffee generally makes the taste stronger in removing the water, but it won't increase the caffeine content - no extra kick, so don't start justifying coffee cake for breakfast!
Caffeine has a crystalline structure, a bit like sugar. When you cook or bake something with coffee as an ingredient, the water will cook out but the caffeine stays in the food, it doesn't denature.
If you're looking for a great coffee cake recipe, why not try ours? This one is vegan too - try something new today!
Remember, different coffee beans or powder have different strengths. I know for a fact I get more of a kick out of the ground coffee we have at home than the Douwe Egberts instant jar we have for when we're feeling a bit lazier. A lighter roasted bean will have a higher caffeine content than a dark roast, as some of the caffeine sometimes breaks down in the process of roasting.
Soaking the coffee and evaporating the water can decaffeinate it, but it's not 100% effective, and you lose a lot of the delicious coffee taste. If you're really worried about the caffeine levels in a coffee cake, I'd just go for something other than coffee cake!
Now go have a coffee, enjoy your Monday!
Owner, 280 Bakes
Feeling tropical in this heat?
Easy Pineapple Cake
This recipe does what it says on the tin - it's the easiest of the three. A good one to start with if you're not too confident.
Upside-Down Pineapple Cake
Any list of pineapple cake recipes would be lacking without an upside-down one. And this one has cherries in the ingredients - even better. As a bonus, here's a great vegan version, if you're one of our vegan customers.
The Best Pineapple Cake Recipe
I'm not going to lie, this recipe from My Cake School made the cut because of the frosting and filling. Just divine.
Refreshing and flavourful - have a go at baking one of these today and let me know how you get on!
And if you're too busy to bake, we can deliver to you - just ask. (Bristol, Stroud and Portishead only).
Enjoy the sun - stay safe with the sunscreen!
Owner, 280 Bakes
Welcome to the For Goodness Cake blog! Most posts are by myself, Louise, but if you fancy guest blogging, give me a shout!