Hi! My name is Audrey. I’m a wife, mama to a preschooler and a night-shift worker bee. My schedule doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for hobbies, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying them anyway. One of my favorite hobbies is baking.
My aim is to show you that baking doesn’t have to be intimidating or time-consuming. On-hand ingredients and user-friendly instructions will be the norm, with forays into “stretch your wings” territory. Recipes that won’t tie you to the kitchen. Fun stuff!
One of these days, I’ll figure out how to earn a paycheck while knitting with a 3-year-old on my lap. Until then, join me every month for a look at the sweet and easy side of life.
“EASY DECADENCE” YULE LOG CAKE
Just like my waistline, traditions change over the years. One of the sweetest evolving customs is the yule log.
Hundreds of years ago, households would burn a large, ornately decorated chunk of tree at Christmas. This yule log was blessed before being lit, and the ashes would be saved to ward off evil in the new year.
As fireplaces were replaced by stoves, yule logs shrank in size and were gradually given strictly ornamental status as centerpieces. During the 19th century, somebody got the idea of creating a log of cake. The “buche de noel,” still popular today, is often made of sponge cake, filled and frosted with chocolate and decorated with holly or small animal figures.
In the interest of saving time in the kitchen (and since I cannot make a decent genoise to save my life), I present my version of the classic Yule Log Cake.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a half sheet pan — about 17 inches by 12 inches and 1 inch deep — with baker’s parchment.
- Beat four eggs on medium-high speed until they’re somewhat foamy and a uniform light yellow (4 or 5 minutes).
- Add 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Sprinkle in one box of plain white cake mix and one small box of cheesecake-flavored instant pudding. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase speed to medium and blend for 1 1/2 minutes more, scraping the bowl occasionally.
- Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the batter (bake it into cupcakes when you’ve finished your log) and spread the rest in your prepared pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The cake will be golden brown and feel springy to the touch — hot, too, so be careful.
- Dust a tea towel with powdered sugar, and turn the cake out onto the towel. Peel off the parchment and gently roll up the cake, starting from a long side. Place your log on a cooling rack so it doesn’t sweat all over your counter, then prepare the filling.
- Beat 8 ounces of cream cheese with 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon cocoa and 1/4 cup powdered sugar until fairly smooth.
- Carefully unroll your cooled cake. Don’t freak if it cracks a little; you can spackle it with frosting. Spread the filling over the surface, right up to the edges. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional) and drizzle with a few tablespoons of caramel sauce.
- Re-roll your cake. Cut off a one-inch slab from each end for tasting. Cut off about 1/4 of the cake at an angle, and press this against the side of the remaining cake to form a branch. Cover with a light coat of your favorite chocolate frosting. Mark the bark with a fark … er, fork and dust with powdered sugar “snow.” Keep refrigerated until serving time.
You don’t have to save this cake for Christmas. Add a marzipan squirrel and serve it at the birthday of your favorite family nut. Take it to your environmentalist meeting with the inscription, “Cut the cake, not the trees.” Make one just because you have a night off with your family.