Somewhere there’s a forest made of cakes and candies, and from that fair copse we can harvest gorgeous yule logs year-round. But until we find that magical wonderland, we’ll have to make the damn cakes ourselves! This year I rolled it the wrong way, producing a thick stump instead of a slender branch, and I have to admit I rather like its girth. Paint a sheet of white chocolate with cocoa powder and you’ll have an excellent stand-in for papery bark. Of course, all that decoration takes time, so I’ve streamlined my baking by using a boxed cake mix. No shame!
Yield: 8-10 servings
1 box Devil’s Food Cake Mix
½ cup Milk
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
1 tablespoon Powdered Sugar (for sprinkling on cake surface after baking)
5 ounces Heavy Whipping Cream (~⅔ cup)
2 tablespoons Sugar
6 ounces Cream Cheese (~¾ cup)
6 ounces Raspberry Jam, seedless if preferred
½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Butter, softened
4 cups Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2-4 tablespoons Milk
4 teaspoons Cocoa Powder
5 ounces White Chocolate, chopped or chips
1 tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1 teaspoon Water
Extra whipped cream
Heat oven to 375˚. Line jellyroll pan (15x10x1-inches) with parchment paper, coat with cooking spray and dust with flour. Line a muffin tray with 6 paper or silicone muffin cups.
Beat eggs in large bowl with electric mixer on high until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Add cake mix, milk, and oil; beat on low for 30 seconds to incorporate, then increase to medium for another minute, scraping down sides of bowl. Pour 3 ½ cups batter into jellyroll pan, spoon remaining batter into muffin cups.
Bake sheetcake 14-16 minutes, until cake springs back when gently touched in center. Cupcakes are finished when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (an additional 2-6 minutes may be necessary).
Loosen cake all around with spatula. Sprinkle surface with powdered sugar, then drape kitchen towel on top. Flip pan over, carefully lift pan off cake. Gently peel away parchment paper and sprinkle more powdered sugar on new surface. While cake is still warm, carefully roll it up with towel. Roll from the short end for a fat log look to your cake, and from the long end for a more branch-like diameter. Cool completely (rolled up) on wire rack. Cool cupcakes as desired, saving 2-3 to use for decoration and reserving the rest for separate use.
Beat butter until smooth. Add half the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk, mix until smooth again. Add remaining powdered sugar and cocoa powder, then mix until smooth once more. Thin out frosting to desired texture with extra milk.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Whip heavy cream with sugar and salt until thickened (2-3 minutes). Beat in cream cheese (it will be lumpy at first, continue). Beat on high until you see no more lumps. Add raspberry jam, whip to combine, then fold by hand to remove any streaks.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cover one baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
Chop chocolate finely. Melt ⅔ of the chocolate gently in double-boiler. Remove bowl from boiler, add remaining ⅓ chocolate and incorporate off-heat. When the chocolate is mostly melted, return bowl to double boiler and heat until melted and pourable.
Pour chocolate onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate to all corners of the sheet, you want a thin layer. If desired, texture the chocolate by running the spatula through it at an angle, or pressing into the top variously.
Place baking sheet with chocolate in fridge for roughly 30 minutes, until it’s completely set. Remove chocolate from fridge.
Whisk cocoa powder together with water. Use a pastry brush to paint the surface of the chocolate sheet with cocoa water, leaving a tint across the surface. Allow this to dry completely.
Break into long shards by wrapping parchment around and snapping. Do not touch chocolate with bare hands, it will begin to melt while you break it up. Return to fridge until needed in recipe.
Unroll cake, spread filling inside using offset spatula. Spread frosting to the edges of 3 out of 4 sides of the cake, leaving a few inches of space on the side toward which you will be rolling.
Roll cake up, set it seam-side-down, refrigerate to set.
Take 2-3 cupcakes and trim off the convex surface, leaving a flat top.
Remove cake from fridge. Slice off a thin piece of each end, leaving a clean, flat surface. Coat cake in frosting, covering both exposed ends.
Press trimmed cupcakes upside-down onto surface of cake, then cover with frosting.
Remove chocolate bark from refrigerator, press shards into frosting as desired.
Garnish cake and serve.