The Secret? It's All in the Prep Work
With some recipes, you can prepare, measure, and gather while you bake. But a yule log is swift and unforgiving to anyone who lingers too long on any one thing. Before starting your yule log, gather your ingredients, measure them out, and have them stationed and ready for baking. There are many steps involved, but all of them are simple and effortless so long as you have your ingredients prepared.
Step 1: Whisk the Dry Ingredients
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium-size mixing bowl whisk to combine 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, and a pinch of salt until they are fully blended and evenly chocolate looking. Sifting is not required; in fact, the less you work your dry ingredients, the better the batter.
Step 2: Prepare the Egg Batter
In a medium saucepan add 1 to 2 inches of water and bring it to a rolling boil. While the water heats, add 4 large eggs and a 1/2 cup white granulated sugar to a large heatproof mixing bowl, and whisk gently to fully blend the eggs and sugar until all the sugar has absorbed into the eggs, about 1 minute. Then, once the eggs are blended and the water is boiling, rest the mixing bowl atop the pan (taking care that the bowl does not touch the water) and reduce the heat to medium-low. Using a hand beater or mixer, blend the egg batter for 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed to create gentle folds and a light, airy batter that feels like hot running water and a temperature no higher than 120 degrees F and no lower than 100 degrees F.
Step 3: Beat and Blend
Remove the egg batter from the stove top and continue to beat it on medium-high using your hand beater or hand mixer for another 4 minutes until you have a thick, pale yellow batter that folds on top of itself when mixed. Then add in 4 tablespoons of unsalted melted butter and beat for another 1 minute.
Step 4: Combine Wet and Dry Ingredients
Add half the dry mix and fold that in, then add the remaining dry ingredients. Fold quickly to allow the heat of the egg batter to warm the chocolate mix. Use a spatula to scrape the bowl and combine the ingredients well.
Step 5: The Completed Batter
The final batter should be thick, airy, and dark brown. All the dry ingredients should be folded into the egg batter and be slightly warmer than room temperature.
Step 6: Preparing the Cake
Pour the batter onto a slightly buttered sheet of parchment paper that rests inside a large baking sheet. Pour the batter across the sheet, leaving an inch of space around the edges. Use a spatula to evenly spread the batter across the parchment paper so it is no thinner than 1/4 inch and no deeper than 1/2 inch. Place in the preheated oven on the middle shelf and bake for 3 to 5 minutes.
Step 7: Roll for Memory
Once the cake is done baking, remove from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Once cool to the touch, gently roll the cake in the parchment paper into a roll, and allow it to cool there to create a shape memory.
Step 8: Almond Whipped Cream
While the log cools and creates a memory, whip up the almond cream by adding 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream, 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar, and 2 teaspoons of almond extract to a chilled mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, whisk the cream together until it folds into stiff peaks, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Step 9: Layer the Log
Gently unroll the cooled cake, leaving it on the sheet of parchment paper. Apply a thick layer of the almond whipped cream and sprinkle on diced bourbon-soaked cherries so that all but the edges of the cake are layered with cream and fruit.
Step 10: Dust and Adorn
To complete the yule log, roll the cake slowly, taking care of the filling spilling out from all sides. Use a spatula to scrape away any excess filling, then turn the log so the top is a seamless line of cake and the seam is on the bottom. Cut off the ends to create a clean line on the front and back of the cake, then dust with confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder. Adorn with bourbon-soaked cherries and holly for a festive touch.