Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Short But Sweet

I didn't think that I'd be able to make this month's challenge as I am in the process of moving from a foreign country back to the states….but when I saw what the challenge was I decided that I would do what I could to make it happen. So here I am….after 3 days of breaking into a vacant house to use the kitchen…presenting to you, The French Yule Log. (okay…maybe not breaking in since I had a key, but it's more exciting if I had and really a true Daring Baker would totally break in to use a kitchen right?)

The French Yule Log


Fun to make

Impressive to others


- Amber

Wow. That was daring. And challenging...

...but the end result was very impressive. I pretty much followed the original recipe except that I made the mouse with milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate, and I was glad that I did! With the very dark chocolate glaze and the very dark chocolate layer, the milk chocolate was a nice change. The general consensus was that the praline layer was the best, and the frozen crème brulee layer was a very close second.

This took a lot of time over about three days to make. My mom and brother assisted the making over Christmas, they both love to bake so it was a fun activity for us. I waited till then since I knew I would need space to make it and people to eat it. Mom's kitchen is about 4 times the size of mine.

The only snafu we ran into was in making the praline paste to go into the praline layer. The first batch of sugar ended up black, burnt and in the trash. All was well after that...well, well enough. The crepe for the praline did not cook evenly, but once crushed into bits and coated in chocolate, you could not tell. I think my mousse was a little thick, but it made it easier to spread into the pan.

The only other change I made was in the assembly of the cake. I put the entire cake together at once and put it in the freezer fully assembled upside down in a loaf pan, and it worked just fine. I glazed it the next day and we had a wonderful dessert.

My cake could have been prettier, but it could not have really tasted any better. I enjoyed the whole process but I'm not sure what would inspire me to do this again. I think that if I did want to do it, I would skip the most time consuming part...the praline layer...and use kit kats lined up for that layer instead. I think it tasted very similar to a kit kat and they would be a perfect fill in when you just don't have time for praline paste, crepes, melting chocolate and cooling. . . I was only sad that I had to leave the leftovers at home in my Mom's freezer...oh yea, and my mom said to mention that she's never buying unshelled hazelnuts again!

Can't wait for the next daring challenge!!

Holy procrastinator!!

OK... I admit it.. I am a complete procrastinator, and this is NOT a challenge that you want to procrastinate on! I don't know if my fellow DB's had as hard of a time as I did finding some of the ingredients, (i.e. the almond meal and praline paste) but these things took forever. Oh, and my other problem is I waited to start it at 8:00 last night.

Things went OK overall. It was just very time consuming and I don't have the patients when it gets too late at night. (why did I put it off till the last night?????) I thought the taste was pretty good,and it is defiantly a show stopper.... still not sure it is worth all of the time it takes to make it though.

- Bluzet

The Freakout Before Christmas; or, A Matter of Perspective

Initially, I thought about writing this DB post in rhyming verse, in keeping with the title. Then I realized how much I despise rhyming verse, and would come to hate myself for composing my post with crappy ABAB rhyme, so I’ll spare everyone that foray into dime-store poetry hell.

Last year, about the time I joined the Daring Bakers, I was introduced to the simultaneous joy and terror of the Buche de Noel, alias the Yule Log. In that dessert, a genoise sponge cake was filled with mousse, rolled, frosted with buttercream and adorned with meringue mushrooms. I made two critical errors with that dessert. First, I made a pastry cream instead of a mousse—this made for a less-than-stable filling that wound up gushing out the sides of the cake when I rolled it. Second, I rolled the cake along its short side so that I wound up with a Yule Stump rather than a Yule Log. Well, I was a bit disappointed with the overall appearance of said Stump, but Z. and P. graciously assisted in the devouring of the cake.

I kept everything in perspective and moved on.

This year, the Daring Bakers were introduced (or, at least, I was introduced) to the other variety of a Yule Log, a frozen specialty from Paris that is the apotheosis of the pastry chef’s art. Beautiful and gleaming, these modern Buches’ architectural splendor would make Frank Gehry burn his drafting table and join the pro hacky sack circuit. And here I would be, throwing my toque into the ring, with a dessert that had no fewer than six separate components.

I swallowed my trepidation and threw myself into the project, knowing that it would only strengthen my baking skills. So, four days before I planned on serving the Buche at a holiday gathering at my in-laws’ home, I began the process. Six components, ladies and gentlemen. Orange crème brulee, crisp (corn flakes in chocolate), dark chocolate mousse, cinnamon ganache, almond dacquoise, and dark chocolate glaze. Only someone insane or French would attempt such an endeavor.

Things began to go wrong only when it was time to glaze the Buche. There wasn’t enough of the glaze to cover the log, so I made a double batch and was singularly unimpressed with its appearance or consistency. Instead of a mirror-like finish creating a visually elegant log, I had something lumpy and decidedly gauche, like a guy wearing jams at a gallery opening. Undaunted, I slapped some sliced almonds over the sides and packed up the Buche for transportation to the holiday gathering. Once transported, it went into the freezer, and then was removed to thaw slightly whilst presents were opened. (Thanks for the Williams-Sonoma gift certificate, Jerry!)

Then it came time to slice the Buche. Perhaps I let it thaw too long, or perhaps, by selecting a slightly different mousse recipe than the one provided to the DBers, I hamstrung myself. But when the knife met the Buche, it turned into a sloppy, smeared mess, and the dacquoise was nigh impossible to cut. Rather than the gorgeous modern art I had been anticipating, I was left with something that resembled the Johnstown Flood. Several people attempted to mollify me, assuring me that the cake really didn’t look that bad, and they were sure it tasted wonderful, and that was all that mattered, really. I would not be consoled.

Reader, I freaked out. I stormed upstairs, away from the festivities, and actually shed tears of anger. My poor husband accompanied me, insisting that the Buche was truly fine and no one cared if it looked a bit messy. But no. I was adamantly upset. Mature? Firmly grasping perspective? No and no.

Eventually, I made my way back downstairs where everyone had cleaned their plates and sagely did not mention the fact that I had freaked out days before Christmas because of a cake. We played silly trivia games and had tea, and I morosely picked at my slice of cake, feeling like an utter jackass. I’m fairly certain that this Christmas will forever be known in family lore as The Year Ami Freaked Out. Or perhaps I flatter myself.

In the end, Z. and I had our post mortem and decided certain components of the Buche were tasty (dacquoise, ganache), but overall, the dessert was actually too rich and thus not especially enjoyable. Though, it’s also likely that the flavor was made bitter by my unreasonable expectations. After all, I’m a girl who really prefers a simple brownie or blondie to ornate French pastries. You can’t expect to fly by just running off the roof. At least my hard head broke my fall.

I remain,
Yours, &c.

A Very Daring December Challenge

I awaited Decembers challenge with much excitement. After seeing the yule logs from last year I was curious as to what the challenge would be. Well, my heart nearly stopped when I saw the pages and pages of instructions. Very scared!
I must admit that it looked very difficult at first glance and I almost stopped reading and considered not even attempting the challenge. However, challenging is why I joined DB so there was no point in quitting now.

After reading a few other peoples comments about their completed challenges I shortened the instructions by deciding on what flavours to use for each layer and figuring out in which order to make the layers.

I decided on:
Element 1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)
Element 2 White Chocolate Mousse
Element 3 White Chocolate Ganache Insert
Element 4 Milk Chocolate Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
Element 5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert
Element 6 Milk Chocolate Icing

I stared out with the Crème Brulée which worked fine. I know a few people had issued with it taking a long time to set so I cooked mine on a slightly higher temperature and it was done in the time stated.

I then made the mousse and thought all had gone well until it got to the washing up (which were was plenty of) when I found my gelatine still dissolving in a bowl!!!! Oops. I thought, hey its probably ruined anyway so decided to put the gelatine in at the end, refrigerate for a while and see what happens. By some form of miracle it was fine when I got it out of the fridge so I managed to save it.

Next up were the Dacquoise and the crisp insert. Both went fine although the Dacquoise made more than I thought it would so I ended up with it on the top and the bottom of the log.

I made mine for Christmas day so made it up in advance save for the icing. I only got round to buying the cream for the icing very late on Christmas eve so the shops were virtually bare. The only cream I could get was extra think double cream with Tia Maria but it worked really well and tasted lovely with a bit of alcohol in it.

It was very well received on Christmas day, the only down side is that I struggled to make people believe it was home made! If I were to make this again (which I wont be doing until we get a dishwasher!) then I would try and make the Crème Brulée layer thinner as it did not defrost as quick as the other layers.

- Denise

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December Challenge...

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. Thank you all for the challenge - it was definitely the most daunting to think about all month long, so far, which is the point, now, isn't it? :)

My Yule Log is currently in the freezer setting up for its final journey to a New Year's Eve party tonight! I am hoping beyond all hope that it is delicious because it was time- and freezer-consuming :)

I'll go through the Log, component by component, and will have to come back tomorrow to post on overall flavor because we won't be cutting into it until tonight. I made my Log in a traditional bread loaf pan, lined with the poor choice of Press 'n Seal plastic wrap - it made my outside layer very wrinkly and was a b**** to get out of the frozen pan to ice.

Dacquoise: This was easier than I had anticipated. For some reason I kept imagining this being crunchy after baking, but alas, it is cake...why I thought this, I have no idea. I'm embarrassed to say that I actually went to school for baking & pastry arts and have MADE dacquoise before, so I don't know what was wrong with me in that thinking. I actually started certain components on Monday - this was reserved for Tuesday and I set aside a lot more time than I actually needed, which was nice, because it was started at almost 11 PM. The only thing I couldn't find was the almond meal, so I made my own, skins on.

Mousse: I actually went with the milk chocolate chantilly cream. I am a lover of dark chocolate, but I know quite a few unfortunate people who prefer the milk version, so I tried to mix and match so it wouldn't be too rich for them (trust me...everyone at this party tonight WILL try this thing!). It came out wonderfully and is delicious. I made this on Monday, refrigerated over night and whipped it up Tuesday night just before filling the mold.

Creme Brulee: I made the traditional vanilla creme brulee, however I have been having a hard time getting vanilla beans lately, so I went with straight pure vanilla extract - I do love vanilla bean specks, though, so it's not as pretty as it could be, but I used a pretty high quality extract, so hopefully the flavor is respectable. This was prepared and baked Monday and frozen overnight. It took almost 2 hours to bake, with a water bath. I'm a little afraid that I may have actually over-baked it, but the problem I was having was the center seemed set early on, but my edges were actually a little watery - meanwhile, the recipe said to bake until the edges are firm and the center is wobbly...hmmmm...

Praline Insert: Unable to find praline paste and failing to print out ingredients for the July praline recipe before shopping, I used Rice Krispies, milk chocolate and Nutella. I sampled some scrap pieces and it was okay...I am usually a big fan of Nutella, but the flavor wasn't really what I was hoping for. My hopes have now turned to assuming the praline layer will taste divine when it is cuddled up against all the other layers :) This was easy enough - I made it on Monday and kept it in the fridge overnight. Because I rolled it out long enough, I was able to cut two layers and just stacked them right on top of each other to make one thick layer.

Ganache: Okay, so if you look at photos of my Log, you will notice it is sadly missing a layer - there is no ganache. I am just embarrassed to admit that I did not have time. The only way I could see myself getting this layer completed and inside the Log would have been to set my alarm for like 2 AM this morning to get up and make it then, so it would have enough time in the freezer before icing. I won't go into my list of excuses - I wanted to bring this thing to NYE, so I have only that to fall back on.

Icing: I made the original dark chocolate icing, which I just finished about an hour ago. I actually had to make this twice - the first time, I used the 1/4 cup of water to soften the gelatin (powdered), not realizing that was in addition. By the time the chocolate mixture had cooked the additional 3 minutes, it was dry and burnt. So, round 2 - everything was fine, however, I felt it got a bit lumpy from the gelatin, so I wound up straining it and losing quite a bit of it in that process. This lead to a more "side-drip" look, rather than the desired full-coverage. If my outer mousse layer had been smoother I would have been fine with the drips, but it looks like a bit of a hot mess, as though it may have started celebrating NYE early, if you know what I mean. :) I'm heading to the party around 8 (it's about 3:00 now), so I'm trying to think of a fabulously creative way to decorate it and then I'll have pics ready to post.

- Laura, Lucky Cupcake

One Heck of a Yule Log (My First Daring Baker Challenge)

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

Wow! What an intimidating recipe – I kept staring at the binder-clipped packet that was to be my first Daring Baker challenge and wondering if I really wanted to try this. The truth is that I’m somewhat of an amateur baker and many of the items that made up the yule log were things I had never made before. Not wanting to be timid or take the easy way out, I made my grocery list and was on my way.

As Christmas edged closer (D-day for the yule log as a smashing dessert at my family’s get-together), I repeatedly checked the Daring Baker forums and was so thankful to be learning from other people as they worked their way through the different elements. From others and from my own experience with this, here’s what I learned, element by element (I should say that I stuck pretty much to the standard recipe except for using the milk chocolate ganache – since it was my first challenge, I didn’t want to get too risky):

1. I made my own praline for the crisp and then used Special K Protein Plus (because who doesn’t want a little healthiness mixed in with their sinfulness?). This was my husband’s favorite part. I thought this was a very easy element to make.
2. The crème brulee – ah, a lesson in trusting my own judgment. Just like others found in the forums, my brulee was nowhere near done at the given temp. So I bumped it up and kept it in longer…longer than my gut said it should be. Sure enough, it was slightly overdone. I waited until it was frozen and I was ready to embed it in the log before slicing off the top ¼ inch, which was very chewy and yellow (yuck!)
3. The dacquoise was easy to make but I didn’t really like the taste of it by itself. Fortunately, mixed with all the chocolate in the log, you can’t really taste it. It was super sticky, however; I may not have let it bake long enough.
4. The mousse was also easy to make – easier than I expected. It turned out absolutely delicious and was truly my favorite part of the whole dessert.
5. The ganache – also very yummy. I decided to go with the milk chocolate simply because I had the two different chocolates available to me and wanted to somewhat temper the overwhelming dark chocolate taste of the other elements.
6. The icing was probably the most difficult part, simply because I’ve never made this type of icing before, and I thought icing a frozen log was pretty challenging. My icing kept gelling up very quickly once touching the log, so smoothing the tops and sides was somewhat futile. My final product turned out a little lumpy and bumpy, but fortunately family doesn’t judge too harshly! I’m not really the best decorator so I used a few almonds I had set aside for a simple decoration and decided to be done with it.

Holy crow, the dishes – I swear I dirtied every dish in my entire house, and it took 3 runs of the dishwasher to clean them all! However, the family loved it, commenting on how rich and delicious it was. And I have certainly been enjoying the leftovers, pulling out the log whenever I feel a post-Christmas chocolate craving hit. When my hubby asked if I thought it was worth the work, I didn’t really know how to answer. I asked him if he thought it was worth all the dishes, to which he promptly responded, “No!”

Although I’ll probably not include this as an annual dessert for the holidays, I did enjoy making it as I learned SO much! Thanks Hilda and Marion for an excellent challenge!


French Yule Log

Wow this month's challange was a big one, what with all the other xmas baking going on, not to mention all the indulgent eating already afoot as well!

I enjoyed making this challange, as I experimented with changing a few of the layers, and it gave me quite a good opportunity to be creative :)

I made a strawberry moose, which I can wildly recommend, it tasted so strongly of strawberry, and was such a light fresh and cooling desert to eat, I could have had the whole bowl if I didn't have to use it in the challange! Plus the sugar for the french merange used to airate the moose what just enough sweetness for the tart frozen strawberries I used in the puree.

I also changed the creme brulee layer, and made it with some fresh french and ordinary cottage garden lavender I had growing in my garden. I think I was remembering back to a sorbet combination that used strawberries with lavender and thought they would compliment each other. They did, but the creme brulee took a bit longer to cook through, even though I used the water bath method, and was quite a slippery item to deal with, requiring a good freezing before I dare lift it out of the tray to cut it to size. One thing I might change, if I can figure out how, is the amount of lavender I use, or maybe trim more off the stem, as there was a slight bitter taste to the brulee, from the essential oils in the plant I think.

I made the praline crisp layer, and the biscuit layer with hazelnuts, using a mix of rice puffs and cornflakes in the praline layer, and the hazelnut meal, and also some grated orange rind in the biscuit. The biscuit was probably my second favorite layer, and was really tasty on it's own. But sadly I was getting over chocolate by this stage of cooking and xmas eating, or I would have loved the praline layer too.

the ganache layer was easy, but I should have let it cool a bit more before putting it in the mould, but it didn't matter. But I REALLY should have awaited till the icing cooled. I was worried about it 'gelling' up as it had for other challangers, and not getting it to cover the log, but I didn't really give it a chance to all...and it ran straight off! luckily I scraped the remains back and let the first covering freeze a little, and just added the rest later. I didn't find it gummy to eat, it was pleasant enough, just so rich all together.

I ran out of moose in the assembly, which was a shame, as I would have liked some left over to eat :), but I just substituted some whipped cream instead. I made a large log to share with family, and a mini log to drop off to some friends who were doing volunteer work on christmas day. So I ended up having no strawberry moose to make their log. Luckily, I have my birthday on 21 Dec, and had made a chocolate moose raspberry cake, and had moose left over from that, so in that went, thinned down with some whipped cream, as that was already very rich.

All the layers stacked well, but just looked a bit awkward. I would have had a nice pic of the finished big log before the cutting, but it had to travel in an eski to my aunt's place on xmas day. It was a hot day, which didn't help matters, but sadly, the log had a car accident, when the eski tipped going round a corner, so the attempted icing of an xmas tree on top, got very smooshed, as did the choc icing coating as well :(

People seemed to like it, and be able to taste the lavender in the brulee. I forced some down, but sadly I was so over making it and over chocolate, that I didn't really enjoy it as much as I'd have liked. Like everyone else, the creme brulee layer just didn't defrost as well as the rest of the log, and had to be eaten still icy. I think it too a lot away from the creaminess it had in it's semi frozen state.

I loved being able to be creative changing the elements in the layer. Although my pics don't tell a very good story, I enjoyed the challange and hope the new year of DB challanges is just as exciting and new as this one :)

- Monique

My First Challenge - The French Yule Log

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry ( and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. (
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

The French Yule Log

My first Daring Baker challenge and it lived up to its title. While the individual components were not particularly difficult (although I did have a few struggles), the timing and the assembly process had me running to the instructions repeatedly.

The dacquiose was easy. I found almond meal, the whole thing went together quickly and the baking turned out just right. I think I would make it slightly thicker were I to do this again, but it was fine. There was plenty, so if I had made mistakes in cutting to fit my pan, I would have had a lot of room for error.

The crème brulee took much longer to cook than indicated on the recipe and didn’t really make much progress until I bumped the temp on the oven up a few degrees. I flavored my brulee with a little peach schnapps, but it didn’t seem to make a big difference. I also baked it in a pan which was a little too small - a bigger pan would have made a more attractive layer within the log.

I made raspberry mousse and probably had the most problems with this component. First of all, I used frozen raspberries (from the Skagit Valley of Washington, so I knew they would be wonderful). This, however, required quite a bit of blending and sieving to get all the seeds out. With the help of my husband, I managed to get this done and the color was gorgeous. The Italian meringue was a pain. Cooking the sugar to the right temp was OK, but adding it to the egg whites resulted in big globs of hard sugar. I tasted it and it seemed sweet enough, so I did not redo it. Definitely I need to practice that! The gelatin for the mousse was also a pain. I really think I just didn’t understand the instructions. Microwave for 1 second? Really? Didn’t do a thing. I finally just melted the gelatin in some water over the stove and added it. I think it would have worked better to soften the gelatin for about 5 minutes in some cold water and then add it to the hot raspberry puree – not lukewarm, as suggested in the mango mousse recipe. Anyway, the mousse turned out, although it was less firm than I expected.

The dark chocolate ganache was easy.

I made my own praline from almonds and then made the Feuillete using Rice Krispies and that worked just fine. Had lots left over. The amounts of product from these recipes varied greatly. For some components, it was just enough but for others, either way too much or way too little. I used the leftover almond praline in a wonderful green salad with blue cheese.

I decided against fiddling with gelatin again and made another chocolate ganache with bittersweet chocolate to be the icing. It set up beautifully.

End result: It looked a little less than perfect because the sides were uneven. I used a springform which is smaller diameter than most but deeper, since I thought that would give me the most flexibility with the various layers. It was not as evenly layered as I had hoped, but it still looked pretty good when cut, especially with the raspberry mousse contrasted with the dark chocolate. It also tasted pretty good, but all that chocolate made it really rich!

- Bunnee

Monday, December 29, 2008

French Yule Log

- Katie

Daring Bakers December Challenge

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

The name of cookbook/website link for this challenge []

The name of the December 2008 challenge recipe author is [Flore].

Link to challenge: Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry ( and Marion of (Il en faut peu pour etre heureux (

I was a little apprehensive about my first Daring Bakers Challenge, but in the end, turned out to be a fun process with a dessert to enjoy in the end. I procrastinated making the yule log until the holiday madness, eh, I mean holiday cheer was complete.

I liked making the layers rather than rolling the log. I tried to stick to the basic recipe, but I would definitely love to try the variations on the layers, especially the coconut. I was to anxious to cut the log and take some pics. I think it needed to set longer in the fridge. The yule log was a nice alternative to the over abundance of holiday cookies.

Thanks to Lauren of for introducing me to the Daring Bakers. Looking forward to the next challenge!

- Abby

Yule Bomb…er…Brick…er…Log

Many thanks to Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry ( and Marion of Il en faut peu pour etre heureux ( for this month’s daring baker challenge: A French Yule Log! The original recipe for the log is attributed to Flore and can be found here

This challenge seemed quite daunting, requiring completion of 6 separate elements that are ultimately layered to form a scrumptious semi-frozen treat. I spent days “studying” the recipes, planning my grocery list (which included top-quality vanilla beans and chocolate bars), and determining the best order in which to execute the components. With so many elements, I chose to follow the recipe to the letter, not deviating with alternative flavorings. My goal was to prepare everything from scratch—even the gavottes (a product sold only in France) and the praline. But I was on a tight schedule with time being short for other holiday obligations (and plenty of snow shoveling). I did not have room for mistakes. BIG MISTAKE using that philosophy. This challenge certainly knocked my ego, hard.

This is where it began. The first recipe I chose to tackle was the Praline Feuillete. This is where things started to go wrong. I made the hazelnut praline without a hitch and then turned my attention to the gavottes. I guess I didn’t spread the batter thin enough because it never got to the crispy stage upon baking and stayed in a more pancake like form. Fortunately, I had purchased a box of crisped rice cereal as a back-up. I reached for it immediately while gobbling the still warm “gavotte”. YUM!

Next came the crème brulee insert. I thought for sure this would be no problem. I’ve made this treat more than a handful of times. Unfortunately, mine didn’t really set after baking for an hour. I thought for sure it would upon cooling, but it did not. Feeling harried I stuck it in the freezer, surely it would harden now! Most unfortunately I don’t think I gave it enough time to freeze. When it came time to assemble this layer it was still a sad, goopy mess.

Onto the mousse. My pate a bombe was just that—a total bomb! The egg yolks never became frothy and the sugar syrup turned to spun sugar and hardened against the sides of the mixing bowl upon contact. Why did this happen?! I can make Italian buttercream like a professional! Determined, I proceeded forth with the result, setting my mixer to whip the cream and furiously chopping chocolate for the next recipe. By the time I got back to the mixer my cream was on its way to becoming fresh butter. OOPS! This did not stop me from assembling the mousse with the components as they stood—no time to redouble now is what I was thinking. In the end, the mousse was actually not half bad—tasty and much more dense than one should expect. Though, this proved to be an added challenge when it came to assembly.

Next, I made the dacquoise biscuit and then the ganache. Both seemed to go off without a hitch. (Finally!) Then, I proceeded to assemble the log. The biscuit was plentiful, so I added it to both the top and bottom layers. Same for the praline, but these I stacked on top one another. Spreading the mousse was not a moment of which I’m proud. With its stiff consistency it seemed best to grab handfuls and pack into shape where necessary (picture mud pie assembly to understand technique). When it came time to pull the crème brulee from the freezer, I was deflated to see that it still was goop. Wanting to push forward (TICK-TOCK), I eased the goop as best I could into its requisite position and covered quickly with more mousse. It’s bound to freeze eventually, right? (This is why the crème brulee portion appears absent from the log. The layer was so thin, it melded almost inconspicuously with the surrounding mousse.)

While unmolding and icing my log I thought the shape was more reminiscent of a brick and hence named it so. Not having an occasion to serve it (Thank God, it’s appearance is a little embarrassing), I didn’t add any festive trifles on top. I imagined sprigs of holly or gumdrop snowmen and Santas would be really cute. A wintery scene definitely would offset its otherwise questionable appearance. Instead, I sliced the brick into servings and wrapped each individually to store in the freezer. No worries, my sweet tooth will not let these linger for too long. Perhaps I’ll even share with a non-judgmental friend or two. This dessert is so very tasty, despite my shortcomings in its execution.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yummy Yule Log

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.

They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

I was scared and excited for the December challenge. I'm glad I kept updating myself with reading the forum because various corrections due to comments and questions were made with the recipes.

Here are my comments:

Dacquoise - I did not have much problem with this, simple recipe and easy to follow

Mousse - Tasted really good! Simple to make but I did encounter confusion with the gelatine sheets. Recipe called for 2.5 sheets or 5 g. Since I had a good food scale I decided to take the weight and 2.5 sheets was way over 5 g. so i decided to just go by weight and ended up just using about 1 1/4 sheet of gelatin. Mousse consistency came out well.

Ganache - I may have made my sugar syrup too dark as I noticed that the ganache alone came out tasting quite bitter, together with the other components though it was not noticeable

Praline crisp insert - Decided to make my own gavotte and I had to do it twice. The first one crisped and burned at the edges while the middle part remained pale colored (raw). The second batch I made I lowered the temperature and although the edgest turned brown/burned real fast the rest came out a nice brown color. I just discarded the burned edges.

Creme Brulee insert - No problem with this recipe. Consistency was really good and taste was fantastic

Icing - Most comments regarding the icing in the forum mentioned that the recipe was not enough so most doubled. I wanted to make sure mine covered the log so I tripled the recipe.

I did the log for our family Christmas lunch and it was a hit. I would do it again. It is time consuming but it is not difficult to make.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's Very Close...

Shuna’s Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting,
Pecan Praline Topping and Caramelized Bananas

“Don’t ask a Southern boy if your Caramel Cake is better than my mother’s,” exclaimed my husband once when I asked for a comparison. So it was no surprise to me when his eyebrows perked up when I informed him of the Daring Bakers’ Challenge for November.

His mother’s recipe consisted of a plain vanilla cake, which was not too sweet, which helps balance the rich caramel icing made of butter, brown sugar, vanilla and evaporated milk. Simple, but good! Our challenge recipe is somewhat different.

First, homemade caramel syrup is added to both cake batter and icing. Second, the butter in the icing is browned first, and then beaten. I was up to the challenge and curious to see if Mother-in-Law’s recipe would take a back seat to this upstart!
Shuna Fish Lydon, who earned a BFA in photography, and has been a professional cook and baker for 15 years, created the DB Challenge recipe. Her Caramel Cake recipe can be found here:

Here’s my experience:
For the syrup I determined that 6 minutes and 30 seconds was enough boiling on high heat to produce the smoke. By then it measured about 355°F! With a wire sieve over the syrup, I quickly poured the cold water without it splattering out.

Upon reading some of the comments on the members’ forum, I decided to reduce the amount of sugar in the batter by ¼ cup. I also added ¾ cup chopped and toasted pecans to balance the sweetness, add a nutty twist, and shadow the Praline Topping.

The batter was beaten and beaten and appeared curdled in the end. 2 tablespoons extra flour seemed to do the trick, then Batter Man (hubby) insisted on his raw portion, which was met with good reviews. I used an 8x8 square pan and baked the batter in two batches, but even though the layers did not rise as much as expected it was dense and delicious!

The Caramelized Butter Frosting also had that curdled look, but that was mended with the addition of about ½ stick softened butter, which helped bring the ingredients to a smooth mass. Icing Man (hubby) exclaimed it a killer icing!
I filled the layers with icing and iced the cake. I decorated the top with a Pecan Praline Topping I have been making for years. Here’s the link to the recipe: It’s delicious and very easy to make.

At the last minute, I sliced some bananas, sprinkled them with turbinado sugar, and sicked my kitchen torch on them. The flavor added yet another dimension to the seriously sweet confection.
The cake (in small portions) was enjoyed by many over Thanksgiving weekend. My niece, Sasha, requested it for her birthday next year, and hubby deemed it ‘very close’ to mama Mrs. Virginia Bolt Harris’ Caramel Cake. Now that’s a huge compliment!

Ms. Lydon’s blog is a wealth of information for the home baker and I’ll be checking it periodically for ideas and tips. Thanks for being a good sport through our efforts in replicating your cake.

Thanks to our hosts Dolores (, Alex ( and Jenny ( for hosting the challenge. It’s been so much fun!

- Dragana

Monday, December 1, 2008

I *heart* Caramel Cake!

I love this cake! I have to admit I almost didn't make it. You know, with all the "have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back" and "for safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into" talk - YIKES! Thankfully, my inner Daring Baker stepped in and gave me a good slap in the face and I got to work.
I made the heart-shaped cakes first and froze them because I didn't feel like putting it all together in one night and I was getting ready to go on vacation (excuses, excuses) but mostly because I'm a lazy procrastinator. I'm hoping one of these days I will do my challenge at the start of the month so that I'm not scrambling to make it under the deadline.
Everything worked out well. I let my cake thaw out while making the buttercream. The icing is delicious but very sweet. When I make this cake again I think I will have to either lessen the sugar or use some sort of substitute. The caramel sauce set up perfectly on top. I could have made the caramels guessed it...I'm lazy. I think I would like to try some of the ideas of the other challengers posted on what they did with their leftover sauce. We have quite a talented and creative group here:-)
I had a lot of fun with this challenge - thank you!!!
RECIPE SOURCE Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon (, as published on Bay Area Bites ( Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111
HOSTS ( Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:, Jenny of Foray into Food ( Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (

Comforting Caramel Cake

This caramel cake was comfort food at its best for me. I have always loved crème caramel. Combining it with browned butter was brilliant! I followed the recipe to a “T” and everything came together just right. I have never caramelized sugar with water before and I was so glad that there were detailed instructions warning me about all the sputtering and splattering that was to take place. You can see that I took my caramelized sugar to a pretty deep amber color – it was really flavorful. I didn’t have a deep cake pan so I just made two 9 inch cakes. I think this is even better than a single layer, because I love having a layer of frosting in the middle!

Two things I would do differently: 1) Cut a little off the edge of the top layer so that the frosting would slope down and the caramel drizzles would “drip” down the sides in a more appealing manner and 2) Take my cake out earlier – I got distracted and so the cake went a little longer than I meant for it to – just a tiny bit dryer than I wanted it to be.

My girls and I ate cake two evenings in a row and cut the rest in slices for the freezer. What a decadent treat to pull out of the freezer every so often! The remaining sugar syrup is being used to flavor steamed milks and my morning yogurt. What a delicious fall dessert to make.

- Robin

November Daring Bakers Challenge - Caramel Cake

We, humans, tent to think, that certain things are given forever. But from time to time things go missing. And that includes people, too.

There are many reasons for that. Most often it’s an accident. This is out of our control. But sometimes it’s possible to help to avoid that. By treating depression, talking to teenagers or simply having strong, real contact with people we love or just like and have a real friendship with.

In order to restore those, sometimes lost in this fast and rushy world, bounds, one of the NGO in my country called to organize a Tea for friends and family. Also they asked for donation during it, because it’s their way of found-raising. It was called for this last week and became for me a perfect occasion to ask my dear friends to try CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING. And they liked it. And they were generous. So thanks for hosts of the November Daring Bakers’ challenge, Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray of Food for choosing Shuna Fish Lydon’s Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. For great recipe that raised quite a lot of money for people who look for their loved ones.

- Borgia

Nov 2008 - Caramels!

Since I didn’t participate in last month’s pizza challenge, I tried to make up for it by making both the caramel cake and the optional caramels. Overall, I loved the flavors and the rich, caramel smell that filled the kitchen. And that sugar rush… ohh, the sugar rush!

The caramel cake was very tasty and the syrup in the recipe helped to add moisture to the cake. The crumb was a little dense, but that may be because I accidentally added the milk too early. The frosting was a bit too sweet for my taste, but that didn’t stop me from covering the cake with even more caramel syrup! Toasted coconut would nicely complement the frosting and cake as well. I had a lot of leftover caramel syrup, but that will happily accompany many future, delicious ice cream sundaes.

I’m not a huge fan of plain caramels, so I decided to use the caramel candy to make caramel apples and candy turtles. I like my caramels to be soft, and so I kept the caramel in the soft ball stage. The caramel was creamy, chewy, and very, very sweet. Since I didn’t have golden syrup, I substituted half honey and corn syrup. Either my caramels were super sweet because of this change, or I just do not have the sweet tooth I thought I did. Unfortunately, I lost the pictures of the candy turtles. I topped the turtles with a simple chocolate coating of melted chocolate chips and they turned out great.

Recipes: Shuna Fish Lydon’s Caramel Cake ( … he-recipe/) and Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels (Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111). Thanks to host Dolores ( and co-hosts Alex (, Jenny (, and Natalie (