Christmas for me is all about the food – and sharing it with those that I love. Our table at Christmas is always laden with sweets: panettone, pandoro, panforte – but also mince pies, pudding, chocolate dipped figs, candied peel, and a rich Christmas fruitcake. For me, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a chocolate yule log also. Something about it that is so frivolous and festive feeling – and, of course, it looks beautiful on the table.
This recipe is a twist on the classic dish – I’ve added layers of sweet chestnut purée to the dark, soft chocolate sponge, and then smothered the whole thing in a meringue buttercream which is as light as air.
When it comes to the decoration, I like to use sprigs of fresh thyme, dust with with icing sugar, and dot with sugared or fresh edible flowers.
Tronchetto di Natale Ripieno con Crema di Marroni
(Chocolate Yule Log with a Sweet Chestnut Filling & Italian Meringue Buttercream)
Tronchetto di Natale – or Yule Log – is a traditional French Christmas dessert that somehow has woven its way into the vocabulary of Italian cooking too. Growing up, we would always have a chocolate log at our Christmas table. And we still do now: it’s as much of a tradition for us as panettone. I like to fill mine with a sweet chestnut purée. Mostly because I love all things chestnut, but also because its rich and smooth tones really do go so very beautifully with the light chocolate sponge that makes the cake. Then I top it with meringue buttercream, which is – truly – as light as air. And sprinkle with snow white icing sugar.
This is such a simple dessert to make and so much fun to decorate – you can really let your imagination go wild. Use berries, sugar flowers,tiny mushrooms and fresh herbs, if you like. Otherwise, just a little dusting of icing sugar and a few pine cones for a more minimalist aesthetic.
Prep Time: 30 mins
Baking Time: 20 mins
150g caster sugar
400g sweet chestnut purée
sugar mushrooms and fresh thyme for decoration
icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a swiss roll tray with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang of paper at the edges. Separate the eggs and beat the whites until they begin to peak, then slowly add 50g of the sugar, whisking constantly until they turn stiff and glossy.
In a large mixing bowl, add the yolks and the rest of the sugar, and beat until they become creamy and pale, then sift in the cocoa powder and beat again until well combined. Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture, taking care to keep as much of the air in as possible and pour into the tin. Set in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until sort and springy too touch.
Leave the cake to cool a little when it comes out of the oven, then turn it out on to another sheet of greaseproof paper. Spread the chestnut purée over the top of the cake,taking care to cover it well into the corners. Then roll from the long edge nearest to you. Use the parchment paper to help you do this, pressing down on the paper to keep the roll as tight as you can. If the cake breaks a little, don’t worry too much – you will be able to cover up a fair amount of damage with the buttercream icing. Gently lift the roll onto the serving plate (or board – it looks very nice on a wooden board) and ice with the buttercream. Then decorate with sugar mushrooms or red currants, and fresh thyme. Dust lightly with icing sugar just before serving.