A festive chocolate log decorated with meringue mushrooms. This cake can be made a day before serving and makes a glamorous Christmas dessert.
1. Heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7.
To make the sponge:
1. using an electric mixer or hand whisk beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla on the highest speed for several minutes until very thick and mousse-like – when you lift the whisk out of the mixture a thick ribbon-like trail should fall back into the bowl.
2. Sift the flour and salt over the mixture then very gently fold in with a large metal spoon. Drizzle the cooled melted butter over the top and fold in quickly.
3. Pour the mixture into the prepared tray or tin and spread evenly. Bake in the heated oven for about 10 minutes until golden brown and just firm to the touch.
4. While the sponge is baking cover a wire cooling rack with a clean dry tea towel then top with a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Turn out the cooked sponge onto the prepared rack then peel off the lining paper from the baking tray or tin.
5. Using the tea towel to help you, gently roll up the still-hot sponge from the narrow end, along with parchment, to resemble a swiss roll (don’t worry if it cracks as the sponge will be covered).
6. Leave to cool completely. At this point you can wrap the roll in foil or cling film and leave for a day until ready to assemble.
To make the ganache:
1. Put the cream and broken up chocolate into a heavy pan and melt very gently over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth.
2. Remove from the heat and keep at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until needed – up to 2 hours.
To make the pastry cream:
1. pour all but 2 tablespoons of milk into a medium saucepan (preferably non-stick) and heat until almost boiling.
2. Put the egg yolks, the rest of the milk, sugar and cornflour into a heatproof bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.
3. Pour on the hot milk, stirring constantly then pour the whole lot back into the pan. Stir over medium heat until the mixture boils and thickens.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into a clean bowl and press a circle of damp greaseproof paper on to the surface (to prevent a skin forming).
5. Leave to cool then chill for at least 30 minutes but not more than 24 hours.
To make the meringue mushrooms
1. Heat the oven to 120°C/250°F/Gas 1/2.
2. Whisk the egg white until very stiff with an electric whisk or mixer or a rotary whisk then quick whisk in the sugar.
3. Spoon into the piping bag fitted with the plain tube and pipe small 2 to 3cm ‘buttons’ of meringue on to the lined baking tray. These will be the mushroom caps.
4. Pipe an equal number of stalks 3cm long on to the tray then bake for about 45 minutes until crisp and dry. Leave to cool then peel off the tray.
5. The meringues can be made up to 48 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container.
1. When ready to assemble unroll the sponge and peel off and discard the paper. Trim off the hard edges.
2. Stir the ganache then mix a quarter of it into the pastry cream. Spread this mixture over the sponge and roll up again as for a swiss roll.
3. Wrap tightly in foil to maintain the shape and chill for one hour.
4. Unwrap and set on a cake board or serving platter. If you want to make a ‘branch’ for your log cut a slice off one end on a slight diagonal and place it against the side of the log. Set aside a little ganache to stick the mushrooms together the spread the rest over the roll leaving the ends uncovered. Run the back of a fork down the roll to give a ridged bark effect. Assemble the mushrooms, sticking the caps onto the stalks with a little ganache, and arrange them over and around the log.
5. Finally, dust the log with icing sugar ‘snow’ and the mushrooms with cocoa.
6. Best eaten within 2 days – store in a cool place
For the whisked sponge:
4 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
120g caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
140g Marriage’s Finest Plain flour
A good pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the ganache:
200ml double cream
200g good dark chocolate, broken up
For the pastry cream:
200ml full-fat or Jersey milk
2 large free-range egg yolks
50g caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
For the meringue mushrooms (optional):
1 large free-range egg white, at room temperature
50g caster sugar
Cocoa powder and icing sugar to dust
A baking tray or swiss roll tin about 25 x 32cm (10 x 13in), greased and lined with non-stick baking paper, a piping bag fitted with a 0.5cm (1/4 in) plain tube and a baking tray, lined as above, for the meringues.