A Yule Log Cake for Christmas

Chocolate Yule Log Cake

I'm not doing my usual baking for Christmas this year---no Lottie Lane fruitcake, no Miss Lucy's coconut cake. no pecan pies.  Cookies (probably homemade) and ice cream were to be our dessert this year, but then I saw this recipe for a Chocolate Yule Log Cake.  One of the cooking blogs that I follow is the Joy of Baking Blog By Stephanie Jaworski.  She recently posted a recipe for this Yule Log, and I thought I just had to try it.  Yesterday my friend Boguska came over for a visit, and she helped me make this cake.  It is much easier if there are two people working on it in concert.

First it is necessary to make a chocolate sponge cake that can be rolled into a log.  Batter is spread on parchment paper in a baking pan and baked until set.  The top of the cake is dusted with confectioner's sugar  and the cake is inverted on a clean dish towel.  Remove the parchment paper and sprinkle with sugar (the powdered sugar prevents the cake from sticking to the towel).  Gently roll up the cake in the dish towel and place on a wire rack to cool.
Cake is inverted on a clean towel and the parchment paper is removed.
Sprinkle the top with sugar so it won't stick to the towel when rolled up.
Cool rolled up cake on a rack.  Rolling it at this stage sets the shape of the cake. 

Meanwhile make the chocolate Ganache frosting.  This will take a while so that it will cool enough to spread on the cake.

Make the chocolate whipped cream to spread on the cake.
Chocolate whipped cream.
Spread the whipped cream with an offset spatula.
Roll the cake into a log. 

Finally, once the Ganache is cool enough spread on the cake.  You can rake the tines of a fork along the top of the frosting to give an appearance of a log.
Ready to store in fridge. 

This can be stored from 4 to 5 days in the fridge.  I like a dessert that can be made ahead.

Just before serving remove the cake from the fridge, dust the top with powdered sugar (for snow) and serve.
Sprinkle with sugar before serving---looks like snow on the log.
The end shows the "growth rings" of the log.

You can make chocolate truffles from any of the leftover chocolate frosting.  Form into small balls and roll in powdered sugar or chopped nuts.  Truffles can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks.

Truffles made from left over ganache frosting. 
I'm looking forward to experimenting with this in the future.  I can envision a filling of Nutella, or maybe a coconut cream filling or a white cake with lemon filling.  I'm learning!

Check out the recipe here.

Not My Mama's Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potato-peach-cashew bake. 

Growing up my mother almost always made sweet potato casserole---the one with the marshmallows on top--- for Thanksgiving, and I had continued this tradition until this year.  I discovered a sweet potato-peach-cashew bake recipe in Better Homes and Garden, and I believe I've started a new tradition for my obligatory Thanksgiving sweet potato dish.



  1. In a small bowl combine brown sugar, cashews, salt, and ginger; set aside. In a 1 1/2 to 2-quart baking dish layer half the sweet potatoes, half the peach slices, and half the brown sugar mixture. Repeat layers. Dot with butter.
  2.  Bake, covered, in a 350 degree F oven 30 minutes, stirring once. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more or until potatoes are tender. Spoon cooking juices over potatoes and peaches before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

I prepared this a couple of days before Thanksgiving and placed it in the refrigerator.  It was ready to pop into the oven for dinner on Thanksgiving.
Out of oven and ready to serve. 

This was my favorite dish at dinner today, well second best, oyster stew was my very favorite. Yes, this recipe is a keeper.  

Something Other Than Pumpkin Pie

We are having an unusual Thanksgiving Dinner this year. Because of my eye surgery a few days before Thanksgiving it is difficult to cook so I toned down our usual Turkey Dinner.   I saw this recipe by Melisssa Clark in the NYT and thought it would be a different kind of dessert for the holidays.  Dan likes egg custard very much, and this is a twist on regular custard with maple syrup providing the sweetness.

                                                            NUTMEG-MAPLE CREAM PIE


  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • 2 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pre-baked 9-inch pie crust


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce maple syrup by a quarter, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
Reducing the maple syrup. 
Stir in cream.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and egg. Whisking constantly, slowly add cream mixture to eggs. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a cup or bowl with pouring spout. Stir in salt, nutmeg and vanilla.
Strain egg and cream mixture.
Add freshly grate nutmeg (The nutmeg is key to this recipe.)
Pour filling into crust and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until pie is firm to touch but jiggles slightly when moved, about 1 hour. Let cool to room temperature before serving.
Baked pie and custard.
Ready to eat. 
My pie crust didn't turn out so well, and I had more custard than it would hold so I filled three custard cups with the remaining mixture.  Since I have trouble making pie crust, next time I think I will just use this recipe and make individual custards. The nutmeg and maple combination made for a delicious custard.  I need to work on my pie crusts. 

Red Lentil Soup with Squash and Ginger

Red lentil, squash, ginger soup.

In the fall of the year, I am always on the lookout for new soup recipes, and I found this one in the NY Times.  I have modified this recipe by Martha Shulman.  Lentil soup is a favorite of ours, but never have I used red lentils.  I was intrigued by the use of a new (to me) kind of lentil especially in combination with winter squash.   And anything with a touch of ginger is always appealing.   


                                      Red lentil, squash, ginger soup


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 5 cups of diced butternut squash (I use the already diced available at the grocery.)
  • 2 quarts water 
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons butter 
  • Plain yogurt, for garnish


Heat oil over medium heat in large, heavy soup pot. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and cumin seeds. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute.

Stir in turmeric, squash, red lentils and 2 quarts water. Turn up heat, add salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, skim off foam, cover and simmer 35 to 45 minutes, until squash and lentils are tender.
Purée soup using an immersion blender (or working in batches in a blender).  Add black pepper and heat through.
Just before serving, add butter.

Add a dollop of yogurt as garnish.

Somewhere along the way of my learning to cook I discovered an easy way to peel garlic using the bowl of a spoon.
The red lentils turn a pale yellow when cooked.  
This recipe did not disappoint!

Apple Crisp a Great Fall Dessert

Stayman Winesap apples.

One of our favorite apples in the fall and winter is the Stayman Winesap.  It's very good for baking, and I was happy to get a bag of these at the Farmer's Market on Monday.   Here's a simple recipe that can be made in about an hour--20 minutes prep time and 40 minutes cooking time. This is modified from a recipe from  Allrecipes.com.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats (not the Quick Cook ones)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 cups apples--peeled, cored and chopped
1/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8-inch square pan with butter.
2.  In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, oats, flour, nutmeg, cardamom and butter.
Mix until crumbly.  Place half of the crumb mixture in pan.  Spread apples over the mixture.  Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and top with remaining crumb mixture.
3.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serves 8

Place half of crumb mixture in bottom of pan.
Spread apples over crumb mixture.

Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over apples.

Top with the remaining crumb mixture.

This is an easy and delicious fall dessert. 

Delicious Roasted Delicata Squash

The thin skin of this squash gets crisp when roasted, a nice contrast to the creamy, sweet flesh (No need to peel.)
I discovered a new winter squash at the Sur la Table cooking class the other night.  We prepared a roasted Delicata squash with shaved Parmesan and honey.  I was familiar with Acorn squash and Butternut squash, but Delicata is new to me.  I came home with the recipe and a determination to shop around and find a Delicata squash.  They were available at Harris-Teeter.  I prepared this as a side dish for dinner the other night.  It was well-received.

Serves four.

2 Delicata squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons of honey*
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped (I used dried thyme.)**
1 teaspoon sage, chopped (I used dried sage.)
3 ounces Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

With a sharp knife, trim the ends and cut squash in half lengthwise.  With a spoon scoop out the seeds and discard.  Cut each half crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces and add to a medium bowl.  Toss squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Spread squash onto a parchment lined (I used a silicone mat) rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the oven.  Roast squash, stirring once or twice, until fork tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Transfer squash to a medium bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the honey and herbs until warmed through and fragrant, about 1 minute.  Pour warmed honey over squash and toss to coat.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Transfer glazed squash to a bowl or serving platter and shave Parmesan cheese over the squash and serve.

* I learned a trick for accurately measuring honey without the honey sticking to the inside of the measuring spoon.   Smear the inside of the measuring spoon with cooking oil thinly and evenly.  Or you can use a cooking oil spray canister to spray the inside of the spoon. Pour the desired amount of honey in the measuring spoon.  The thin layer of oil prevents the honey from sticking to the spoon and you will accurately obtain the amount of honey called for in the recipe. 
** We used fresh thyme and sage in class, and it was much better than the dried that I used, but I didn't have fresh herbs.

"Let us Know if you Cut Yourself or Burn Yourself": My First Cooking Class

Last week I was one of nine women attending a cooking class at Sur la Table in North Hills.  As a somewhat novice cook, I was eager to learn to make the four featured recipes* and perhaps learn some new techniques.  As the chefs were giving us preliminary instructions, one of them said: " the knives are very sharp and the stoves are very hot so be sure and let us know if you cut or burn yourself."  I thought, oh boy, but I am happy to say nobody did either.  It was a fun and informative evening. 

We worked in groups of three at our individual stations in a beautiful modern kitchen at the rear of the store.  The class was beautifully organized, and everyone had an opportunity to make a contribution to each of the four recipes. 
Chef Cordell in the kitchen.
Chef Steve led us in the preparation of the pumpkin ice cream.

Pumpkin ice cream was the first recipe we tackled.  That was done early so that the mixture could be put into the freezer and would be ready for dessert.
Our sugar and spices and pumpkin puree all ready for making the ice cream.

Celebrating Fall Flavors with Chef Cordell McGary.
 Preparing the Savory Mushroom and Gruyere Bread Pudding gave everyone an opportunity to chop (using the knife properly) leeks, mushrooms, and spinach.  And to shred or grate cheese.  The puddings were set aside and later baked in the main oven. 
Here I am spreading the bread pudding into the casserole dish. (Photo by Assunta.)
 I learned a new term as we were browning the chicken for the Cider-Braised Chicken with Bacon and Apples.  The brown bits that collect in the bottom of a pan are "fond" (French for bottom pronounced fahn.  I knew the term deglazing when a liquid is added to the fond to loosen it from the pan to create a sauce.

Deglazing the fond.  (Photo from the internet to illustrate deglazing.)
Finally we prepared an interesting side dish using a winter squash new to me, Delicata squash.  It is a colorful little squash with a thin skin that gets crisp when roasted, making a nice contrast to the creamy, sweet flesh.    
Assunta preparing the Delicata squash.

At the end of the class all the dishes were ready and we had a delicious meal.

The three dishes we prepared ready to eat. 

The pumpkin ice cream was creamy and flavorful. 

My friend Assunta and I enjoyed the help of Chef Tie who is the newest Chef at Sur la Table, and she is a barrel of fun too.
Assunta (on left) and Chef Tie.

What did I learn in my first cooking class:  the term "fond" as it applies to cooking, a new kind of squash, Delicata, and most of all I learned what fun it is to take a cooking class.  I've already signed up for another one. 

*I will be making some of these recipes in the future so stay tuned.