This year, our Christmas Yule Log will be elegant, fancy, and… tart! It consists of a supremely moist cake filled with lemon curd and covered with swirls of torched meringue!
Every year in France, the tradition is to bake a yule log (or bûche de Noël) served as a Christmas dessert. The most common combination is a basic sponge cake and a chocolate buttercream. Last year, for my very first Christmas in Chicago (and in the US!), I felt nostalgic about France and came up with this Chocolate-Orange Cake Roll topped with Caramelized Nuts, which is akin to the original recipe. Rich, flavorful, and with a delicious crunchy topping.
With years, many variations of the yule log have emerged and there are endless possibilities to bake them. A couple of years ago, I went exotic with a Chocolate Mango Yule Log: it was a huge success. If, like me, you like the chocolate-mango combo, this is a must try, so are these Chocolate-Mango Beggar’s Purses which would also make a nice Christmas dessert!
This year I went for something completely different that is indeed a twist to the traditional meringue lemon pie – another popular dessert in France by the way. While David is usually not a fan of the classic yule log made with buttercream, he is however totally crazy about meringue lemon pie, which ranks in the top three in his dessert Hall of Deliciousness. I love lemon meringue pie myself for the delicious lemon curd and also for the fancy white and golden meringue swirls topping!
The first thing to know here is that this Lemon Curd Yule Log is actually easy to make. No need to be an expert in baking! The sponge cake is ready in less time than you need to say it, while the lemon curd is actually very simple to make. Here I combined lemon with white chocolate, which gives a delicious extra sweetness to the curd. For a more classic lemon curd recipe without the white chocolate, you can check my recipe here, that I even used in these adorable Lemon Curd & Raspberry Cupcakes. If you have lemon curd leftovers, which you will certainly have, you can store it in a airtight container such as a glass jar. Add a lovely ribbon to it and it will make a wonderful edible present for Christmas!
Christmas is about white and snow – at least here in Chicago with only -4°F (-20°C) outside – so a meringue looks just perfect for the season. I made French meringue many times, but I had never made an Italian meringue (which has nothing to do with Italy by the way) before. As I moved to Chicago 4 months ago only, I am not fully equipped in my kitchen and for instance I have no thermometer, usually recommended to make an Italian meringue. The good news is that you can also make it without thermometer, and it is actually much easier than you think, even if you cannot control the exact temperature of 239°F (115°C). Just follow my instructions in the recipe and you will learn how to master a perfect fluffy Italian meringue without a thermometer!
The second step is to slightly brown your meringue swirls with a hand-held torch, in order to give them a beautiful white and golden aspect. If you don’t have a torch, you can also brown the finished recipe in the oven by baking or using the broiler. Personally, I don’t recommend the latter option as the finished result won’t be as beautiful as the one made with a torch: in the oven, your meringue usually comes out with a uniform golden color that makes the white color disappear, while with a torch it gives a flamboyant contrast between white yellow-golden swirls. In my opinion, it looks much fancier this way. Plus you can use your torch to make some delicious crèmes brûlées another time, hmmm…!
With this Lemon Meringue Pie Style Yule Log, you will for sure impress your guests this Christmas and amaze their palates. Oh, and in case you wouldn’t like to give it a shape of a Yule log, you can also make a lovely layer cake instead – everything will be the same except that you will need to slice the sponge cake to fit a classic springform. My advice: start with a sponge cake base, spread some lemon curd on top, add another layer of sponge cake, then cover with the meringue. Just stunning!
- ¾ cup (18 cl) lemon juice
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ⅓ cup (60g) caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup (180g) white chocolate
- 3 large eggs, white and yolk apart
- ¼ cup (50g) sugar
- ¼ cup (30g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup (30g) corn starch
- 1 Tablespoon (15g) caster sugar
- 1 lemon, juice
- ½ cup (100ml) water
- ½ cup (100g) caster sugar
- 2 egg whites
- The day before: in a small saucepan, stir together lemon juice, zests, sugar and eggs, and warm on low-medium heat until the mixture thickens, stirring regularly. Melt white chocolate in water bath or in the microwave.
- Pour the lemon cream over the melted white chocolate in 3 additions using a rubber spatula, stirring vigorously. The curd must be smooth. Pour into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.
- The day after, prepare the sponge cake: preheat the oven to 340°F (170°C) and line a baking tray with a 10"x14⅜" (240x365 mm) silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Beat the whites until almost fluffy and add sugar. Slowly incorporate yolks with a rubber spatula. Add corn starch and stir well.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet and smooth the surface. Bake for about 8 minutes. The sponge cake must be supple.
- Wait a few minutes until the sponge cake cool, then brush the lemon-sugar syrup on top evenly to moister the cake.
- Spread the lemon curd on top. Roll it lengthwise, then gently and slowly roll it up with the towel, that will prevent from sticking. Store in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
- In the meantime, prepare the Italian meringue: mix water and sugar in a small saucepan, and heat the syrup to 240°F (115°C) without stirring.*
- Beat the whites and when they are foamy but not yet firm. Very gradually stream the hot sugar syrup into your egg whites as they continue to whip on low to medium speed. Once you've added all of the syrup, increase the mixer speed to medium-high. Continue mixing until the meringue reaches stiff peaks.
- Remove the sponge cake from the refrigerator and cut the extremities. Cover immediately with the Italian meringue.** Use a tablespoon to make some swirls, or a piping bag to make even prettier swirls on your yule log.
- Gently brown with a hand held torch to create golden swirls.***
** You can store Italian meringue to the refrigerator for up to 30 minutes in the refrigerator before using.
*** If you don't have a hand held torch (cooking torch), just bake your yule log in the oven over the grill position until the extremities start to golden. At this point, remove straight away, you don't want your meringue to be brown on all parts. Good to know: the final aspect will not be as beautiful as the one you obtain when using a torch.