Carri Thurman has been a friend since she traveled from her home in Homer, Alaska, to visit her fellow Homerian, Daniel Coyle, an author and journalist who’d moved to Cleveland with his Cleveland-born wife—bless you, Dan! (His last book, The Talent Code, is a fascinating look at how talent is developed.) Carri runs Two Sisters Bakery in Homer, and she offers here some fabulous confections for the holidays, right up our alley—proving once again that chocolate, like life, is better with bacon. Thanks for sharing, Carri, and for all the helpful step-by-step pix! —MR


by Carri Thurman

“Winter is not a season, it is an occupation.”—Sinclair Lewis

Does it get dark there? It’s a question we get a lot this far north. And Yes, Dorothy, it does get dark. Quite dark. Here in the South Central region of Alaska we are actually lucky to get almost 6 hours of light a day this time of year. Up north in Barrow they will not see the sun for two months! It’s a gradual process, throughout the fall months we watch as our light slowly slips away.

This makes the day that the earth’s axis shifts and the light starts returning kind of a big deal up here. December 21st, Winter Solstice, is one of the biggest celebrations of the year here and fire is at the heart of almost every gathering. It conveys a primal commonality we all share. And though we are all from somewhere else, with different ways of honoring the season, celebrating the return of the light is one holiday we can all come together on. It has been a tradition at our house to have a big outdoor party. We put candles in ice votives or big glass jars, pull the old couch in front of the fire pit in the yard and raise a toast to the star-filled skies. We also like to serve a dessert so cliche it puts the camp back into campy. Yule Log Cakes, in all their retro glory, have been a part of holiday tradition dating back to middle-century France and are making a solid comeback at our bakery. A big favorite for catered parties, especially for the year-end celebration at the local Fire Hall!

And so, in honor of the return of the light, I present to you a log of cake so delicious that its guaranteed to melt the hearts of the scroogiest of Scrooges. And remember, while there are many steps involved, the only real skills required to pull this off are bravery and patience.
Equipment you will need:

  • 13”x18” sheet pan with 1” sides
  • Parchment Paper
  • Electric Mixer
  • Pastry Bag with large plain round tip
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Sieve
  • Whisk
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Liquid and dry measuring cups and measuring spoons
  • Serving Tray

Order of Operations:

  • Make Mushrooms—Store pieces up to 1 month ahead, assemble as needed.
  • Mix Ganache—Can keep at room temp 3 days.
  • Bake cake—Can store wrapped at room temp 3 days.
  • Make Mousse Frosting—Day of assembly.
  • Cake can be assembled and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead, put mushrooms and other decorations on right before serving


Meringue Mushrooms

(Pieces can be made up to a month ahead, assemble as needed)

  • 1 cup (8 ounces/ 240 milliliters) egg whites (separate carefully, being sure no trace of yolk gets in or it will not properly gain volume)
  • 1 cup (7 ounces/ 200 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces/ 60 milliliters) raspberry ganache (reserved from below)
  1. Put egg whites in a clean dry mixing bowl and whisk in the sugar. Place over a pan of simmering water and continue to whisk until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Place bowl on mixer and attach the wire whip. Beat on medium high speed until stiff peaks form when you pull out the whisk.
  3. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe 2 inch round dome tops onto parchment lined sheet pan. Pipe stems by holding pastry bag straight up and lifting slightly while squeezing the bag. Remember: rustic is good.
  4. Bake in a preheated 250 degree F./120 degree C. oven 1 1/2 hours. Cool completely then peel off of parchment and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To assemble: Spread a small amount of ganache on flat bottom of dome top and press ganache side down onto the pointy end of a stem. Refrigerate to harden.

Olive Oil Chocolate Cake

  • 1 1/2 (8 ounces/226 grams) cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/3 (1.5 ounces/ 42 grams) cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 cup (7 ounces/ 200 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (0.3 ounces/ 8 grams) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.2 ounces/ 6 grams) Morton’s kosher salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces/ 240 milliliters) tepid water
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces/ 60 milliliters) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) white vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F./150 degrees C. Lightly oil a 13” x 18” baking pan and line with a piece of parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. With a dry whisk, mix together until very well blended and no lumps are visible.
  3. In a small pitcher measure water, oil and vinegar, don’t worry about trying to mix together.
  4. Pour liquid over flour mixture in large bowl and whisk together until very smooth. Pour into prepared pan.
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes or until center springs back when tapped lightly. Cool completely.
  6. Wrap tightly in the pan, it will keep at room temp for 3 days. Freeze for up to one month.

Raspberry Ganache

  • 4 cups (24 ounces/ 950 milliliters) semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 cups (24 ounces/ 700 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 8 ounces (1 cup/ 240 milliliters) raspberry jam
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat cream and jam together. Whisk until well combined and scalding hot (180 degrees F./82 degrees C.)
  2. Place Chocolate chips in a medium heatproof bowl and pour in the hot cream mixture through sieve to strain out the seeds. Let sit 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Cool at room temperature until spreadable. This can be accelerated by placing bowl in an ice water bath and stirring frequently.
  5. Reserve 1/4 cup for mushroom assembly. Divide remainder in half. (half is the filling for the cake and the other half will be folded with whipped cream for the frosting.)

Mousse Frosting

  • 2 cups (16 ounces/ 475 milliliters) raspberry ganache
  • 2 cups (16 ounces/ 475 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces/ 56 grams) sugar
  1. Whip cream and sugar together until stiff. Fold in Ganache. Make this right before assembling the cake. Keep cool but not cold for maximum spreadability.

To assemble cake:

  1. Run a small knife around edges of cake to release it from the pan. Slide out onto counter, long side facing you and leaving the parchment paper on the bottom intact.
  2. Spread the reserved half of the raspberry ganache onto the cake, leaving about an inch wide strip of cake bare along the top edge.
  3. Starting at the lower left corner roll up like a cinnamon roll, moving a little at a time to the right and repeating until roll is complete, pulling the paper away and using it to pull the roll tight as you go. Keep the paper attached to the exposed surface of the cake and refrigerate until very firm, about 3 hours. (pop in the freezer if you’re in a hurry)
  4. Unwrap cake and cut about 1/3 of one end off using a serrated bread knife. Place the long end on the serving tray and prop the other end up next to it so the cut face is facing up.
  5. Spread mousse frosting over the sides of cake using long rough strokes to mimic bark, leave the ends unfrosted.
  6. Arrange the mushrooms around and tuck in some flowers or pine boughs to really dress it up. If you want a snowy log, sift a little powdered sugar over the whole thing right before serving.

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© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.