I think every family has their ‘must have’ dishes which make Christmas complete. Ours certainly does. Rich, moist Christmas cake is definitely one plus tasty mince pies. Crunchy-skinned baked potatoes on Boxing Day and roasted Brussel sprouts also make the list. As does Yule Log. This is my daughter’s request as she’s not a fan of fruity festive treats; chocolate, however, is on the top of her ‘must have’ list 🙂
In our pre-plant based days, it was easy – I just bought one. But once we all went dairy-free that wasn’t so easy. This was 10 years ago when vegan options were still somewhat limited. So I created my own recipe, adapting it once again when I started following the Overcoming MS programme and had to omit dairy-free margarine. And chocolate.
So, how is this a chocolate yule log with no chocolate in it? A very reasonable question to ask 😉 For a start, a lot of chocolate used in cooking contains milk in some form. But dark chocolate is still a problem, the main issue being the high amount of saturated fat – roughly 30g in 100g portion. This is way too high for a health or disease reversing programme like OMS. Cacao (raw) or cocoa powder on the other hand has a much lower level of saturated fat – 8g in 100g portion, which is still relatively high, but much better. Cacao also contains some fantastic nutrients like magnesium and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, so a moderate amount is not all bad – and tastes so good 🙂
Getting the frosting to work was a challenge to start with. But then I discovered the adaptability of sweet potato and how it makes a wonderful base for frosting. And so easily too. There’s a little video on Youtube here to show you just how easy it is. If you’re not a sweet potato fan, I find avocado also works well. It raises the fat content quite dramatically though, so it might not be the best option for you if you’re being super vigilant.
To make a log shape the sponge needs to be rolled up. A swiss roll or lightly whisked sponge cake is used for this. Traditionally this involves lots of egg white. However, as this is a plant-based recipe, we need to use an alternative – aquafaba.
If you’ve not come across it, aquafaba is the fluid leftover in the tin or saucepan from cooked chickpeas. Yup, you read that right. And by now if you’re thinking “What? Now this mad woman wants me to put chickpeas as well as vegetables in a dessert!” just bear with me – this fluid that usually gets thrown away makes a great alternative to egg whites. After all, if you think about what egg white actually is, chickpea juice is much less disgusting!
If you want to find out more about aquafaba and how else you can use it in your plant-based cooking, check out this information page here.
I find that bought tinned chickpea brine whisks up more effectively than using the leftover fluid from home-cooked chickpeas, but I know people have success with both. Make sure you choose an unsalted version; for this recipes you will need the fluid from two 400g tins. I have lots of recipes on my website for chickpeas like hummus, jalfrezi or breakfast hash so they won’t go to waste.
You can use gluten free flour for this recipe, but make sure it has xanthum gum in the mix. This helps to stop the cake from falling apart, although to be honest with you, it is extremely difficult to stop this sponge from breaking even when it’s not gluten free, as you can see from the photo below. But never fear, it’s possible to press it all together again. And as it’s going to be covered in lovely frosting (and unless you’re entering it into a baking competition), no-one will be too worried if it doesn’t have a perfect curl inside. If they do, they can go and find their own yule log to eat!
My chocolate frosting is perfect for anyone following special programmes like Overcoming MS which omit saturated fats and dairy. Admittedly it’s not as sweet as most chocolate frostings, but still taste delicious and complements the super sweet sponge. And it allows yule log to be back on the menu, which in my book is a really good thing!
Finally, if you want to go all out with the Christmas flavours, add a layer of chestnut puree on the inside of your yule log along with a layer of the chocolate frosting. But if you don’t happen to have any to hand, then don’t worry as it tastes fabulous with or without.
To be honest, this is one of my more complicated recipes, but if you are used to baking then hopefully you won’t find it too difficult. I’ve made this recipe many times and have taught it to others too in my cooking classes. To be honest, it’s always messy and not always perfect, but you can cover any cracks or breaks with the frosting and it tastes delicious so who cares? 😉 Don’t be put off if you’re not a free-from baking aficionado – if I can do it, anyone can!
I hope you get a chance to make this lovely yule log. If you do, don’t forget to let me know how you get on. It’s a wonderful Christmas treat.
- 3 tablespoons soya milk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 240 ml aquafaba (the brine from a tin of chickpeas)
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 150 grams coconut sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence
- 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 170 grams whole-wheat self-raising flour or gluten-free self-raising flour mix
- 2 teaspoons baking powder (ensure GF if needed)
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
Sweet potato or avocado chocolate frosting
- 1 medium sweet potato baked in its skin, cooled and peeled
- 1 medium ripe avocado peeled and destoned
- 2-4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons cocoa or raw cacao powder
- 185 grams pack chestnut puree optional
- 2 tablespoons soya milk
- icing sugar to dust for decoration
- Lightly grease a swiss roll tin and cover with baking paper.
- Add a little lemon juice to the soya milk and leave to thicken and curdle
- Pour the aquafaba into a large bowl and whisk until thick and stiff. Add the cream of tartar and whisk again, then gradually pour in the coconut sugar whisking all the time. Finally add the vanilla essence and soured soya milk, whisk again to keep thick and light.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a separate bowl. Mix well to ensure everything is combined
- Carefully pour the flour mix into the aquafaba mix, quickly and lightly folding it in. Try to keep as much of the air present as possible. It will become thick.
- Quickly spoon out onto the prepared baking tray and lightly spread out to evenly cover – don’t press it down though. Tap on the work top a couple of times.
- Place the tray in the oven and bake for 8 minutes.
- Place a clean tea towel on the work top and cover it with a clean piece of baking paper. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the paper.
- Check the cake -if the sponge is firm but springy, it’s ready. If it’s still a little wet, return to the oven for another couple of minutes but do not overbake.
- Remove the tin from the oven. Carefully turn the cake out onto the prepared baking paper. Peel away the paper from the top, then roll up in the new baking paper lengthways. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool.
- Make the chocolate frosting by placing the prepared sweet potato or avocado, maple syrup and cocoa/cacao powder into the bowl of a small food processor. Whizz until the mix is well combined and smooth. Taste and add more maple syrup or cocoa as needed for taste and/or texture.
- Place the chestnut puree in a bowl and loosen slightly with the soya milk so it is spreadable.
- Once fully cool, unroll. It may crack and break a little, but don’t worry!
- Spread 1/3 of the sweet potato icing over the cake and the chestnut puree if using. Carefully roll up lengthways.
- Cover the outside with the remaining sweet potato cream, creating a wood effect with a fork.
- Transfer to a serving plate or board. Sprinkle icing sugar over the top if using and leave to set in the fridge before serving