Video: Making the perfect Yule log for your Christmas day feast

James Marston and Jane Sago make a Yule Log ready for Christmas

James Marston and Jane Sago make a Yule Log ready for Christmas - Credit: Lucy Taylor

It looks impressive but the traditional Yule log is easier to make than you might think, as James Marston discovered when he got festive with Jane Sago.

James Marston and Jane Sago make a Yule Log ready for Christmas

James Marston and Jane Sago make a Yule Log ready for Christmas - Credit: Lucy Taylor

In her Bramford kitchen, Jane, a keen baker and WI stalwart, has got out cocoa powder, flour, icing sugar and butter to create one of Christmas’ most traditional foods – a Yule log.

The mother-of-two and grandmother-of-five said: “Christmas is all about family for me. I am going to my son’s for Christmas day this year but on Boxing day the whole family come to me and that’s when we have the Yule log. I make one most years and it’s not that difficult. The tricky bit is rolling the sponge.”

Jane, who is vice chairman of the Suffolk East Federation of Women’s Institutes, is a trained cookery judge and demonstrator – just what an inexperienced cook like me needs to guide me through the process. She is also a big admirer of Mary Berry.

She said: “You can make a Yule log in advance and freeze it or keep it in a tin for up to a week. It really doesn’t take that long to make, you can even make it on Christmas Eve if you can find the time.”

James Marston and Jane Sago make a Yule Log ready for Christmas

James Marston and Jane Sago make a Yule Log ready for Christmas - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Jane turns on the oven.

She said: “I like all the traditional Christmas foods, turkey and mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding. Every family has its own traditions, for some reason we have pink wafer biscuits and chocolate marshmallows on Christmas day for tea.”

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Jane said the Yule log is symbolic of a big log or tree coming into the house in mid winter.

She said: “The tradition has been interpreted into cake. Basically it is a chocolate Swiss roll which is a fatless sponge. It is simple to make. You roll it up when it’s still warm and comes out of the oven. It doesn’t matter if it cracks because you are going to cover it in icing anyway. It looks impressive for very few ingredients.”

The first job is to weigh out some caster sugar.

Jane said: “Don’t rush it James, now you’ll have to take some out. Oh well.”

Then we add the eggs.

“I think you might need a little bowl don’t you?” Jane advises.

Then mix together with Jane’s new whisk.

She added: “Whisk it for a while until it turns pale and thick and leaves a trail. It takes a little while but it’s easier than doing it by hand.”

Once ready its time to weigh out the cocoa powder and self raising flour.

Jane demonstrates the next step.

She said: “Fold it in carefully. You don’t want to push out all the air. That’s it, make sure there are no pockets of flour because that won’t be very nice.”

Once folded I pour the mixture into a Swiss roll tin lined with baking parchment.

Jane added: “Just pour it in and it will find its own level. Ease it into the corners but don’t tip it up too much.”

Once in the tin its time for the oven – 200 degrees fan – for ten minutes – just enough time to pour a sherry and drink it.

The timer goes and its time – according to the recipe – to remove from oven and invert tin on to sugared parchment. This means you sieve a little bit of icing sugar on some baking parchment and turn out the sponge on to it.

Jane said: “Trim the edges, don’t trim too much though, and then make a score mark about an inch from one of the short ends. But don’t cut right though.”

Now comes the tricky part.

“Roll up the sponge with the parchment paper inside. This means it will be easier to roll with icing inside later.”

I managed this without too much trouble.

Jane said: “That’s quite impressive James. Now wait for it to cool.”

Time for another sherry – it is nearly Christmas.

Thankfully Jane has already made up the butter cream icing – to save me a bit of time – but basically it is made by beating together soft butter, sieved icing sugar and a splash of water.

Once cooled the next step is to unroll the sponge – gently.

Jane said: “Now spread the icing on the sponge – not too thinly in case you tear the sponge.”

I gingerly rolled up the sponge, taking my time.

Jane said: “Now comes the fun bit. Decorate with buttercream. I tend to use a knife and it ends up naturally looking a bit like a log.”

Jane’s right, it does, and even though I say so myself, I’m quite impressed with my creation.

And just in case it all went wrong, there’s always the one we made earlier.