When we talked with Darren McGrady, the Royal Family's former private chef (and later Princess Diana's chef — yes, he considers those two very different titles), he told us about cooking for the Queen of the kitchen, as well as his thoughts on the upcoming William and Kate nuptials. And that chocolate cake recipe passed down from Victorian era Royal Family chefs that's used for birthdays (make the following recipes as a straight layer cake) and special occasions (shape it into a Yule Log). Sure makes that recipe box from grandma lose a bit of its campy charm.

Could this be the groom's cake for William and Kate's wedding? Turn the page for the history behind the English Yule log cake, and the recipe.

Darren McGrady in Eating Royally explains: “There is a custom that dates back to the 12th century in England that on Christmas Eve an enormous log of freshly cut wood would be brought into the house. This was known as the 'Yule Log'. It would be placed on the hearth and sprinkled with mulled wine, oil and salt. Prayers would be said and the log would then be lit. It was said that the cinders of this log could protect the house from lightning and the powers of the devil.”

“Over the years the log became smaller and has transformed into a centerpiece on the Christmas table, decorated with candles and greenery. In many homes the custom has changed to the kitchen where a chocolate Yule log was prepared instead. This is the tradition with the royal family, where each Christmas Eve I would prepare a 'Yule Log' for the royal table.”

Chocolate Roulade “Yule Log”

From: Eating Royally by Darren McGrady.

Makes 1 whole cake, approximately 8 to 10 servings.

Note: You need to prepare the filling one day ahead.


1 ¼ cups heavy cream

8 ounces sweet dark Chocolate (melted)


8 egg yolks

8 egg whites

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

¾ cup potato starch

½ cup cocoa powder, Dutch processed

The frosting:

2 ½ cups heavy cream

1 lb. sweet dark chocolate (melted)

2 tablespoons butter, for greasing tray

2 tablespoons flour, for greasing tray

1 sheet of parchment paper at least 18inches by 12 inches

¼ cup sugar, for sprinkling on the parchment

1. Prepare the filling a day ahead by bringing 1 ¼ cups of cream to the boil and pouring it on to the 8 ounces melted chocolate, whisking all the time until the cream is mixed in. Leave to cool at room temperature overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 18 by 12 inch tray with parchment paper and grease using a pastry brush and lightly dust with flour. In a mixing bowl whisk the yolks and 1 ½ cups of sugar until pale. Sieve the potato starch and cocoa together into a bowl.

3. Whip the egg whites until stiff and fold half into the beaten egg yolks and sugar. Add the potato starch and cocoa mix and fold in followed by the rest of the whipped whites.

Spread the mixture onto the prepared tray and bake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes or until the sponge is firm to touch in the center.

4. Remove from the oven and loosen the edges of the sponge with a sharp knife. Place the parchment paper on the table and sprinkle with the ¼ cup of sugar. Invert the sponge onto the sugared parchment paper and allow to cool.

5. Spread the filling(made the day before) over the sponge leaving a ½ gap at each edge and holding the parchment paper roll the sponge like a jelly roll. Lift the roll onto a large cooling wire with a tray underneath.

6. Measure 4 inches from the end of the roll and cut a piece off on a slant. Do the same on the other end cutting starting the cut 2 inches into the log this time. Use some of the filling and stick the two pieces the 4 inch piece on the side of the large roll – in the middle and the 2 inch piece on the top of the roll to create a “chopped log” effect.

7. Prepare the frosting by bringing 2 ½ cups of cream to the boil and pouring it on to the 1lb of melted chocolate in a large bowl, whisking all the time until the cream is mixed in. Ladle the chocolate frosting over the top and sides of the log covering all of the sponge.

8. Leave until set, about 4 hours and decorate with grated chocolate and powdered sugar.

LA Weekly