Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and line a 16x22 inch baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt.
Beat eggs and sugar on high for 5 minutes or until light, fluffy and pale yellow in color. Reduce the mixing speed to medium/low and add vanilla extract and buttermilk. Mix for a minute for the ingredients to blend well. The batter will be a little thin and that's what you actually want.
Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and add in the prepped dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt) into the egg mixture, ½ cup at a time. Using a hand whisk, gently mix in the dry ingredients with each addition, trying not to deflate air pockets as much as possible.
Tree Stump Cake Baking Instructions
Transfer the batter into the earlier greased 16x22 inch baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 F (180 C) for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Allow the cake sponge to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring it from the baking sheet onto a cooling rack.
Make another batch of this sheet cake sponge using the same ingredients for this cake.
Cool both sheet cake sponges completely before frosting.
Tree Stump Cake Frosting Instructions
While the cake sponges are cooling, make the frosting.
First, you will need to make the chocolate ganache (my favorite NO FAIL recipe) and cool completely before proceeding with the rest of the frosting instructions.
Start by beating softened butter until creamy and smooth. Add softened cream cheese and beat again until both are well combined.
Then add cooled chocolate ganache and mix until well combined, for a minute or so. Scrape down the cream off the sides of the mixer bowl halfway through.
Mix in cocoa powder and then add powdered sugar, half a cup at a time. Once the powdered sugar is well blended in, increase the mixing speed to high and beat for a minute.
NOTE: This entire batch of frosting is for the inside of the cake only. You will need to make another batch of this frosting recipe to decorate the top and the sides of the cake later on after the cake sets for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Assembling the Tree Stump Cake
You should have your 2 sheets of 14x20 cake sponges cooled completely before frosting them.
Split each sheet cake sponge in half vertically to have four 7x20 inch cake sponges (even though the photo below is showing just one sheet).
Using a half-cup ice cream scoop, add 4 scoops of frosting to each of the 4 strips of sponge cake. (Yes, that's four to four! Diabetics stay away...)
Using a cake spatula spread out the frosting evenly over all 4 strips of cake sponges. (The image below shows only one sheet cake sponge, repeat the same frosting steps with the second sheet).
This is a tricky and very important step. Start rolling the first strip like you would roll a regular cake roll. Firmly roll the sponge while at the same time focusing on preventing the cake sponges from breaking. Add the next strip by lining it up the short sides next to each other as soon after the previous one ends.
Use the parchment paper for stability to help hold the roll together during the rolling process so that it does not unroll. Use all 4 strips of sheet cake sponges as one continuous long roll. When rolling up the last strip leave the parchment paper on and wrap additional strips of parchment paper (the ones you baked the cakes on) around the entire perimeter to hold this cake in place.
Flip the cake log upright. You will need an assistant to hold both ends of the parchment paper snug around the cake, while you secure the parchment papers together by taping a long strip of 2" wide clear scotch tape over the parchment paper all the way around the cake.
If you have some frosting left (usually a cup or so), use it up by spread it over the top of the cake. Then refrigerate the cake for 4 hours or overnight (my preference).
Make the Frosted Cranberries the night before to give them time to dry and be ready for decorating the cake the next day.
How to Decorate the Tree Strum Cake
The next day I start by making another batch of the frosting. Once the frosting is done, cut the clear tape and peel the parchment paper off the cake. The cake should be set, firm, and stable at this point. It is ready to be decorated.
Add about one and a half cup more of the frosting on top of the cake. Spread it out evenly. Then using a cake spatula, make the swirl design.
Then fit a piping bag with a Wilton 1M attachment and fill with chocolate buttercream. First, pipe rose shape spread out randomly all around the cake. Then pipe vertical strips of cream in between the rose-shaped design starting from the base of the case to the top around the perimeter to represent the bark of the tree.
Decorate the cake with fresh pine tree stems and frosted cranberries. You may also decorate the cake with meringue mushrooms (using this meringue cookies recipe) or however you like.
Place the cake into the fridge for a couple more hours.
Just before serving the cake sprinkle some powdered sugar to resemble the snow.
How to Heat a Knife for Perfectly Clean Slices
If you like to see nice and clean slices of cake as I do, it is important to know a few tips that will deliver that satisfying look for you. Slicing the cake with a warmed clean knife will turn out each and every slice of the cake clean and beautiful.
Place a long knife into a tall cup filled with hot water for 15 seconds or so. Remove the knife from the water and dry it using a paper towel. The hot knife will melt away stickiness and cleanly slice through the layers if you cut only in one downward direction, and pull the knife out at the base of the cake.
Repeat the same instruction each time you make a slice and you've got a drool-worthy presentation with each slice of this deliciousness you worked so hard on. Happy slicing and eating!