What says holiday cheer more than lights, candles, and flowers on the dining table?
I'll tell you what:
(Not the result of leaving food out for too long)
Yule logs in the French tradition (Bûche de Noël) are often decorated with little mushrooms made from meringue, rather than being obliterated by a heaping of festive plastic flotsam.
Meringue mushrooms are incredibly easy and fun to make. I used this recipe from Joy of Baking which includes detailed instructions. Put simply, you basically whip egg whites with sugar and a touch of cream of tartar until very still and glossy. Pipe tall mounds for the stems and fat mounds for the caps, and then bake until dry. Use either melted chocolate or more meringue to attach the pieces together, and then just stick them to the cake.
Either leave them in place when serving, or attach one to each slice.
The cake inside is a chocolate sponge cake that is an old standby - not just because of the simplicity of the recipe (just eggs, sugar, pinch of salt and cocoa powder), but because it's also gluten free. Unlike many other gluten-free baking recipes, it has a very light and airy texture, so it pairs equally well with light fillings (like mousses) or rich fillings, like the dark chocolate ganache that I used here. The cake was also lined with a thin layer of passionfruit wine jelly before rolling, just for a little added flavour to come through the heaviness of the chocolate.