Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Tradition

Not every year, but many years, my mom makes us a Buche de Noel (Yule Log) for Christmas Eve. It is a process that usually takes her a fair amount of time, and often involves her cursing like a sailor. Well, this year, with my new found blog and baking habit, I thought I would take a crack at it. A friend of mine was having a holiday party, and I thought it would be the perfect thing to bring along. I approached the recipe with some trepidation, as I had only ever tried one other roll cake, and it did not turn out well.  I used the recipe from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, which deviated in many ways from a traditional buche, which has a genoise cake and buttercream filling. Her buche instead uses a flourless soufflĂ© cake, and is filled with whipped cream, then covered in ganache. Having no experience, and wanting something easy to start with (her recipe was very straightforward), I decided to use her suggestions, and, I was very happy with the results. This cake is not very sweet in the way a traditional American cake often is. Apart from the meringue mushrooms there was only about 1/3 of a cup of sugar in this whole recipe (excluding the sugar already in the chocolate). However, the tastes in the cake come together really well, and the lack of sweetness didn’t bother me. If anything it really brings out the richness of the chocolate.

I adorned my cake with meringue mushrooms, which no buche is complete without. If you want additional adornment, my mother used to make a simple green frosting that she would use to pipe vines and leaves. I was too lazy to go to that much trouble. The Cake Bible also suggests marzipan leaves and meringue pine needles, both of which struck me as too much work.

Assembly instructions for this recipe are at the bottom, though you may wish to make the ganache and meringue mushrooms once you have filled the roll and left it to set.

Happy Holidays!

Buche de Noel

Chocolate Cloud Roll

¼ cup + 2 T sugar (divided) 
6 large eggs, separated 
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted 
¾ tsp cream of tartar 
1 T unsweetened cocoa

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 17 x 12 jellyroll pan. Line the pan with foil, leaving overhangs on the long sides. Grease and then flour the foil (it is crucial that you do this well).

2. In a mixing bowl beat ¼ of the sugar with the egg yolks for five minutes, or until they are light and fluffy. Add the chocolate and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3. In a different bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2 T of sugar, beating until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.

4. Fold ¼ of the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Gently fold the remaining whites into the yolks. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly with a spatula. Bake for 16 minutes, the cake will have puffed and will spring back when lightly pressed.

5. As soon as the cake is out of the oven, sprinkle it with the cocoa powder. Take a clean dish towel, wet it, and wring it out. Place the towel over the cake while it cools.


Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream 
2 T granulated sugar 
2 T cocoa powder 
1 tsp instant espresso powder 
½ tsp vanilla

1. Put all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Place the bowl and whisk attachment for your mixer in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

2. Using a mixer set on medium speed, whip the cream to soft peaks.


Dark Chocolate Ganache

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate 
1 2/3 cup heavy cream 
2 T Frangelico

1. Break the chocolate into pieces. Place in the bowl of a food processor and process until very fine. Heat the cream to the boiling point. With the food processor running pour in the heated cream. Pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the Frangelico. Let cool until the ganache has reached a spreadable consistency (this can be expedited by putting it in the fridge or freezer, but watch it closely to make sure you don’t over cool it and have to start over.


Meringue Mushrooms

2 large egg whites 
¼ tsp cream of tartar 
½ cup + 1 T superfine sugar 
Cocoa powder for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. In a mixing bowl fitted with a clean whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium speed while gradually adding 2 T of the sugar. When soft peaks form add 1 more T of sugar and increase speed to high. When stiff peaks form gradually beat in the remaining sugar.

2. Using a pastry  bag fitted with a ½ inch tip (for me this was just a bear coupler), pipe mushroom caps and stems onto a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment. To pipe stems, keep the bag close to the sheet, rising slowly while squeezing, so that domes form. Use the tip of the bag to smooth any point that remains when you remove the tip. To pipe stems, start close to the sheet and rise quickly, so that you pipe tapered columns that end in a point.

3. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until meringue is crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

4. Dust the caps with cocoa powder. To assemble mushrooms, I just stuck the pointy end of the stems straight into the bases of the caps. Others suggest piping a little raw meringue or using chocolate to hold these together.



1. Lifting with the foil overhang, gently slide the cake from the pan onto the counter.

2. Spread the whipped cream evenly over the cake

3. Beginning with the side closest to you, Use the foil to lift one edge of the cake and begin to roll it. As you go check to make sure the cake is not sticking to the foil. If this goes unchecked it will remove large strips from your cake. If any parts of the cake do come lose (mine did), use a little bit of whipped cream to stick them back on.

4. Once the cake is rolled, put it in the fridge for an hour to set.

5. Remove the cake from the fridge. Cutting at a diagonal, remove 5-6 inches from the cake. This will be used to make the branch.

6. Spread ganache over the cake. Try to use a light touch. Especially when it comes to the ends. Place some extra ganache where you want the branch to go on, and place the branch there, pressing it into the ganache. Cover the branch in ganache as well. Remember this is supposed to look like a log, so the ganache doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth or even.

7. Use the times of a fork to make a grain pattern in the frosting. At the ends and top of the knot move the fork in a circle. Cover and refrigerate until one hour before serving. Only attach the meringue mushrooms just before serving.

8. Serve

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