The Buche de Noel is a spectacular extravaganza from France and is one dessert, among many, of their gifts to the world of food. And what a gift it is! While it looks complicated, it can be done over several weeks. I have posted a schedule below. Buche de Noel translates to Yule Log. It is basically a jelly roll with the ends cut off and decorated to look like a tree trunk lying on the ground.
We had a loyal following that would order the Buche de Noel every year. The photograph to the left was from our online catalog. It is one of my favorites.
The Buche de Noel consist of a sponge that is filled and rolled like a jelly roll. Any number of buttercreams, curds or seedless raspberry preserves can be used inside. The ends are cut off to make the knots on the top and side. The entire creation is finished in chocolate buttercream. It is then finished to look like a log. It can be decorated in a number of ways. We made meringue mushrooms, chocolate leaves and fondant holly berries.
For this Buche de Noel, I have used a coffee buttercream filling. The strawberry buttercream would also be fantastic. The chocolate buttercream used here is based on one from "The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It is ultra light, smooth and unbelievably easy. Just perfect for this cake.
Because there are several parts to the finished Buche de Noel, they can be scheduled as follows:
- Chocolate Leaves, make up to a month before using
- Meringue Mushrooms, make several weeks before using. Do not dust with cocoa. Store in an airtight container until needed.
- Holly Berries - several weeks before needing. Make and let dry out.
- Filled Sponge - up to a month before finishing. Thaw in refrigerator before finishing. It will cut better if the buttercream is cold.
Spongecake can be difficult to roll when cold. There are several ways of getting the sponge to roll without cracking.
- The first is to cool the sponge in the pan. Turn it out, remove the paper and wash it with a sugar syrup (equal parts of water and sugar brought to a boil) to which liqueur of your choice has been added.
- A second way is to powder sugar a piece of foil and place the warm sponge on it. Roll it up and leave it rolled up until needed, then unroll it and fill it. Re-roll it along the same lines as it was.
- Third, and this is the one we used since it was the simplest is to place a piece of foil directly on the hot cake as it comes from the oven. Let it cool and keep it covered like this until needed. The steam created by covering it will make it very supple. The spongecake should be made and cooled just before filling, so be sure your filling is either made or make it while the sponge is cooling. After it is filled and rolled, it can be covered and frozen for up to a month before finishing.
The presentation of the Buche de Noel is very important. We used these silver platters available at party stores as the perfect way to show it off and transport it.
Chocolate Spongecake - This must be made just before filling. However, it can be frozen after filling and finished later.¾ cup sifted cake flour (75 grams, 2 ½ ounces)
¼ cup sifted cocoa (25 grams, 1 scant ounce)
¼ teaspoon baking powder
6 eggs separated
⅔ cup sugar, divided (140 grams, 5 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350. Spray the bottom of ½ sheet pan (11x17 inches) with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and spray the paper. Do not spray sides of pan. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking powder, mixing well. Set aside. Combine the egg yolks, ⅓ cup sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until very thick and very pale yellow. It is important to scrape the bowl on the sides and particularly the bottom after a couple of minutes. When egg yolks and sugar are mixed, the egg yolks form little beads in the bottom of the bowl. It is important to scrape them up and get them integrated into the rest of the mixture, or they will spoil the sponge if left unmixed. For the same reason, the yolks and sugar should be combined just before beating and not allowed to sit. In a clean mixing bowl with a clean whisk, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add the remaining ⅓ cup sugar and beat until fairly stiff.
Place the egg yolks over the egg whites and sift half the flour/cocoa mixture over the beaten eggs. Fold together. Fold in the remaining flour/cocoa. Gently pour into the prepared pan and spread out evenly. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. The top will spring back when lightly touched.
Immediately cover directly with foil and place on a rack to cool completely.
Coffee Buttercream - how to photos
¼ cup water
¾ cup sugar (150 grams, 5 ½ ounces)
¼ teaspoon cream of tarter
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (225 grams, ½ pound)
1 teaspoon instant coffee (not espresso)
¼ teaspoon water
Beat eggs with the whisk attachment in a mixing bowl until very pale in color. Lower the speed to low and keep mixing.
Place the water, sugar and cream of tarter in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Wash the sides down with cold water. Cook to 242 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Slowly add the hot syrup to the eggs and beat on medium until cool. Add the butter about 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until smooth.
Add the coffee mixture and beat until completely mixed in.
Chocolate Buttercream - While making this buttercream, it can curdle before the chocolate is added. Do not panic - keep beating and it will become beautifully.
10 ounces semi sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (285 grams)
4 egg whites (½ cup, 120 grams or 4.25 ounces)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sugar (200 grams or 7 ounces)
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature (454 grams or 2 cups)
Melt the chocolate by microwaving on half power until the outer edge is melted, but the inner part still looks intact. Whisk gently until melted and cool. Place the egg whites and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff when beaters are raised slowly. Add the butter slowly, scraping often. If the mixture looks curdled, raise the mixer speed and continue beating. It will come together. Add the chocolate all at once and beat until smooth and uniform in color, scraping often.
Holly Berries- Make a batch of Marshmallow Fondant.
Cut off a small piece and color it with red food coloring - gel colors are preferable to liquid. Take a very small piece and place it in the palm of your hand. Shape it into a berry by rolling it around your palm with your finger. Let dry. Store at room temperature.
Meringue Mushrooms- While only a few mushrooms, 8 to 12 at the most, will be needed, this is the smallest amount of ingredients that my mixer will make. So what to do with the rest of the meringue? Fold some shaved or mini chocolate chips into it, drop by teaspoons on a parchment lined baking sheet and enjoy a great tasting cookie. Bake as for the mushrooms.
2 egg whites
½ cup +1 tablespoon sugar
Beat whites to soft peak stage. Slowly add sugarand beat until very, very stiff. Pipe the caps and stems onto a parchment lined baking sheet with a number 4 plain tip. For the stems, pull the piping bag straight up. Make some high, some low, some skinny and some fat. To remove the points from the caps only, wet your finger and lightly press down on the point. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes. Turn oven off and leave in overnight. The next day with a cake tester or toothpick, hollow out a small hole in the bottom of the mushroom cap.
Melt a small amount of white chocolate in the microwave at half power. Using a spatula, fill the hole with a little of the white chocolate. Wipe off any excess chocolate with a spatula. Place a stem in the white chocolate and allow to dry.
These may be made weeks ahead and stored in an airtight tin at room temperature.
Chocolate Leaves – These may be made a weeks ahead and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Real green leaves with good veining, such as rose leaves, Israeli Ruskus or any non toxic leaf. Do not use holly leaves.
Semi sweet chocolate, melted
Wipe the leaves to make sure they are clean. Holding the leaf by the stem end, drag it through the chocolate on the bottom side of the leaf to pick up the veining. Turn over and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator briefly to set. Very carefully remove the real leaf by pulling it back from the stem end, holding it down with the tip of a offset spatula.
1 recipe Coffee Buttercream, above
1 recipe, Chocolate Buttercream, above (or any other you may prefer)
Chocolate Leaves, above
Meringue Mushrooms, above
Holly Berries, above or small red jelly beans cut in half
Powdered sugar, optional
If you are going to freeze the filled roll, cut a board about 10" wide by 20" long. Set aside.
When cooled, lightly dust a new piece of foil with powdered sugar.
Remove the foil on top of the cake and go around the edges of the pan with a spatula. Pick the spongecake up by the parchment and turn it out onto the powdered sugar lined foil. Remove the parchment paper. Tuck the board you cut under the top of the cake several inches up the board. Immediately spread with the coffee buttercream. Using the foil as an assist, roll up the spongecake jelly roll style. The last roll should put the spongecake on the board. At this point, cover with foil and freeze for up to a month if making ahead. Cut both ends of the roll on a 3” diagonal. Cover with the chocolate buttercream. Place one of the cut pieces on top of the cake about ⅔ of the way towards the back cut side down. Place the other on the side of the cake with the cut side touching the cake. Cover the “knots” on the top and side with the buttercream. Prepare the tray by wiping off any buttercream that got on it when covering the Buche de Noel. Drag a fork through the buttercream from the long side, wiggling it from time to time to emulate the grain of wood. Go around the knots in a circular motion with the fork. With a toothpick, make circles on the exposed knot ends.
Just before using, stand the mushrooms up. Place the cocoa in a very fine strainer and very lightly dust the mushrooms.
While the buttercream is soft, place chocolate leaves as desired on the log and tuck meringue mushrooms under or around them.
Refrigerate the Buche de Noel to firm the buttercream and hold all the decorations in place.
To finish, just before serving, dust along one side of the log lightly with powdered sugar for the snow if desired.
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