Buche de Noel

Buche de NoelAmuse Buche
There is nothing more quintessentially holiday than a Buche de Noel. For one, it’s only made this time of year. For another, it’s definitely a project dessert that you wouldn’t want to make all that often. Buche de Noel, or Yule Log, is essentially a French tradition that dates back to the times of Napoleon Bonaparte though these days they are everywhere.

My sister took a class a few years ago and there has been a yule log on our Christmas Eve table ever since. The class made a big difference in terms of how to make one. The real challenge is rolling and not breaking the cake. You can find great videos on the internet to help you along. This one is my favorite, probably because there is never a bad time for a little dose of Julia.

The good news is that even if you do have trouble with the cake rolling, you can just hide it with the frosting. And, if it is too far gone, just crumble it up and go with a trifle. Win-win.

There are any number of recipes out there to choose from if you do a quick search. Here is a good one…

Buche de Noel Recipe
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields about 12 servings

This one is a heavenly chocolate cake rolled with chocolate filling. Traditionally, Buche de Noel is decorated with confectioners’ sugar to resemble snow on a Yule log.

For the filling
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon Instant ClearJel
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese

For the cake
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla extract
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (we like King Arthur Brand)
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup flavorless vegetable oil
6 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature

For the ganache frosting
1 cup heavy cream
1 (8 ounces) package of dark chocolate chips

Allow the eggs, buttermilk, and mascarpone cheese to come to room temperature.

Make the filling
Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Mix in the vanilla. Stir together 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the Instant ClearJel and beat into the cream. It will immediately thicken.

Stir the remaining tablespoon of sugar into the mascarpone and gently mix it into the whipped cream by hand (over-whipping mascarpone can make it grainy), using a whisk to fold in 1/4 cup of the mascarpone mixture at a time. Put the filling in the fridge while making the cake.

Make the cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed half-sheet pan (13″ x 18″) with parchment paper and grease the paper and the pan.

In a large bowl beat the eggs until thick and pale, then beat in the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is thick and the whisk leaves tracks in the bowl (about 3 minutes).

Sift together the flour, cocoa, cornstarch, espresso powder, and baking powder. When the egg mixture is ready, sift a third of the dry ingredients into the bowl and gently fold them in. The batter might look streaky at first. Repeat twice more until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.

Whisk together the oil and buttermilk and fold the mixture into the batter, mixing just until combined.

Pour the batter into the pan and lightly smooth the top with an offset spatula; it will be thin and might not quite reach the corners: that’s OK. Bake the cake until the top springs back when lightly pressed (about 10 to 12 minutes).

Cool the cake
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 2 minutes. Loosen the short edges with a knife. Use the parchment under the layer to loosely roll the cake up from the long side. Place it on a rack and allow it to cool completely while it is rolled.

Make the ganache frosting
While the cake is in the oven, make the frosting.

Put the heavy cream in a pot and bring it just to boiling. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate chips. Allow to sit in the pot for 1 minute and whisk until the chocolate melts. Allow the frosting to cool to room temperature.

Assemble the cake
Unroll the cooled cake and spread the filling on the inside. Leave a one-inch space without filling on the long end. Rolling the cake will push the filling to cover this part. This way the filling doesn’t squish out the end of the log.

Gently roll the cake back up and place it seam-side down on a large serving platter. Cut a 4” piece off the end of the cake at a 45° angle and place the angled edge against the middle of the larger log to simulate a branch. Square off the pointed end of the larger log and place that slice on the other side of the cake to make another branch.

Frost the cake
Spread the frosting all around the outside in a layer that is at least 1/4-inch thick. Score the frosting with a skewer or fork with widely spaced tines to give it a bark texture. You can also pipe the frosting onto the cake in a bark-like pattern.

Refrigerate the cake, lightly covered, until you are ready to serve.

To serve
Just before serving, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar to resemble snow. Refrigerate any leftovers, well wrapped, for several days; freeze for longer storage.

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