The First (Buche de) Noel

was to certain poor bakers asleep on the floor. That’s what I get for doing the challenge beyond the last minute!

It’s that time again! You’ve probably noticed a lot of Yule Logs popping up around the food blog world, because that was the Daring Bakers challenge for December, as selected by Ivonne and Lis.

Beside the fact that we didn’t celebrate Christmas when I was a kid, Yule logs weren’t part of the traditions of any of my friends (that I knew of), but I had seen pictures of them in cookbooks and thought they were a curious thing. (Why would anyone want a cake that looks like a log?!)

At first I was going to try to make this over a week ago for the office Christmas Party, but when I was finally ready to start at 10 PM the night before, I started reading some of the stories from others who had already started the challenge — and two people mentioning 6-8 hrs for the project and pictures of curdled frosting made me decide the tower of cookies was enough for us and I needed more sleep than that. The month was busy and busier and finally it seemed that I wasn’t going to make it all (compared to last month when I made the challenge a million three times. But I am so glad I did! (And it took me under 4 hrs and no curdled frosting, so yay!)

Put the hens on alert! This recipe uses eggs — lots of them! I wasn’t sure how the cake was going to turn out, but the sliver I tasted when I cut it for the ‘branch’ was very tasty, indeed. When I baked it, at slightly less than the 400 F called for b/c my oven seems to be running a little warm, at 8 minutes, instead of the 10-12, I was smelling burnt egg and I opened the oven door to find the cake puffed up about six inches above the pan in the middle — or rather, a ‘skin’ on the top of the cake was puffed up. I yanked it out of the oven and slipped off the browned skin and found a lovely yellow cake beneath. I rolled it up in parchment paper and let it cool slightly while I finished the frosting/filling.

I wanted something more palatable than the coffee buttercream in the recipe so I made mine with 2 oz melted unsweetened chocolate and a splash of Cointreau, which unfortunately is undetectable, in place of the espresso powder and rum/brandy. It didn’t seem like I was going to have enough for the outside after I filled the cake, so I made a second batch of frosting, which turned out even better than the first. The first time around I added the chocolate just before the butter and the second time round I added it after the butter and my eggs were much fluffier that time. Of course, now I have enough frosting to make another cake we just ate most of the remaining frosting out of the bowl. 😉

I was first hoping to try making the mushrooms with marzipan because I’ve yet to play with that, but I haven’t really used meringue either and it seemed the simpler option for last minute production. As I was piping these on the baking sheet, I was really wondering how they were going to turn out. I didn’t think the stems looked right and most of my caps had swirl marks, but I was able to work out most of the swirls with a damp fingertip and I am absolutely tickled with the results. I’m going to send back Christmas gifts and give everyone mushrooms for Christmas — do you think they’ll mind? The Husband looked at them skeptically, but he did think they looked like mushrooms and soon he was popping them in his mouth between exclamations of their goodness! He also didn’t think the log was going to turn out very ‘loggish’ and I’m still not 100% thrilled with the results, but I’m pleased enough. I sprinkled a little cocoa over it to add a little texture but I wish it were a little darker in general.

Thank you Ivonne and Lis for a great challenge! Recipe after the jump.

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Yule Log
(from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert)

Recipe Quantity: Serves 12

Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated

Recipes:Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour – spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger – it should be warm to the touch).

4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (here I used 2 oz melted unsweetened chocolate)
2 tablespoons rum or brandy (2 Tbsp Cointreau)

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

Marzipan Mushrooms:

8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Cocoa powder

1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.

2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.

4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.

5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.

6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.

7.Smudge with cocoa powder.

Assembling the Yule Log:

1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

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29 Responses

  1. I’m glad you made time to make the yule log for it looks delicious! I wish I could have a slice of your cake. I agree with you about the buttercream; I used chocolate too and I wish I had thoguht of Cointreau. I think that would’ve been exquisite. Your shrooms are awesome. Thanks to this challenge, I’ve uncovered my new addiction to meringue! 🙂 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  2. Looks awesome!!

  3. Your yule log is gorgeous. One of the best ones I’ve seen yet!

  4. Great log, your buttercream looks lushhhhh!

  5. This cake looks great — and your mushrooms look amazing!!! I have to admit that initially, when I looked at the first few photos (and before I read the whole post) I thought you made a cake and were going to serve it with actual mushrooms on top. I thought that seemed a bit odd, but hey, I’m no gourmet and yule logs are new to me. Anyway, once I saw they are made from meringue, I was very impressed! (Not only that, but it made a whole lot more sense:). Merry Christmas!

  6. Great bûche de Noël! Love the mushrooms.

    Happy Holidays.

    Julius from Occasional Baker

  7. Great job! Mine didn’t take too long either! Glad you were able to get it done.

  8. Those are some realistic mushrooms. Yeah, you need more than a splash of alcohol in there! Glad you could squeeze the challenge in…well done.

  9. Your mushrooms are so awesome! They look like the real stuff! I used marzipan for mine and didn’t liked it much. Great job!

  10. your mushrooms look fantastic! It’s a beautiful log 🙂

  11. I love how your “bark” looks.. how’d you do that/ 🙂

    Wonderful job!

    xoxo

  12. Your bark looks so real and the mushrooms are great!
    Happy festive season to you.

  13. Wonderful log and your mushrooms looks so real! Great job!

  14. Very realistic looking log (and mushrooms!), glad you decided to go for it. Looking yummy!

  15. It looks great, and the buttercream sounds delish!!

  16. Good for you for making the cake! It looks wonderful, and the mushrooms look perfect.

  17. You are too hard on yourself! The log is gorgeous! All the flavors sound wonderful and the mushrooms are perfect!
    Happy holidays!

  18. I’m glad it all turned out for you – no curdled buttercream. I loved making those mushrooms too.

    Great job!

  19. I think it is a very nice yule log with adorable mushrooms!

  20. It’s funny, I thought the marzipan mushrooms were much less effort than it looked like the meringue would be. I think the meringue look more realistic though.

    I hope that whatever holidays you celebrate this time of year were joyous and peaceful… and that 2008 brings you and your family nothing but the best!

  21. Your log looks wonderful! And your mushrooms look perfect.

  22. Your log looks great, and your shrooms are very realistic!

  23. You should be thrilled, your Yule looks great! Well done.

  24. Very well done, it’s beautiful! When I piped the stems of the shrooms, I too was thinking – these are not quite right. But the less perfect the stems, the more realistic they looked when assembled. Funny, that 🙂 Great job and your mushrooms rock!

  25. Thank you all for the very kind words! When I was putting the mushrooms on the log, I kept thinking they needed little gnomes to sit under them — so I was thrilled to see a couple of people, like Tartelette with her little snowmen, who did something similar! I can’t possibly go look at all 400 or however many were made for this challenge, but I encourage to go check out a few others.

  26. You got a wonderfully round and fat log. It looks delicious.

  27. Your log is GORGEOUS!!! Wonderful job. Love your mushrooms too. I think they look the most realistic of anybodys. Really beautiful.

  28. Your butter cream looks really really yummy and I think your log markings are terrific … and your mushrooms do indeed look like mushroom. Well done! Happy New Year.

  29. […] are just sort of ‘meh’ in my opinion.  We’ve had buttercream similar to this before, and while I understand their utility and place in the realm of desserts, it’s just not my […]

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