Ho Ho Ho!
Yesterday I was in the kitchen whipping up some sweet potatoes for dinner and one spectacular dessert, a traditional Buche de Noel or Yule Log Cake. I’m the type person that tries what I make and then says “oh my! That’s incredible!” tehehe (yes there are giggles too). And this dessert merited that and oh so much more I might have been incessantly asking my sisters to take photos and then er exclaiming after every bite… “whoa! This is amazing!” uh might have.
A Buche de Noel, or Yule Log Cake, is a traditional Gallic holiday tradition which once was literally a log. Over the years it was transformed into a cake elaborately decorated with snow (powdered sugar), and meringue mushrooms. The cake has several parts, the sponge cake itself, an espresso mascarpone cream for the inside, chocolate ganache made to look like bark, and meringue mushrooms dusted with cocoa powder.
Before starting I read the three pages of instructions front to back, in detail, so I wouldn’t miss a step. It was a five hour process (including the 2 hour meringue cookie time) that took all afternoon. It was a lot of work but so much fun to put together and the result was incredible!! The cake is spongy, chocolaty, and not too sweet melding perfectly with the espresso mascarpone cream filling. The meringue’s were the best I’ve ever made due to a sugar syrup technique that stabilizes the egg whites. Light, airy, and sweet, they were delicious! The chocolate ganache, in one word… easy! So perfect, and delicious. whoops. Three words!
Here’s the process, broken down step by step to make it as easy as possible! The chocolate ganache, cream filling, and mushrooms can be made ahead. Don’t assemble until two hours before you plan to eat it. The mushrooms will get soft from being in a ganache, not a deal breaker, but just a heads up!
Start with the meringues, cream, and ganache. The cake needs to be assembled within 30 minutes of baking the chocolate sponge cake to keep the rolled up shape.
To make the meringues…
First preheat over to 200 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Then, in a small saucepan combine sugar and water. Attach a candy thermometer and cook stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 238 degrees or soft ball stage.
While the syrup is cooking, beat 2 egg whites in a stand mixer, adding the cream of tarter when foamy, then beating until soft peaks form. When the sugar/water mixture is ready, slowly pour it into the mixer while it’s running. Try to avoid the whisk. I didn’t read that part. whoops. So my bowl looked pretty cool…
Adding the hot syrup stabilizes the egg whites resulting in a thick creamy meringue that holds it’s shape when piped. Beat the egg whites until they are thick and shiny about 5 to 10 minutes then fold in the vanilla.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch tip with the egg whites and pipe mushroom tops and stems onto prepared parchment lined baking sheets. Be sure to do all shapes and sizes. Make sure the stems have tips, this is how you’ll attach it to the top. Dip a finger into a cup of water to smooth the tops of the mushroom caps.
I did about a sheet of mushrooms then mixed the remaining egg whites with finely crushed peppermints and made meringue peppermint kisses on the second sheet. They bake for about 2 hours. The test to tell if they are done is if they release from the parchment paper easily.
While the meringues are baking make the Dark Chocolate Ganache and Espresso-Mascarpone Cream.
First up the Espresso-Mascarpone Cream…
In a small saucepan bring the cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in espresso powder and confectioner’s sugar. In a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone with a spatula until it has softened. When the cream mixture has cooled, mix it into the mascarpone. Refrigerate until ready to use.
This part was crazy easy and I forgot to take pics. But not to worry, you’ll see it when I show the assembly pics later!
The Dark Chocolate Ganache.
In a small saucepan heat the cream, butter, and the chopped chocolate. Stir until melted. Remove from heat and let sit about an hour or until thick and spreadable. If your kitchen’s cold, you might need to reheat the chocolate to get to a more spreadable state. I did this about three times and it was just perfect.
I take my chocolate seriously.
Assembling the Mushrooms…
Use a knife or other sharp and pointy object to make a hole in the mushroom cap for the stem. I inserted the knife into the cap and the twisted to form a circle.
Dip the stem in a little chocolate ganache and connect! Sprinkle with cocoa powder and Voila! Tasty Delicious Meringue Mushrooms! Set aside to dry while you make the chocolate sponge cake.
Making the Chocolate Sponge Cake…
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a 18 by 12 jelly roll pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
Start by mixing together the egg yolks and half of the sugar in an electric mixer bowl. While those are beating to the ribbon stage, melt the chocolate, butter, and water in the microwave just until the chocolate starts to melt. Remove and stir until chocolate is completely melted. Allow to cool. In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, cocoa, flour, and salt.
Add vanilla to the egg yolk sugar mixture, then the cooled and melted chocolate.
Next add the dry ingredients beating until just combined.
In another bowl (this recipes uses a lot of bowls..), whip the egg whites and cream of tarter. I did this with a hand mixer so I could keep the chocolate mixture in the electric mixer, but at this point since you are going to delicately fold the two together, you could put the chocolate mixture in a big bowl, wash the electric mixer bowl, and then whip the egg whites with the electric mixer! phew!
Once the egg whites are foaming, add about 1 teaspoon of the sugar. When they’re at soft peaks, add the remaining sugar. Beat until whites are glossy and hold a stiff peak.
Stir 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate batter to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.
Pour prepared batter into jelly roll pan and spread the top until even. Bake immediately for 8 to 10 minutes or until cake springs back to touch.
While the cake is baking, lay out a clean kitchen towel big enough for the entire cake to fill and a cooling rack.
oh and say hello to your trusty cooking side kick Peanut in his Christmas sweater.
Give me some cake. I promise I’ll eat it!
Dust the kitchen towel with cocoa powder to prevent it from sticking and rub it in. I wouldn’t use a nice towel.*
Allow cake to cool for 5 minutes then turn out on the towel while still warm.
Next, roll it up, towel and all and allow to cool for 15 minutes. While it’s cooling, remove mascarpone cream from the fridge to soften and make sure the ganache is ready to go.
Unroll and spread with Espresso-Mascarpone Cream. There might be a couple of cracks but the ganache will cover it.
Roll it up!
Cut both ends off at a diagonal. Reverse one piece to attached on top as a part of the log. Eat the other end!
Ice with chocolate ganache using rustic strokes to simulate bark. You can also make bark marks with a fork.
Attach one of the cut off ends to the top of the cake, ice, and decorate with meringue mushrooms, and maybe a spring of holly.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar snow!
And eat your masterpiece! Yowza it looks good!
Buche de Noel Cake
or the Yule Log Cake. Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated. I would recommend make the Espresso Mascarpone Cream, Chocolate Ganache, and Meringue Mushrooms first so it is easy to assemble once the cake is bakes. Serve cake within 2 hours of assembling to prevent mushrooms from getting soft.
Espresso Mascarpone Cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons espresso powder
6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
16 ounces (about 2 cups) mascarpone cream
In a small saucepan, bring cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in espresso powder and confectioners sugar.
In another bowl, beat the mascarpone with a spatula until softened. Add the cooled cream mixture and combine. Set aside until ready to use.
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites, room temperature
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
In a small saucepan combine water and sugar. Attach a candy thermometer and cook, stirring occasionally until the temperature reads 238 degrees.
While the sugar and water is cooking, whip egg whites in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment until frothy, about 1 minute. Add the salt and cream of tarter, beating on high speed until whites hold soft peaks.
With the mixer running, pour in the hot syrup. Try to avoid the whisk. Beat whites until thick and shiny about 5 to 10 minutes. Fold in vanilla.
Fit a pastry bag with a 1/4 inch tip and fill with whites. Pipe mushroom caps and stems onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Dip a finger in a cup of water to smooth caps.
Bake for 2 hours or until very dry and crisp.
*I piped about 15 caps and stems then mixed the remaining whites with finely crushed peppermints to make peppermint meringue kisses. yum!
To assemble mushrooms, make a hole in the cap with a knife or other sharp object. Dip stem into prepared Chocolate Ganache and stick together. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and confectioners sugar to finish.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces buttersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon cognac (optional)
In a small saucepan (I used the same pan I used to heat up the cream for the Espresso-Meringue Cream), heat cream, butter, chocolate, and cognac until just melted. Stir to combine then let sit until thick and spreadable.
Chocolate Sponge Cake
6 large eggs separated, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cold butter
2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Espresso Mascarpone Cream
Dark Chocolate Ganache
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a 18 by 12 jelly roll pan with parchment and spray with cooking spray.
In a microwave safe bowl, combine water, butter, and chocolate. Heat in the microwave until chocolate just begins to melt. Remove and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine cocoa, flour, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg yolks until just combined. Add half of sugar and continue to beat until yolks fall in a thick ribbon when the beater is lifted. Add vanilla and cooled melted chocolate and dry ingredients. Transfer to another bowl if electric mixer bowl is needed for egg whites.
In a clean electric mixer bowl combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat until foamy. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar then beat until soft peaks form. Add remaining sugar and beat until stiff peaks hold when beater is lifted.
Stir 1/4 of egg whites into chocolate batter to lighten. Then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour into prepared jelly roll pan. Smooth top with an offset spatula and immediately bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cake springs back to touch.
While cake is baking, lay out a clean kitchen towel and dust with cocoa powder. Rub the powder into the towel to prevent the cake from sticking.
When the cake is done, allow it to cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Then invert the cake onto the kitchen towel. Remove the parchment paper and roll cake, towel and all. Cool for 15 minutes.
Assembling the cake!
Unroll the cake and spread with Espresso Mascarpone Cream. Roll back up snugly around the filling and trim the ends at a diagonal. Reserve one end to add as a stump.
Ice cake with chocolate ganache using rustic strokes to simulate wood or making wood markings with the prongs of a fork. Attach the stump, ice. Decorate with meringue mushrooms and dust with confectioner’s sugar.
Eat within 2 hours to prevent the mushrooms from becoming soft.
Enjoy! and Happy Holidays!