This cake elicits the same delight from adults as it does from children. There’s something wild and mischievous about eating a food that’s playfully disguised as something else. And this bûche de Noël will make a perfect addition to a season filled with romance and nostalgia.
Preparing this cake with all the edible ornaments is an enormous amount of work for one little cake, but it can be started weeks in advance. And even though I’ve pretty much mastered the pacing of it, as far as what can be made in advance and how it should be stored, I still manage to joyfully exhaust myself with it. It’s my annual baking triumph. As an adult I seem to have transferred all of my Christmas obsession and excitement, previously reserved for counting down the days to an avalanche of presents, into making this cake. It is the ne plus ultra of my baking year.
I have sought ought and compiled what I think are the best elements for this cake in the same way that I try to compile the best techniques for a recipe. The genoise is flexible yet fudgey and the mocha buttercream is absolutely the greatest buttercream I have ever had. The candy decorations are suited towards a rustic traditional style cake. But if you prefer something more modern and less time-sucking, by all means make just the roulade and skip all the child’s play.
Most meringue mushroom recipes make more than needed for one George W. Bûche, and the buttercream recipe easily makes enough for two. So I like to really put myself on the cross and make two roulades for a total of two show-stopping cakes. To make only one, freeze the remaining buttercream and eat the extra mushrooms.
Bûche de Noël Recipe
Nearly all of these components can be made in advance. The genoise can be rolled, filled, frozen, and moved to the refrigerator to thaw the night before assembling. The buttercream can also be frozen, and thawed at room temperature 24 hours before assembling. The buttercream should be rewhipped right before using to lighten it.
I have always used the America’s Test Kitchen recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate Roulade from their December 2000 issue. I’m sure they have a good reason for not offering their recipes free online, so I will respect that and not reprint it here. However if you have to have it, I’m sure other blogs have posted it. Otherwise, use your favorite recipe for a 17×12 inch chocolate genoise.
Mocha Buttercream (a Carol Bloom recipe via zoebakes)
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pound (2 cups, 4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped, melted over a double boiler and cooled to room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon water
White Chocolate Cream Filling Recipe (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)makes about 3 cups
5oz. chopped white chocolate
1 ½ cups heavy cream
In a double- boiler, or incrementally in a microwave, melt the white chocolate. In a small sauce pan, or microwave, heat ½ cup of the cream until barely simmering. Pour the hot cream over the melted white chocolate and allow it to sit for a minute before slowly whisking the mixture until smooth.
Allow white chocolate mixture to cool completely. Meanwhile whip remaining 1 cup of cream to soft peaks. With whisk running, gradually add in white chocolate mixture. Beat to stiff peaks.
Place plastic wrap against the surface of the cream and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.
Meringue Mushroom Recipe
makes about 25 2” mushrooms
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 oz chocolate chips, melted
Preheat oven to 200F. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In the clean bowl of a standing mixer, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Using the whisk attachment, beat until lots of bubbles begin to form, about 30 seconds. Before the whites begin to get opaque at all, add a tablespoon of the sugar. Continue to slowly and gradually add the reaming sugar as the whites beat. Once the sugar has all been added, continue to beat until meringue is glossy and holds a stiff peak. It will take a total of about 4 minutes.
Spoon the meringue into a parchment bag with a plain medium tip (or a zip storage bag with the corner snipped off). Pipe an even number of caps and stems. Bake for 2 hours. Turn off heat and leave meringues in the oven another half an hour until completely dry and crisp.
Set up a plate filled with rice or lentils to support the mushrooms as they set up.
Using a chopstick, poke a small hole in the bottom of a mushroom cap. Place a ½ tsp of melted chocolate over the poked hole. Affix a stem to the cap, gently moving it around until it locks into the hole. Set the completed mushrooms upside-sown into the rice or lentils until the chocolate has hardened.
Meringue mushrooms can be kept in an airtight container for weeks.
Candy Acorn Recipe
Dried Turkish Figs
Work cocoa into marzipan until it is dark brown. Mold around tops of figs, using a chopstick to create texture.
Pinecones (seen on sprinklebakes)
2 cups cranberries, picked through and washed
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1 cups superfine sugar
Combine granulated sugar and water. Bring barely to a simmer until all sugar is disolved. Allow to cool slightly and transfer to a medium bowl. Add cranberries to warm syrup, stir, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Remove cranberries from simple syrup and toss on a baking sheet with superfine sugar. Allow to dry at room temperature
To make Sugared Rosemary, dip springs in leftover cranberry syrup and toss in the superfine sugar.