18 December 2012

Buche de Noel: A Tutorial

So I promised you a tutorial on how I made my first Bûche de Noël last year.  Disclaimer: All of these photos were taken on my iPhone in the terribly crappy kitchen of our old condo in even worse lighting conditions.  It ain't pretty.

Let's start with the cake.  Here's the recipe:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for parchment and pan
2/3 cup sifted cake flour* {not self-rising}
1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
Pinch of baking soda
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 1/2-by-15 1/2-by-1-inch jelly-roll pan. Line with parchment; butter and flour paper, tapping out the excess flour.
  2. Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda together twice into a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Skim off white foam, and pour clear yellow butter into a bowl, discarding white liquid at the bottom. Set aside in a warm place.
  3. In a medium-size heat-proof bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water; stir until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, and beat on high speed until mixture is thick and pale and has tripled in bulk. Reduce speed to medium, add vanilla, and beat 2 to 3 minutes more.
  4. In three additions, sift flour mixture over egg mixture, folding in gently with a spatula. While folding in last addition, dribble melted butter over batter and fold in.
  5. Spread batter evenly in pan, leaving behind any unincorporated butter in the bottom of the bowl. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until cake springs back when touched in center, 15 to 20 minutes. Don't overbake or cake will crack. Let sit in pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
  6. Dust surface with cocoa powder. To make rolling easier, trim edges of cake, and cover with a sheet of waxed paper and a damp dish towel. Invert onto a work surface, and peel off parchment; dust with cocoa. Starting from one long end, carefully roll up cake in towel. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate until ready to use.
*I just make my own cake flour using the following recipe: For every cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons and then add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift 5-6 times. I just measure out 2/3 cup of this mixture and ditch the remaining 1/3 cup.  Otherwise, the measurements are too complicated for me.
Here is the egg and sugar mixture, the clarified butter, and the cocoa powder and flour mixture ready to get mixed together.  Also, can we talk about the bottles of bourbon and prenatal vitamins in the background? Don't be alarmed. I drink a lot of Manhattans and want my hair to grow.

 Moving on to the mousse filling...

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • Pinch of cream tartar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. In a double boiler, melt together chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat, and transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks, stirring well. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff. Whisk a third of the whites into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remainder of the egg whites.
  3. Whip cream until it holds soft peaks, and fold into chocolate mixture. Chill until set, about 1 hour
Melting the chocolate and butter. Would like to eat this as is.
Melted chocolate, butter, and egg yolks. Yes, please.
 Fluffy egg white clouds.

And then I got really tired of making cake and taking pictures, so I didn't document the ganache-making.  Here's the recipe:
9 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

  1. Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until bubbles begin to appear around edges (scalding); pour over chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Set aside at room temperature until cool but pourable, stirring occasionally.
 So yeah, you're not really missing out on me not documenting that part.

 Now, unless you have someone in the kitchen with you who can take pictures at this point, it is impossible to document the actual cake assembly.  I realize that documenting the actual assembly would have been most helpful, since that's the most intimidating part.  So you just have to believe me when I tell you that it is MUCH easier than it sounds.  Here are the instructions:

  1. To assemble cake, carefully unroll genoise on the back side of a baking sheet (discard the plastic wrap and waxed paper, but keep the towel). Spread chocolate mousse evenly on cake to within 1 to 2 inches of one long end. Reroll cake, starting from other long end, using towel to help roll it. Cover with plastic wrap; chill until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Place cake, seam side down, on a serving platter; tuck parchment around it to keep platter clean while decorating.
  3. Whip ganache at medium speed until it has the consistency of soft butter. Cut two wedges off ends of cake at a 45 degrees angle; set aside. Ice log with a thin layer of ganache. Attach wedges on diagonally opposite sides of log. Spread ganache all over log, using a small spatula to form barklike ridges. Chill until ganache is firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. In the top of a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl set over simmering water, melt chocolate until smooth. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spread melted chocolate 1/8 inch thick over parchment. Refrigerate until cold, 10 to 15 minutes. Roll paper back and forth until chocolate splinters; sprinkle over cake.* Chill cake until ready to serve.
  5. When ready to serve, arrange meringue mushrooms* around and on cake, and dust lightly with confectioners' sugar.
I did not make the chocolate splinters and I did not make the meringue mushrooms, although I may attempt the mushrooms this year because they are so cute!
So here was the finished product! I sent M to the grocery store that morning to buy some of the cheapo greenery they sold out front so that I could garnish the platter.  The important thing to remember is that if make any mistakes or it doesn't turn out perfectly, it's totally OK.  It's kind of like making truffles; the cake is supposed to resemble an actual log from nature, so it shouldn't be perfect.  It should look rustic.  

 I had always wanted to make one of these cakes, and I'm so glad I did.  First and foremost, it is absolutely delicious.  It is so rich and decadent that a very small slice will suffice.  We were able to take probably 80% of the cake with us to my parents and enjoyed it at our Christmas dinner there too.

The important thing to remember is that although it's not particularly difficult to make, it is incredibly time consuming.  A lot of that is inactive time {waiting for things to chill, etc.} but it took me the better part of an entire day to make it.  This is not a dessert you can whip up just before last-minute guests come by.  It's a showstopper and a special occasion dessert.  But it it so worth it!

Let me know if you try your hand at one.  Or better yet, if you've made one before and have any tips to share!


pve design said...

Just magnificent. I bet the taste will be worth all your time and effort.

The Pink Pagoda said...

OH MY. This looks scrumptious!!

Lobster Meets Peach said...

That looks like chocolate paradise!!!

Nat said...

Wow I am super impressed!! Totally worth all the work