This month’s recipe is a classic Buche de Noel – a log shaped cake decorated with buttercream, ganache filling and meringue mushrooms. Making a Buche de Noel is not for the faint at heart – or someone trying to make a quick dessert! There are several steps in making this classic cake which depends on three main recipes – a chocolate chiffon sheet cake, chocolate ganache filling and chocolate buttercream.
Preparing a Buche de Noel can be daunting, however you can prepare parts of it on several days. Make the cake with frosting one day. The next day you can cut and finish it. The meringue mushrooms can be made several days ahead…just keep them in a cool, dry space before using them.
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 4 egg yolks
- 6 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate
- chopped coarsely
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
Butter Cream Frosting
- 5 egg yolks, room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cut in pieces at
- room temperature
- 3 ounces of melted good quality chocolate
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier – optional
- 6 egg whites, room temperature
- a pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 1/2 cups sugar, extra fine if available
- a little melted chocolate or confectioner’s coating to “glue” the mushrooms together
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet pan (with 1 inch sides) with nonstick food spray. Line with parchment paper.
Spray paper with nonstick food spray. Set aside
Place the egg yolks, water, vegetable oil and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. In another bowl, place the flour, sifted
cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the eggs until almost stiff.
Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Fold the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Gradually fold in the egg white mixture.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Smooth batter with an offset spatula. Bake in the middle rack of the preheated oven until
the cake is set and cake begins to pull slightly from the sides. This should take between 15 and 18 minutes.
After the cake has cooled for about 1/2 hour loosen the sides with a paring knife. Carefully “flip” the cake onto the
prepared parchment paper so the baked piece of parchment is on top. Carefully peel the parchment off of the cake.
Using the new parchment paper as a guide, carefully roll the cake roll into a cylinder. Keep cake rolled in the parchment paper (rolled up)
until completely cooled – about 1 1/2 hours. By keeping the cake in the paper, you will avoid drying out the cake. Now you can start the chocolate ganache.
To make the ganache
Place the ganache chocolate and cream in a stainless steel bowl.
Place about 2 inches of water in a large saucepot. The bowl of chocolate should rest on top of the saucepot without having the
bottom of the bowl touch the water. Bring the water to a simmer. When you reach this point, put the bowl of chocolate on top.
Melt the chocolate into the cream, stirring occassionally. Do not get the simmering water too hot or it will burn the chocolate.
Remove the bowl from the simmering water when melted. Place the ganache mix the bowl for your mixer. Refrigerate the ganache until
cool – about 1 1/2 hours.
When the mixture is cooled, remove from the refrigerator. Place bowl on your mixer and whip with the whip attachment until lightened.
Be careful not to over whip the ganache or it will become grainy.
TIP: This can be difficult. It is hard to judge the temperature of the unwhipped ganache. I always have a bowl of ice at hand. If the ganache is
not cool enough, it will not whip properly. To cool the ganache while whipping it, place the bowl of ganache over the ice and use a wire whip to
hand whip the ganache. Believe it or not, this is easier than it sounds!
Reroll the cake, again using the parchment paper as a guide. Again keep the parchment around the cake and refrigerate it for one hour to harden.
While the cake is in the refrigerate, begin the buttercream (You can also make the cake to this point and refrigerate it for up to one day. Be sure
the cake is covered with parchment or saran wrap so it doesn’t get dry).
To make the butter cream
While the cake is is the refrigerator, start the butter cream. Place the sugar, water and cream of tartar in a heavy small sauce pot (it is best to use a
stainless steel pot – aluminum made pans do not melt the sugar properly). Heat until the mixture reaches 238 degrees (the soft ball stage) You will
need to use a candy thermometer for this.
White the sugar water is cooking, start whipping the 5 egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. You will
want the egg yolks to become thick and light yellow. You should achieve this by the time the sugar mixture is done.
Carefully pour the hot sugar mixture into the egg yolks, beating on medium. You are cooking the eggs with the sugar mixture and thickening the
buttercream base at the same time. Keep the mixer going on medium high until the mixture is cool. The bottom of the bowl should feel cool when
touched. This will take about 20 minutes.
Temperature is everything with butter cream. If it mixture was still too warm, the buttercream will not be firm, but rather soupy.
Again, take that bowl of ice and place the butter cream bowl on top. Whisk by hand until the mixture becomes the consistency of soft frosting.
Frost the entire cake with the butter cream frosting. Frost the “knob” and the ends. Use the back of a fork to gently form the “bark.” Refrigerate
until ready to serve.
To make the mushrooms
Place the 6 egg whites and pinch of salt in a clean room temperature mixing bowl. Begin mixing with the whisk attachment of the mixer.
When frothy, add the cream of tartar.
When the egg whites begin to get firm, start adding the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time. It is important that the whites be almost stiff
before you start putting in the sugar. When all the sugar has been added, whip the egg whites for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Place 2/3 of the meringue in a pastry bag fitted with either a large star tip or a large round tip. Pipe mushroom “tops” on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Place the remaining meringue in a pastry bag fitted with a smaller tip. Carefully pipe long (1 inch) stems. Place the bag on the paper and pull “up” to make
the stem. Make some extra in case a few collapse during baking. (see photo to right)
Place the meringues in the 250 degree oven. Reduce heat to 225 degrees. Bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours until the meringues are dry.
If the meringues are still tacky, keep in the oven a little longer.
To assemble the mushrooms
To put the mushrooms together, use a toothpick or skewer to make a very small indentation in the bottom of the caps (see photo)
Put a small amount of melted chocolate on the bottom of the cap. Carefully “glue” the stem on.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use. Meringues will keep for a few days.