Buche de Noel
Although the French name for this beautiful dessert means Christmas Log, the origins of the custom of bringing in a Yule log, building a blazing fire, then lighting candles from it are pagan in origin as is the Christmas tree and decorating with holly and other greens. I like to think of these ancient traditions as a way to bring light and joy into the dark nights of winter for everyone, regardless of our ancestry or religion. And what could be prettier than a chocolate sponge cake filled with cream, frosted with chocolate ganache and dusted with snowy powdered sugar? Add some meringue mushrooms or sprigs of holly, and you have a lovely and meaningful completion of a holiday meal.
This recipe is loosely adapted from a recipe we found in Real Simple magazine. What I like about this recipe is that it isn’t as rich and heavy as the traditional French recipes that use buttercream instead of whipped cream or ganache. If you want to decorate it with meringue mushrooms, there are many recipes on the Internet. Otherwise, add some fresh greens around the “log,” or add color with fresh raspberries. Like everything else, recipes evolve so feel free to make it your own!
- Butter, for the pan
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Guittard's unsweetened cocoa)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sieved
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon crème fraiche
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Additional cocoa and confectioners' sugar for decorating the log (optional)
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- Butter a 9-by-13-inch jelly roll pan and line with parchment; butter the parchment.
- Whisk together the flour, cocoa, and salt in a small bowl.
- Beat the egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high until light yellow, 3 to 4 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites (with clean beaters) on medium-high until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add ½ cup of the remaining sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites. Gradually fold in the dry ingredients. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the surface. Bake until the cake springs back lightly when pressed, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool.
- Whip the heavy cream, crème fraiche, and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high until stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Spread the whipped cream on the cake, leaving a 2-inch border along one of the short ends. Starting at the other short end, roll up the cake toward the uncovered border (letting the parchment fall away as you roll). Place the cake seam-side down on a serving platter.
- Bring the cream to a boil in a small pot. Remove from heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes. Add vanilla. Whisk to combine. Cool slightly before using.
- Drizzle the chocolate ganache over the top; let set for 5 minutes. Run the tines of a fork through the ganache to create “bark.”
- Just before serving, lightly dust the cake with confectioners' sugar applied through a sieve if desired.
- Cake can be decorated with meringue mushrooms, sprigs of holly or other greens around the base, or with fresh raspberries.
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