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Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Days of Christmas: Day 12

I've saved something special for the final post of my 12 Days of Christmas. I took French in high school and each year we were given extra credit for making a classic French Christmas dessert and bringing it to our in-class holiday party. I always made Buche de Noel, a traditional yule log cake. This must have made quite an impression on me because to this day, when I hear "Jingle Bells," I start singing the French version!

My lab had a holiday potluck lunch this year, and I signed up to bring a dessert. I thought a Buche de Noel would be perfect. I was so upset to learn that my beloved recipe from high school French had accidentally been thrown out by my parents!

As it turns out, this may have been for the best, because it forced me to hunt down a new recipe, and of course one of my favorite cookbooks, Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible, came to the rescue. If you've never seen this book, I highly recommend it. There are SO many amazing cakes I'd love to make, but this is actually the first one I've made from it! They are so impressive-looking but usually multi-step, as you can see. This cake can be made over the course of a few days, or all in one night (which is what I had to do). I found the recipe simple to follow, and I think it turned out pretty well!

I am in St. Louis for Christmas now and this will be my last post until after the 25th, so I wish all of my readers a wonderful holiday!!!!!!!

Buche de Noel

Cake components:
Chocolate Cloud Roll
Perfect Whipped Cream
Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting

To assemble cake:
1. Fill Chocolate Cloud Roll with the Perfect Whipped Cream.
2. Chill for at least 1 hour.

3. Cut a diagonal slice from one end of the roll and place on top to form a knot.

4. Spread the ganache frosting over the log and use the tines of a fork to make lines resembling bark. Make a few round swirls with the fork on the top of the knot.

5. Decorate as desired. Traditional decor includes meringue mushrooms, pistachio marzipan ivy leaves, green tea pine needles, small appropriate figures such as porcelain elves or trumpeters. I took the easy route and got my decorations at Michael's and then used flaked coconut and powdered sugar for snow.

6. Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving.

Note: Cake can be assembled and refrigerated 2 days ahead.

Chocolate Cloud Roll

1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
6 large eggs, separated yolks and white, at room temperature
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a 17- x 12-inch jelly roll pan as follows: grease, line bottom with parchment or foil, extending slightly over sides, and then grease again and flour.
1. In a mixing bowl, beat 1/4 cup sugar and the egg yolks for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the chocolate and beat until incorporated, scarping down the sides of the bowl.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar, beating until still peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.

3. With a large balloon whisk, slotted skimmer, or rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in remaining egg whites.

4. Pour into the prepared pan, spreading evenly with a spatula, and bake 16 minutes. The cake will have puffed and lost its shine and will spring back when lightly pressed with a finger.

5. Meanwhile, wet a clean dish towel and wring it out well. Remove the cake from the oven and leave it in the pan. Dust with the cocoa powder and cover immediately with the damp towel. Allow the cake to cool.

6. Remove the towel and, lifting the parchment or foil overhang, gently slide the cake from the pan to a flat surface.

7. Spread the Perfect Whipped Cream on top and roll up, using the parchment or foil for support and gently peeling it away as you go (sort of like a bamboo mat when making sushi).

Perfect Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and refrigerate (along with beater or whisk attachment) for at least 15 minutes.

2. Beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli)
1 2/3 cups heavy cream (I added an extra ~1/4 cup, see note below)
2 Tablespoons Cognac (I added framboise liqueur)

1. Break the chocolate into pieces and process in a food processor until very fine.

2. Heat the cream to the boiling point and, with the processor motor running, pour it through the feed tube in a steady stream.

3. Process a few seconds until smooth. *Note: the book states that if you use chocolate >53% you will have to add more cream for a smooth ganache. I just added about 1/4 cup extra boiling cream, and it turned out great.

4. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely. Gently stir in Cognac or framboise liqueur.

5. Allow to cool for several hours until of frosting consistency. (I put it near a cold sliding-glass door to speed up the process!)

Source: Adapted from The Cake Bible


  1. Wow that looks beautiful!! Amazing job!

  2. When I was a kid, our tradition was to buy at least one Buche de Noel during Christmas. However, I have never made one :(

    You did an amazing job with yours! Congrats. :)

  3. I really enjoyed your 12 days of Christmas and this is the perfect way to end it! I'm so impressed, your cake looks perfect! Merry Christmas!!

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Wow--beautiful! And such great things you had to share in the 12 days of Christmas.

  6. Wow! Its beautiful! I can't believe how much work and effort that must have taken. I bet it was delicious.

  7. Meghan - this looks amazing! You did an awesome job. I just got Rose's Heavenly Cakes for Christmas, and I kind of want The Cake Bible now too!


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