Buche de Noel

I love all the tradition that surrounds the holiday season. My family has so many wonderful traditions, many which I still do even when celebrating the holidays with just my husband. And, in getting married, him and I have also adapted some of his family's traditions. As a couple, Chris and I have created traditions together. One of our favorites is making a traditional Buche de Noel (Yule Log) cake every Christmas.

Originally, the Yule Log was an actual log. It started as a tree, which members of the family would go out and cut down, then bring the whole thing into the house. Once it was cut down, it was brought to the house with much fanfare, as this activity was thought to ensure good luck in the new year. The log was then placed on the hearth and set afire with a scrap of yule log from the previous year, which was meticulously preserved for this use. This tradition was done to ensure not only good luck from year to year, but from generation to generation as well. (If you're interested in learning more about this tradition, click here.)

No one is really sure where the idea of turning this tradition into a cake developed, but most food historians believe it happened in the 19th century. It was made to resemble an actual log, complete with a rolled cake to look like rings. Some were very fancy, and included meringue mushrooms, almond paste leaves, and other decorations to make it look like a true log. I, however, forgo the fancy stuff and do a simple dust of powdered sugar to look like snow. The cake is fabulous all on its own.

Now I realize that the ingredients are not all that local when compared to my other recipes, which usually emphasize locally grown produce or locally made artisan products. I do, however, believe that part of what makes a local food community is its traditions. In addition, I use local dairy and eggs, and also source my ingredients from my local co-op, not from a large chain store. You can find ways to integrate the idea of "local" even into recipes like this.

This delicious cake has several steps which make it seem complicated, but it is in fact a very easy cake to execute when the directions are followed properly. Do not be scared of making a rolled cake; again, it is really simple if you follow the directions. The cake itself is a delicious soft yellow sponge cake, filled with a rum-spiked chocolate spread and topped with a cocoa-whipped cream frosting. As you see in the picture, I like to slice off pieces from the end and place on the roll to make it look more like a log. The cake is best served cold or a little chilled, since leaving it at room temperature will cause the filling and frosting to fall.

I hope you enjoy this cake, and maybe it will become a part of your traditions!

Happy Holidays!

Buche de Noel
Makes 1 cake

¾ c cake flour (you must use cake flour; all-purpose will not produce the same result)
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
5 eggs, separated
1 c granulated sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla
½ c powdered sugar
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
¾ c heavy cream
1 tbsp rum
Powdered sugar, for dusting
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Cocoa Frosting:
1 c heavy cream
2 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted*
½ c powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla

To Make the Cake:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 15-½x10-½-inch jelly-roll pan; line with waxed paper. Grease waxed paper; set pan aside. Place flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Beat egg yolks and ⅔ cup granulated sugar in a separate small bowl with electric mixer at high speed about 5 minutes or until thick and lemon colored, scraping down the side of bowl once. Beat in vanilla; set aside.

Beat egg whites in clean large bowl using clean beaters with electric mixer at high speed until foamy. Gradually beat in remaining ⅓ cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form.

Fold flour mixture into egg yolk mixture. Fold flour/egg yolk mixture into egg white mixture until evenly incorporated. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Bake 12-15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched with finger. Meanwhile, lightly sift powdered sugar over a clean dish towel.

Loosen warm cake from edges of pan with spatula; invert onto prepared towel. Remove pan; carefully peel off waxed paper. Gently roll up cake in towel from short end, jelly-roll style. Let rolled cake cool completely on wire rack.

For chocolate filling, place chocolate chips and cream in heavy, 1-quart saucepan. Heat over low heat until chocolate is melted, stirring frequently. Pour into small bowl.; stir in rum. Cover and refrigerate about 1½ hours or until filling is of spreading consistency (should be pretty thick), stirring occasionally.

Prepare cocoa frosting (see below); refrigerate until ready to use.

Unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cake with chilled chocolate filling to within ½ inch of edge; re-roll cake. Spread cocoa frosting over cake roll. Dust with powdered sugar; sprinkle with cocoa.

To Make the Frosting:

Beat cream, cocoa, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form (do not overbeat). Refrigerate until ready to use.

Adapted from Treasury of Christmas, page 336-338.

*Note: I usually use Hershey's Special Dark cocoa for this recipe, which provides a great, dark chocolate color and intense flavor to the frosting. The photo, however, was the buche I made at my mother-in-law's this year, and she only had regular cocoa. Either work fine, but the former will provide a stronger result.

1 comment:

  1. Stunning! Steve and I have a tradition to bake Stollen together every Christmas :)