Bûche de Noël-winter

Bûche de Noël with meringue mushrooms and marzipan decorations

Bûche de Noël
This is a family favorite for the Christmas holidays. It’s a classic French cake symbolizing the yule log which was burnt for good luck in the new year. I love decorating it with the colored marzipan and meringue mushrooms. Everyone can help make something to contribute to make this a beautiful cake. I found this recipe from Robert Reynolds and it’s now my go to recipe. He fills the cake with a delicious orange marmalade and ices it with a coffee butter cream. The orange marmalade instead of a buttercream filling makes the cake lighter.

One recipe for genoise
One recipe for coffee buttercream
Meringue mushrooms
Marzipan decorations (optional)
12” or longer rectangle or oval platter

Genoise (Sponge cake)
This is a delicious recipe for a light moist golden sponge cake. Genoise is the base cake for many French classics. You can brush the cake with flavored sugar syrup to make it moister and add another layer of flavor like Grand Marnier, or rum. It doesn’t take long to make or bake this cake. I’ve been testing a few recipes lately and even tried one with some of the flour replaced with corn starch. The corn starch added no benefit actually and I thought it tasted off; as if I added something artificial. So stick with all-purpose flour and always sift it twice. The flour more easily absorbs the fat making the cake tender and rise higher. Since we are on the subject, spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level with a knife then sift.

There are a couple of tips to make it foolproof. Measure all of the ingredients, set out a long whisk and rubber spatula; heat your oven and prepare your baking pan. I’m suggesting you read the recipe first! You will want to use a stand mixer to make this cake. You could use a hand mixer however that takes awhile to beat it and you’ll need to make yourself comfortable. The only thing that leavens the cake is the air that is beaten into the eggs you want to do what you can to minimize the loss of those precious air bubbles. Using a whisk to fold in the flour and butter is the most efficient. I use the whisk on my stand mixer to fold in the flour and butter.

Once the butter and egg mixture is folded into the cake you need to quickly fold it into the batter so that you keep as much volume as possible. Don’t worry the batter will always deflate a little when the butter is folded- in. If this is the first time you’ve made this cake you may want to leave out the butter.

Butter for the pan
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) all-purpose flour, sifted two times
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 cup excellent orange marmalade (homemade or Bonne Mamman)
Parchment paper

Heat the oven to 350°F. Set a rack in the lower third of the oven.
Butter and line a sheet pan with parchment paper 11” x 17”

1. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or a 5 quart heat proof bowl. Heat one inch of water in a pot that is large enough to hold your bowl. Over the hot water whisk the eggs and sugar until they are warm and all of the sugar has dissolved. You can test it, rub a little of the egg mixture between your thumb and forefinger you shouldn’t feel any of the sugar granules. This will take about 2 minutes.
2. Using an electric mixer beat the eggs on high until tripled in volume, this will take about 5 minutes. While the eggs are mixing melt the butter and place in a small bowl. Reduce the speed to medium and beat for another 10 minutes. Remove about a cup of the batter and fold it into the melted butter.
3. Add the salt to the flour and sift 1/3 of the flour into the eggs folding with a whisk, then fold in half of the remaining flour, then all the remaining flour. Quickly fold in the egg and butter mixture. Pour the batter into the sheet pan, tap the pan gently on the counter to break any large bubbles and then put it immediately into the oven.
4. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides and bounces back when you gently press the center of the cake.
5. Place a piece of parchment paper over a slightly damp towel and then turn out the cake onto it to cool. Peel the original piece of parchment off the cake. Carefully trim the ends if they are too dry. Spread the orange marmalade over the entire surface of the cake and while still warm carefully roll-up starting from one of the short sides. Now wrap it up with the parchment paper and damp towel. Refrigerate until ready to frost and decorate. Prepare the Coffee Buttercream.

Coffee Buttercream
This recipe is adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible. It’s the easiest buttercream to make and quite delicious.

6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 Karo syrup
1 pound unsalted butter, soft
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon hot water
Pastry bag
#6 star tip

1. Place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set a 2 cup liquid measuring cup next to the stove. Place the sugar and syrup in a small pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. When all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has come to a boil pour the syrup into the liquid measuring cup.
2. Turn the mixer on and beat the yolks for a minute. Turn off the mixer and pour in about 1/4 of the hot sugar syrup into the eggs and beat on high for a minute. Continue to gradually add the sugar a bit at a time stopping the mixer each time. If you don’t stop the mixer the syrup lands on the whisk and stays there instead of going into the egg yolks. Continue mixing on high speed until the mixture is cool. I feel the bottom of the bowl to judge this. When it is cool enough to add the butter, add it about 2 tablespoons at a time on high speed. When all the butter had been added mix the espresso powder with the hot water and mix in to the butter cream.
3. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and remove a 1/2 inch sliced from each end. Use a little of the buttercream to attach the slices to the side of the cake

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Copyright © Julie Logue Riordan, Cooking with Julie