Friday, December 11, 2009

Dinner Party Dessert: Bûche de Noël

The Progressive Dinner Party is a wonderful, festive idea hosted by Nicole, Amy and Julie. The Dinner started with Cocktails & Hor d'oeuvres on Monday and ended with Desserts dessert is fashionably late but hopefully still tasty!

Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) is a traditional dessert served during the Christmas holidays in France, Belgium, Quebec and several other francophone countries. It is made to loo like a log ready for the fire. It is made from génoise (Italian sponge cake) or other sponge cake which is frosted or, as is the case with the recipe I use, filled with chocolate mousse!, rolled and frosted and the "log" is then decorated with chocolate pieces to resemble bark, powdered sugar which resembles snow, fresh berries and/or mushrooms made from meringue.
Martha Stewart's recipe is terrific because of the chocolate mousse filling but there are other versions. You can simply spread the inside of the sponge cake with chocolate butter cream, which will also be used to frost it. This recipe is long and takes some time but it’s delicious and I figure Christmas only comes once a year!

The first thing is to make all of the parts for your Yule Log: chocolate génoise, chocolate mousse and ganache icing:

Chocolate Génoise
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for parchment and pan
2/3 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
Pinch of baking soda
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 1/2-by-15 1/2-by-1-inch jelly-roll pan. Line with parchment; butter and flour paper, tapping out the excess flour.
2. Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda together into a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and pour butter into a bowl. Set aside in a warm place.
3. In a medium-size heat-proof bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water; stir until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, and beat on high speed until mixture is thick and pale and has tripled in bulk. Reduce speed to medium, add vanilla, and beat 2 to 3 minutes more.
4. In three additions, sift flour mixture over egg mixture, folding in gently with a spatula. While folding in last addition, add melted butter and fold in.
5. Spread batter evenly in pan. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until cake springs back when touched in center, 15 to 20 minutes. Don't overbake or cake will crack. Let sit in pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
6. Dust surface with cocoa powder. To make rolling easier, trim edges of cake, and cover with a sheet of waxed paper and a damp dish towel. Invert onto a work surface, and peel off parchment; dust with cocoa. Starting from one long end, carefully roll up cake in towel. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes one 10 1/2-by-15 1/2-inch cake
Chocolate Mousse
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs, separated
Pinch of cream tartar
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. In a double boiler, melt together chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat, and transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks, stirring well. Let cool to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff. Whisk a third of the whites into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remainder of the egg whites.
3. Whip cream until it holds soft peaks, and fold into chocolate mixture. Chill until set, about 1 hour.
Serves 4

Chocolate Ganache Icing
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

Chop chocolate into small pieces, and place in a medium bowl. Heat cream until bubbles begin to appear around the edges (scalding); pour over chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Refrigerate until cold but not solid, stirring occasionally.
Makes 1 1/2 cups

Assembling the Yule Log:
1. To assemble cake, carefully unroll génoise on the back side of a baking sheet (discard the plastic wrap and waxed paper, but keep the towel). Spread chocolate mousse evenly on cake to within 1 to 2 inches of one long end. Reroll cake, starting from other long end, using towel to help roll it. Cover with plastic wrap; chill until firm, about 1 hour.
2. Place cake, seam side down, on a serving platter; tuck parchment around it to keep platter clean while decorating.
3. Whip ganache at medium speed until it has the consistency of soft butter. Cut two wedges off ends of cake at a 45 degrees angle; set aside. Ice log with a thin layer of ganache. Attach wedges on diagonally opposite sides of log. Spread ganache all over log, using a small spatula to form bark-like ridges. Chill until ganache is firm, about 30 minutes.
4. In the top of a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl set over simmering water, melt chocolate until smooth. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spread melted chocolate 1/8 inch thick over parchment. Refrigerate until cold, 10 to 15 minutes. Roll paper back and forth until chocolate splinters; sprinkle over cake. Chill cake until ready to serve.
5. When ready to serve, arrange meringue mushrooms around and on cake, and dust lightly with confectioners' sugar.


If you would like to make Meringue Mushrooms to decorate the Yule Log (I don’t usually do this!) here’s the recipe:

Meringue Mushrooms
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1.Heat oven to 225 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
2.In a small saucepan, heat sugar and 1/2 cup water over low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid reaches 248 degrees.(hard-ball stage) on a candy thermometer.
3.Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric beater fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low speed until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high, and add hot syrup in a steady stream, beating constantly. Continue beating until cool and stiff, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Fold in cocoa powder.
4.Spoon meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a coupler and large plain tip. Pipe meringue onto prepared baking sheet to form 2-inch domes. Pipe a separate stem shape for each dome.
5.Sprinkle cocoa powder lightly over meringues. Bake until dry, about 2 hours. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
6.To assemble mushrooms, melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Trim off points from tops of stems. With a small offset spatula, spread chocolate on underside of a cap and place trimmed end of stem into center of cap. Place mushroom, stem side up, in an egg carton to harden. Repeat with remaining mushrooms; refrigerate until set.


  1. I tried making this once when I was younger and had way more energy! It was a total bust but it was still fun to make! And there were lots of great bowl-licking opportunities. Plus they look fantastic if they actually turn out!

  2. I've had a Yule log before and it was delicious, but boy, does that sound like a lot of work.

  3. Rhapsodyinbooks: It does take a few tries at least, to get this dessert down, in my experience anyway! My mom loved the look of it & used to make it every year. But it wasn't until the 4th year that it actually tasted good to eat. The prior years it made a nice display on the sideboard but nobody ate it! lol

  4. Bermudaonion: It is an awful lot of work. I need a good night's sleep before I tackle this recipe. In the interest of honesty, it tastes good if you make any sponge cake and chocolate buttercream frosting for the filling and the outside. And it's much easier. If you do a search on the internet for Buche de Noel or Yules Log you'll see there are many, many versions of the dessert!

  5. My grandma used to make rolled cakes, but the idea scares me! I just know I'm going to destroy the cake when I roll it.

  6. I love Buche de Noel.

    This looks delicious. I just made fruitcake tonight.

  7. I've never been able to make this and have it come out right. Maybe it's time to try again.

  8. for years I used to make one. it is very impressive looking and I actually did not think it was too hard. a basic spongecake and I loved the meringue mushrooms. but I discovered we are not so much cake people, at least not 'regular' cake.
    I too just made my fruitcake, an Irish Christnmas cake, yesterday. a few weeks late for it to mellow...but better late than never. pf course I will not finish it until Christmas Eve, when it gets a layer of marzipan and royal icing.

  9. Sounds so delicious and looks so cool. I'm going to have to try this one of these years, but I usually end up being too lazy.

  10. I used to make one for years. It is a very impressive looking cake. But then I realized my family are not really cake eaters.
    So I went to plum puddings and Irish Christmas fruitcakes, which oddly, people eat.

    But it is lovely looking and not that hard if you just take it in steps. and the decorating is very forgiving. I love the meringue mushrooms!

  11. Willoughby: You can make a pretty simple sponge cake and then just follow the directions for rolling, you'll do great, don't worry!

    Esme: It's a beautiful cake and yummy, especially with Chocolate Mousse filling! My dad LOVED fruitcake. He wanted it so sit and soak up brandy for weeks!

    Lisa: I practiced on simpler resipes for a few years and then finally tried this one. I just love the chocolate mousse filling. But chocolate buttercream is quite yummy too!

    Caite: I come from a family not big on cakes either. But my mom used to make this one because it was beautiful and looked great on the sideboard or dinner table. Not fruitcake was something my father had to have & looked forward to all year. I've never heard of fruitcake with marzipan & royal icing! Interesting! Enjoy it!

  12. Beth: Martha's resipe is definitely involved and tiring. I've made this with a more simple sponge cake and chocolate buttercream filling and icing and it's very yummy. It takes about 1/2 the time too!

  13. My mum used to make bûche de Noël every Christmas -- so yummy! And because both my sisters are gluten-intolerant (as am I now), she always made a gluten-free version. I must admit I've never tried to make it, though; it seems like so much work!