22 December 2007

Yule Log (Buche de Noel)

So, I finish this baking project. I carefully set it up for photos. Hubs curiously watches from the corner of the room. I snap away, from several different angles. I shift the lighting, I move around some mushrooms. After several shots, I am fairly satisfied that I've got what I need.

I step back finally finished, with Hubs next to me. We both stare for a moment more, and then both start snickering uncontrollably. Spurts and giggles and doubled over, even. "This is officially the weirdest thing you've ever baked", he blurts out while gasping for air. Oh yes, my darling, this is not my usual boring cookie or cake recipe. This is Yule Log.

So I'm now a member of the Daring Bakers. Yup. It's official. And the first challenge, thankfully, wasn't some intimidating pastry or uber-complicated cake. It was, instead, the Yule Log. Woohoo, Yule Log! While my father (who was the first to hear of this challenge) claims our family has made this before, I most certainly have never made one. Ever.

Also known as the Buche de Noel, the Yule Log is a long-standing Christmas tradition in many countries. Originating in France, it is basically a genoise cake rolled and frosted with buttercream, then decorated to resemble the fireplace yule log. Legend has it that Napoleon I disallowed French residents from lighting their fireplaces during the winter (it was said at that time that the cold air spread disease). So the French residents compensated for their loss of Christmas logs by baking up this delicious dessert, a replacement to gather around and warm themselves with holiday cheer. Interesting theory, I gotta say.

Where was I again? Oh, yes. The recipe. Now, about my Yule Log: I actually loved making this. So much fun! The mushrooms were no problem. The genoise: it turned out fine, although I must admit - I was so busy following the recipe, that I forgot to add any fun flavorings. So mine is quite plain. I did, however, remember to add chopped hazelnuts to my roll's buttercream. Yum, that's all I can say. The buttercream for this recipe didn't give me any trouble while making it, and it is the most delicious buttercream I've ever encountered. The issues I had: first off, my roll was terrible. I spread my buttercream over the entire cake, no room along the edges for rolling, so my roll is pretty novice-looking. First timer alert! Also? I stuck my outer-frosting buttercream in the fridge, to chill while my Swiss roll chilled. Not. Good. At all. I tried whipping it with a fork after bringing it to room temperature, then adding some cocoa powder, but that didn't help much. It turned out very... chunky. Oopsies. Guess I should have whipped it back to shape with the beaters. But no bother! Still tasted like a dream!

All in all a winner. Can't say that I'll be making another in the recent future, but definitely a recipe to file away. And I must admit: so excited to finally be a member of the amazing group called the Daring Bakers. Looking forward to future challenges, ladies! Thanks for having me! And bring on January, I think I'm ready.

Yule Log

(from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert)

Plain Genoise:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ c. of sugar
½ c. cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off
¼ c. cornstarch
(1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

Coffee Buttercream:
4 large egg whites
1 c. sugar
24 Tbsp. (3 sticks, or 1-1/2 c.) unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
2 Tbsp. rum or brandy

Marzipan Mushrooms:
8 oz. almond paste
2 c. icing sugar
3 to 5 Tbsp. light corn syrup
Cocoa powder

To make the Genoise:
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 F.

Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).

Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream. Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

To make the buttercream:
Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

To make the marzipan mushrooms:
To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed. Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.

Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth. Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.

Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms. Smudge with cocoa powder.

Assembling the Yule Log:
  • Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
  • Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
  • Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
  • Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).
  • Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
  • Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
  • Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
  • Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
  • Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
  • Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
  • Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.


Julia & Tyler said...

Wow it looks amazing! The mushrooms and the little purple peep made me giggle :) Awesome job Nemmie! Your blog entertains me and makes me hungry :) A good combo.

Karen said...

Looks great! Love your site. Great ideas. I've had fun checking it out.

Nemmie said...

Julia: Peep is my man! I think he's going to make an appearance in all my DB challenges.

glamah16 said...

Welocme to the DB's! Outstanding Job. Yes it all gets a little weird as our loved ones watch us go through all of this. But the end results jusity it all. Your log looks great!

Dolores said...

Congratulations, and welcome to the madness. If your first challenge is any indication, you're going to fit right in!

And thanks for the history lesson. I love all the things I learn as I read through the DB posts each month!

Peabody said...

Your log looks great! You did a wonderful job on the mushrooms.
P.S. I am a card carrying member of the Marshmallow Peep Fan Club.

Princess of the kitchen said...

Your log looks great. Nice and dark- it actually looks real! Well done!

desie said...

looks great. the mushrooms are so cute. well-done!

michelle said...

Such cute little mushrooms!

The Caked Crusader said...

Well done! Great log - and lots of mushrooms.
Wasn't this just the most delicious thing to make?

Megan said...

Good job! Your mushrooms look great and your frosting looked fine!

african vanielje said...

Nemmie, wow! You've certainly started your Daring Baker career with a great big Flash Bang!! Your Yule log looks absolutely gorgeous and your pics are lovely. Well done. Your mushrooms too, are so ...mushroomy! They almost look like shitakes.

marias23 said...

Ooo, yummers! Chopped hazelnut in the buttercream. Now why didn't I think of that? :)

Merry Christmas!

Unknown said...


Chris said...

Fabulous job on you're first challenge. Well done!

Gigi said...

Congrats on your first challenge! The Yule log looks awesome, especially the mushrooms.

Phoenix Ascending said...

Wonderful first entry in the Daring Bakers. The mushrooms are particularly adorable.

Unknown said...

This looks great! I love the deep color of your buttercream.

marias23 said...

Congrats on completing your first DB challenge! It may look weird but I'm sure it was delish! I love the way your shrooms look so real! :) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

LizG said...

Looking fantatsic, Nemmie! Great job on your first challenge. Welcome to DB!

Lis said...

hahahaa! I love the Peep! =)

Your log turned out beautifully, Nemmie!! I am quite envious of your "limbs" they look fantastic!

The hazelnuts sound perfect too.. just the right amount of crunchiness. :D

Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Beth G. @SweetLifeKitchen said...

YAY for peep! Great log- I did hazelnuts too, such a yummy combo!!

Lunch Buckets said...

Congratulations from another first-timer, your log turned out great :)

Anonymous said...

What a perfect log! Looks wonderful with all those marzipan mushrooms - almost real. Merry Christmas!

Julie said...

I could not believe your mushrooms weren't real!! Amazing Nemmie!!
(PS I LOVE peeps. I eat like 4 rows at Easter and my mom sends me home b/c I am a spaz)

Cheryl said...

Another fantastic job. yes, it definitely is an interesting looking cake isn't it. I'm sure my family will make its comments tomorrow.

Half Baked said...

Great job! Your mushrooms are adorable!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Nemmie! Great job and a huge congrats on your first official Daring Baker challenge. Your cake turned out great despite the few bumps along the way. Looking forward to January also!!

Hilda said...

Great job on your first challenge! You'll get a lot of odd looks with the picture-taking at first, but they get used to it... ;)

Helene said...

That little peep made me giggle! The log is gorgeous,you aced that challenge in spite of the little mishaps. Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your Yule Log looks amazing! Very well done!



Deborah said...

You did a great job on your first challenge!!

Wendy said...

Your yule log looks great. Your mushrooms are so cute. Welcome to DBrs. Wendy

Jen Yu said...

Oh, your genoise came out so soft and spongy looking! Great job on your first DB Challenge - welcome :)

jen at use real butter

Tracy said...

I love your story about your husband's reaction to the Yule Log. My husband would probably do the same thing.

Your Yule Log turned out great. I especially like your mushroom.

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Anonymous said...

I think this (Buche de Noel) would be perfect to add it a little bit of smashed Generic Viagra because it gives to the recipe a good color and a great flavor.

Nemmie said...

You Viagra people are killing me, for realz.