In my experience, the impressive part of this dessert by far is the appearance of the thing. The cake is tasty, but for my money, I'd rather have a home-made brownie. Still, when you want something special (and if you have plenty of time), you can't beat the Buches (ha ha ha).
To start, you make a chocolate-spice sponge cake. As with so many kitchen and other household tasks, having the right tools really makes a difference. The cake batter gets spread into a waxed paper-lined jelly roll pan. Having an offset spatula helps spread the batter evenly.
|Offset spatula and a jelly roll pan.|
Once the cake has baked, you quickly flip the cake onto a towel dusted with confectioners' sugar. Next, peel off the waxed paper, then roll the cake up (including the towel) to cool.
|Peeling off the waxed paper.|
Once the rolled-up cake has cooled, carefully unroll it and slather it with real butter cream (not "American" butter cream, which just tastes to me like a bunch of confectioners' sugar). Then roll it back up and place it seam side down on a platter.
Ice the whole log with chocolate butter cream, then attach the "branches," and ice them, too. Use a fork or knife to create bark patterns in the icing. Decorate with meringue mushrooms, and voila! An edible branch! Full recipe below. Enjoy!
Recipe: Buche de Noel (serves 14)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
5 large eggs, separated
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
2 T butter, melted and cooled slightly
Brandied Butter Cream (below)
Prepare cake roll: Preheat oven to 375. Grease 15.5 x 10.5" jelly-roll pan. Line with waxed paper. Grease paper and dust with flour.
On another sheet of waxed paper, combine flour, cocoa, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt.
In small bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beating at high speed, gradually sprinkle in 1/4 cup sugar, beating until sugar dissolves and whites stand in stiff peaks.
In large bowl, using same beaters and with mixer at high speed, beat egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until very thick and lemon-colored.
With rubber spatula or wire whisk, gently fold beaten egg whites into bean egg yolks, one-third at a time. With same rubber spatula or wire whisk, gently fold flour mixture into egg mixture, one-third at a time. Fold in melted butter, mixing just until combined.
With offset spatula, spread batter evenly in pan. Bake 10 minutes or until top of cake springs back when lightly touched with finger.
Sprinkle clean cloth towel with confectioners' sugar. When cake is done, immediately invert hot cake onto towel. Peel off waxed paper and discard. Starting from a long side, roll cake with towel jelly-roll fashion. Cool cake roll, seam side down, on wire rack until completely cool, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare Brandied Butter Cream.
Assemble cake: Gently unroll cooled cake. With offset spatula, spread white Brandied Butter Cream almost to edges. Starting fromi same long side, roll cake without towel. With sharp knife, cut 1.5-thick diagonal slice off each end of roll; set aside. Place rolled cake, seam side down, on long platter. Spread some chocolate butter crem over roll. Place end pieces on sides of roll to resemble branches. Spread remaining frosting over roll and branches, leaving cut sides of branches unfronsted. Spread frosting to resemble bark of tree. Refrierate cake at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish platter with Meringue Mushrooms, if you like.
Brandied Butter Cream:In 2-quart saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. With wire whisk, mix in 1 cup milk until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until mixture thickens and boils. Reduce heat to low and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantlly. Cool coimpletely, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, melt 1 square (1 ounce) semisweet chocolate and 1 square (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate over low heat; cool slightly,
In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat 1 cup butter, softened, until creamy. Gradually beat in cooled flour mixture. When mixture is smooth, beat in 2 Tablespoons brandy and 1 tsp. vanilla extract until blended. Spoon half of white butter cream into small bowl; stire melted chocolate into butter cream remaining in bowl.