Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Buche de Noel & A Holiday Party

We have been quite busy thus far this month and it seems that my blog is suffering a wee bit. There will be lots of cookie posts soon but this post is about a dessert known as Buche de Noel.

I first learned of Buche de Noel, or Yule Log cake, in 6th grade French class, a long, long time ago. My 11 year old self saw photos of the log and I was captivated. It was French, foreign, exotic, a French pastry, and a rolled cake - ? How the heck did one make such a thing? How did the filling get inside the cake? How did the cake cook in that rolled shape? Those French bakers must be magical! They have super baking powers! I never even considered trying to make one. It just looked too difficult.

Many years went by and slowly, thanks to reading cookbooks and watching Food Network, the mystery of the rolled cake was revealed. I learned about the sponge cake, rolling it up in a dish towel while it's still warm, unrolling it to spread on the cream filling and then re-rolling it. I completely understood how to make it, I wanted to make it, but somehow I remained intimidated and always found an excuse to not try making one (mostly that I didn't have a jelly roll pan).

That was until I got Baking Illustrated and discovered a Buche de Noel recipe with chocolate cake, espresso-mascarpone filling, and chocolate ganache icing. I informed SP that we were making a Buche de Noel this holiday season. The perfect opportunity was this past Saturday when AJ held his annual holiday party. Plus, I had received a set of jelly roll pans at my bridal shower and while we've used them for baking cookies, our real purpose in adding them to the registry was so that we would have 'real' jelly roll pans to make a rolled cake.Sadly, I have no photos of the making of the yule log. I was washing dinner dishes when SP made the cake, I was washing cake dishes when he made the filling, I was washing filling dishes when he made the ganache, and I was washing the ganache dishes when he iced the cake! Buche de Noel uses a lot of bowls and measuring spoons/cups plus a double boiler, food processor, 2 mixers (you need to beat egg whites and fold them into the batter and since egg whites are sensitive, we got out a clean set of beaters instead of washing the used pair and hoping we dried them enough that no water or old food would contaminate the egg whites).

We did not have time to make the meringue mushrooms and arrange them on the log cake. We did attach our cut-off ends to sort of make branches. And we ran a fork through the ganache to get a bark-like texture/look.We kept the cake in the refrigerator, but it's much tastier at room temperature. And oh is it tasty! Of course, chocolate and coffee are 2 of my favorite flavors. The sponge cake was spongy and chocolaty. The espresso-mascarpone filling was creamy, rich but not too rich, smooth, just so good. And the ganache was a lovely ganache! It was just the right amount to ice the cake - not so much that it overwhelmed the cake the way some icings do.I think the Buche de Noel was a hit at the party. But what about the other food? There was lots of it - everyone brought something(s). V made a lovely tray of assorted apple slices with a peanut butter-yogurt dip. I didn't try the dip since I don't like peanut butter, but the apples were tasty and possibly the only healthy food there!Our host provided 3 cheeses - oh how I love cheese! My favorite was the one on the right, with Merlot. The one on the left is a goat cheese and the one in the middle is a Stilton cheese with cranberries. Yum!And of course crackers with the cheese. I loved the crackers on the left but I forgot to ask AJ what kind they are. So good!More chocolate cake:Stollen, which makes me think of my grandma, who made stollen every Christmas:D made little puffs filled with 'hamburger' (on the left), salmon (the ones with poppy seeds on top) and buffalo chicken, my favorite. My aunt always made puffs filled with chicken salad for our family New Years gathering. Puffs are another of those 'magical & intimidating' foods to make for me. It's the choux pastry -- I find it intimidating. Those darn French! Why must everything be so darn tasty but intimidating to make???AJ made kielbasa with, I think, a cranberry-BBQ sauce - ? I can't remember. It was quite tasty and it's something he made up.Petits Fours - yum! Bite size treats are always dangerous.Gingerbread cupcakes:And also some fruitcake cupcakes:And the cupcakes were flavored with lots of gingersnap liquor:Lots of tasty food and wine/beer/soda. A delicious evening! Joyeux Noel!


  1. What a great gathering of friends and food! The color on the kielbasa BBQ-cranberry is amazing (almost looks that strawberry-banana glop you can get at some giant buffet restaurants). And don't fear the choux pastry! It just takes a little practice. If you can make a Buche de Noel, you can conquer a pastry puff.

  2. Your buche de noel (I can't figure out accents on my mac, so bear with me) looks great!
    I once tried to make one as part of an interview for a French teaching position... I have no jelly roll pan, I had no idea what I was doing, and it was August. I did not get the job, but it wasn't for lack of effort. ;)
    And cheese... mmmm, cheese...