Homebaked Holidays: Bûche de Noël

Every year, I make a Bûche de Noël.  This is my mom’s recipe, drawn from some kind of glossy 70′s cookbook that came in a series along with her set of World Book Encyclopedias.  Don’t be scared off by the multiple lists of ingredients & instructions! It’s relatively easy to make this cake, especially if you skip the meringue mushrooms or make them ahead of time. We ate all of the 2010 mushrooms before they got to the plate.  I’ll be making this again for Christmas Eve.

Bûche de Noël 2010

Faster than Lightning Chocolate Jelly Roll Cake
& Bûche de Noël Assembly

1 cup sifted cake flour or 1 cup minus 2 tbs sifted all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
icing sugar & a clean kitchen towel for rolling the cake
Quick Coffee Cream Filling
Easy Chocolate Butter Frosting
Make-Ahead Meringue Mushrooms (Optional)

Heat oven to 375f.
Grease a 15x10x1 baking or jelly roll pan.
Line it with a waxed paper rectangle cut 1/2 inch smaller than the pan (14×9).
Grease the paper.
Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a bowl or onto another sheet of waxed paper.
Beat eggs until thick and creamy.
Beat in sugar, 1 tbsp a time until mixture is thick.
Stir in water and vanilla.
Fold in flour mixture.
Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
Bake 12-15 minutes until center spring back when pressed lightly with a fingertip.

Cut around warm cake 1/4 in from the edges of the pan with a sharp knife.
Invert pan onto a clean towel dusted generously with icing sugar.
Peel off waxed paper.
Gently roll wider length of cake jelly roll style in towel.
Cool rolled and wrapped cake completely on a wire rack.

Make Quick Coffee Cream Filling and Easy Chocolate Butter Frosting.

Unroll cake.
Spread with Quick Coffee Cream Filling
Reroll cake.
Place on serving plate.
Cut a 1/2in-or-thicker slice(s) from the ends of the cake roll to use as knot(s) or trimmed limb(s) of cake.
Use Easy Chocolate Butter Frosting to attach these knots and limbs to the cake roll.
Frost cake roll with remaining Easy Chocolate Butter Frosting.

If desired, use the tines of a fork or an icing spatula to make the icing look like realistic “bark.”
If desired, sprinkle the ends of the roll and/or the knots/limbs with chopped pistachios, or flaked (or toasted) coconut.
If desired, dust with icing sugar.
If desired, decorate with Make-Ahead Meringue Mushrooms.

Chill until 10-20 minutes before serving time.
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Quick Coffee Cream Filling

1 cup whipping cream
1-3 tbs espresso or strong coffee (made from ~2tsp instant crystals)
1/2 cup sifted icing sugar

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl and beat until stiff.
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Easy Chocolate Butter Frosting

4 tbs butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sifted icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler and cool slightly.
Combine icing sugar, milk and vanilla in a separate bowl.
Slowly beat in chocolate mixture until frosting is smooth and spreadable.
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Make-Ahead Meringue Mushrooms

2 egg whites
1/3 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
Cocoa for dusting (optional)

Line two large cookie sheets with parchment.
Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and extract until foamy white and double in volume.
Sprinkle in sugar, 1 tbs at a time, until sugar dissolves and meringue forms stiff peaks.
Attach a plain icing tip to a pastry bag or ziploc bag. Spoon meringue into bag.
For mushroom caps: press meringue into 1.5in rounds. Smooth top of each with a knife but don’t flatten.
For stems: hold pastry bag upright and press out meringue, pulling straight up about 1.5 inches.
Bake at 250f for 30 minutes until firm but not brown. Let stand a while on cookie sheets.
Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Melt chocolate in a cup over hot water or in the microwave.
Carefully make a small indentation in the underside of each cap with a teaspoon or with the handle of a wooden spoon.
Fill hollow with melted chocolate.
Press stem into hollow.
Let sit until chocolate is firm.
Dust with cocoa if desired.
Store in a dry, air-tight container.

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