Friday, January 13, 2012

Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)

I have long desired to make one of these. There is something so captivating about creating a picture with food that doesn't look like food at all. And they are super fun to eat. Who wouldn't want to look like they were eating a slice of a tree trunk with mushrooms sprouting out of it?

So after being intimidated by the traditional Bûche de Noël for far too long, I decided to jump on it when we had my family and Ryan's family over for dinner during the Christmas season. To be honest, it wasn't that hard! It's just a lot of different components. The hardest part was rolling the cake, and even then, the cracks make it look more realistic. Just allow yourself lots of time and read the recipe a couple days ahead of time. This is a dessert that requires planning.

I started with a recipe from Alice Medrich's A Year in Chocolate (need I sing her praises again?). She provided the Chocolate Hazelnut Roulade and Coffee Meringue Mushrooms. But I also wanted bark.

So here we go.


3 egg whites, at room temp
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar, preferably superfine (just blend regular sugar in a food processor)
1.5 tsp instant espresso powder
about 2 tsps unsweetened cocoa, for dusting
2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

4 oz chocolate

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and cooled, skins rubbed off
2 tbsp AP flour
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2-3 tbsp unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder* (see end of post)

1 cup heavy cream, cold
2 tsps instant espresso powder (A staple in my house! Never used it for straight up drinking, though. Instant coffee powder can be substituted if need be.)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.5-2 tbsps sugar

Special Equipment
Pastry bag
Plain pastry tip with 1/2 inch opening
16x12 or 17x11" jelly roll pan, lined with parchment paper

I would recommend making the mushrooms the day before.


Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 200 degrees.

In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form with the beaters are lifted. On high speed, gradually add half of the sugar with all of the espresso powder, about 1 tbsp at a time. The mixture should stand in stiff glossy peaks when the beaters are lifted. Using a spatula, fold in the remaining sugar. Scrape the meringue into a pastry bag. Pipe pointed kisses about 1 inch high to make stems on a parchment lined baking sheet. Don't freak out if the tips bend or sag. Pipe domes to make caps. (don't stress over this me...they will turn out alright) Sieve a light dusting of cocoa over top and fan or blow on them to blur it and make them look authentic. Bake until crisp and dry, about 2 hours.

To assemble, place the chocolate in a small bowl set in a skillet of barely simmering water. Immediately turn off the heat and stir the chocolate until melted and smooth. Use a sharp knife to cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch off the tip of each stem (remember those points on your kisses?) to create a flat surface. Spread a good amount of chocolate on the flat side of the mushroom caps. Allow the chocolate to set a little before attaching the cut surface of the stems. Set aside until hardened and glued together!


Preheat the oven to 350.

In a clean, dry food processor, combine the nuts and flour and pulse until finely ground. Set aside. (You can do this the night before.)

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (same technique as melting the chocolate above), stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Remove and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until pale and thick. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture. Set aside.

In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating at high speed until stiff but not dry. Using a spatula, fold in about 1/4 egg whites and all of the hazelnut mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whites. Turn the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, 10-15 minutes. (I set it for 12 initially and it was almost too done, so I recommend checking at 10.) Cool COMPLETELY in the pan on a rack.

I would recommend making your bark now. Tape two large sheets of parchment paper to the counter and spray with cooking spray. Melt the 4 oz chocolate as described above. Spread thinly on one of the parchment sheets. Sandwich with the other sheet, cooking sprayed side down. Roll it up and place in the freezer for several hours. When you are ready to decorate, just remove from the freezer and unroll. It should crack naturally.

Sieve a light dusting of cocoa over a sheet of foil a little bigger than the jelly roll pan, reserving the remaining cocoa. Invert the cooled cake on the foil (scary part!) and peel off the parchment liner.

To make the filling, whip the cream with the espresso powder and vanilla until it begins to thicken. Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until the cream holds a soft shape. Spread over the cake.

Starting at a short edge, roll the cake using the foil to help. If you've ever made sushi, those skills will come in very handy right about now. At first the cake will crack a lot. Don't worry too cracks less as it gets fatter. Plus, as I said before, it looks like bark anyway. Wrap it all up in the foil and refrigerate until you decorate it just before serving.

Alright, now I decided to decorate mine about 2 hours before serving. I mean, who really takes the time to mess with that sort of thing when guests are over.

Unwrap the roulade and transfer to a platter.

Top creatively with the bark and mushrooms. You can sieve cocoa or powdered sugar over it for effect if you would like. Refrigerate until you serve!

*Alright, about that Dutch process cocoa powder. I can't find it anywhere in Lexington! It's not at Kroger or Fresh Market and I don't want to waste my time going to every grocery store. Any suggestions?


  1. My husband loves Yule Logs. Yours looks great! I always end up ordering tough to find pantry items online, perhaps Amazon. Good luck!

  2. It tasted as delicious as it looks! Thanks for going to all that trouble.