The Buche de Noel, or Yule Log cake, is a traditional French cake served at Christmas time. This was my second year and second attempt at this grand holiday cake. Last year, I used a recipe from Nick Malgieri’s accessible book, Perfect Cakes. You can also find the recipe here. While I was pleased with the results, I admittedly let the genoise bake a bit too long and lost some moisture.
This time I used a recipe from The Art of the Cake, from Bruce Healy/Paul Bucat. Their Buche de Noel Cafe recipe uses a joconde rather than genoise recipe. The joconde utilizes almond flour (ground almonds) and egg whites (in addition to whole eggs) to create a thin, flexible sponge cake that facilitates rolling. After the joconde baked and cooled, I brushed it with syrup to further moisten the cake. The recipe called for a mixture of brewed espresso and heavy syrup. I improvised and used espresso powder dissolved in frangelico and agave instead of heavy syrup – this syrup turned out rather well and I didn’t have to boil anything.
I spread a thin layer of mocha buttercream over the entire sheet, then rolled the cake into the long log shown above. Note that I doubled the recipe and made two cakes, one for the main cake and the other for dissecting at angles into three “branches”. I really liked that the thinness of the sheet cake created allowed more rolls and a better “tree ring” effect. You can see a better depiction of the cross-section in the branch closest the bottom of the photo.
I decided to use basket weave tip instead of the star tip the book used, which would have created more texture and deeper grooves, but I wanted a thin layer of frosting. The basket weave tip created noticeable seams between rows, which I mitigated by running the tip over the seams at intervals with the same tip. This created a very organic bark-like texture with finer grooves which seemed to better suit this narrow cake. Here is a close-up:
The mushrooms and holly leaves and berries were sculpted from marzipan, but they are also traditionally made of meringues. I’m not sure if I will attempt to make them so realistic-looking next time, as I felt like a broken record at my party explaining that no, they were not real mushrooms. The entire cake was dusted lightly with cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar to resemble snow…