A Chocolate Lover’s Buche de Noel Serves 10 to 12
At a dinner party on New Year’s Day around 1997, I first saw a Buche de Noel.
Our gregarious host entertained us as he poured wine and offered a selection of three meats — chicken, roast beef and ham and several side dishes. I sat at the other end of the table next to our hostess. After the dinner plates had been removed, she offered a “Buche de Noel” or Yule Log.
I marveled at this dessert and asked if she had made it.
“Oh no, it came from a bakery in Washington,” our hostess replied. “I could never make one of those.”
It indeed looked to be something impossible for a novice to make. But, over the last couple of decades, I’ve made several. It’s a great dessert for the holidays.
Yule logs can be quite versatile, with either fillings or icings. The more traditional yule log is made with a chocolate sponge cake, filled with a vanilla cream and frosted with chocolate.
This recipe features a chocolate cake versus a sponge cake, only because I don’t like going through the process of separating, whipping and folding egg whites into any recipe. Here, the eggs are added whole rather than separating them. I also use a chocolate mousse-like filling and top it with a chocolate ganache and chocolate shards for a bark effect. This dessert will enchant chocoholics.
Although the recipe has multiple stages, the cake can be made stages. The cake, filling and shards can be made and assembled a day or two later. Once complete, the dessert will keep in the refrigerator up to two days. The shards should be ready before applying the ganache.
Going into this project, I thought it would be easy. But, it’s a little more difficult than anticipated.
Should you make one, it definitely will impress your guests.
1-1/2 cups gluten-free flour*
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
8 extra large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
* If not making a gluten-free version, you can substitute regular flour, omit the xanthan gum and use regular-sized eggs.
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter or spay with Pam a 12-by-17-inch sheet pan and line with parchment paper and set aside.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, xantham gum, 1/2 cup of the cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until well combined. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce the speed and gradually incorporate the dry ingredients until the batter is smooth.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared sheet pan, smoothing the top with a metal spatula. Bake in center of oven for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Place the cake pan on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle a clean dish towel evenly with the remaining ¼ cup of cocoa powder. Carefully flip the cake pan onto the towel. Unmold the cake and carefully remove the parchment paper. Tightly roll the cake in the towel, starting with one of the short sides. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, start with a slow speed. Stir the cream, sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla. Gradually increase the speed to medium high and continue whipping until mixture is stiff. Cover and chill until ready to use.
Once the cake has cooled, very carefully unroll it. Using a metal spatula, spread the chilled filling evenly over the cake, leaving a 1-inch wide border on the sides.
Starting with one short side, roll the cake (without the towel) tightly. Wrap the rolled cake in aluminum foil and seal the ends and chill for two hours.
For the ganache, bring the cream to just under a boil over medium-high heat. Don’t allow the cream to come to a complete boil. Pour cream over the chopped chocolate and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the hot cream to melt the chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Let the ganache cool enough to spread over the cake. Once the cake is iced apply the shards and return it to the refrigerator.
Measure a two 16-inch sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper. Prepare chocolate shards by gently melting the chocolate in in a bowl set in a pan of boiling water, occasionally stirring.
Once the chocolate is melted, with a small off-set spatula, spread the melted chocolate evenly over the waxed paper, within one third inch of the edges. Top with a second sheet of waxed paper and very gently smooth the top.
Roll from short side to short side and carefully place the roll on a baking sheet. Chill for 2 hours.
Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. When ready to serve, dust the log with some confectioners’ sugar for a snow effect. Using a sharp knife, cut the ends of the log to even out, if necessary. Cut the log into slices.