The Buche de Noel is a wonderful traditional French dessert. The origins of this pastry can be found in the ancient Celtic tradition of celebrating the winter solstice. On this shortest day of the year, the Celts would search for a large trunk and burn it as a symbol of the rebirth of the sun. During the Middle Ages the ceremony of the burning log became more detailed as the logs would be decorated with ribbons and greenery.
It is generally accepted this pastry came to life when Napoleon issued a proclamation that all of Paris keep their chimneys closed during the winter because the cool air caused medical problems. This prohibited Parisians to use their fireplaces. But the French bakers then invented this dessert as a symbolic substitution around which the family could gather for story-telling and other holiday happiness.
To make this wonderful holiday display you will need the following:
- Chocolate Genoise (1 half-sheet pan): see recipe below; the key to making a successful Buche De Noel is the texture of the cake must be flexible enough to roll
- Coffee Buttercream (I like to use Swiss meringue)
- Simple Syrup (coffee flavored): combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and 1 Tbsp Kaluha in a small saucepan; bring to a boil and let cool
- Marzipan and food coloring for decorations
Chocolate Genoise Cake: (makes 2 half sheet pans)
Whole eggs: 3/4 pintEgg yolks: 1/4 pint
Sugar: 8 ounces
Cake flour: 4 ounces
Cocoa powder: 1.5 ounces
Cornstarch: 1.5 ounces
Baking soda: 1/4 teaspoon
Use the Genoise Sponge Mixing method:
1. Combine eggs, sugar, and salt and warm slightly over simmering water whisking constantly (note: do not heat too much or too quickly else you will have sweet scrambled eggs! Stop heating when the sugar just begins to melt and the eggs feel slightly warm to the touch)
2. Whip eggs on high spead until very light and thick (this process can take up to several minutes).
Your egg foam should look like the consistency in the above photo3. Sift dry ingredients
4. Sift and fold dry ingredients into egg foam in three additions. Make sure all flour is incorporated and be careful not to deflate.
6. Place pans on cooling racks and let cool for 5 - 10 minutes and turn out to cool completely
7. Trim the genoise to remove any rough or crispy edges and put on a piece of parchment or a tea towel
8. Using a pastry brush, apply simple syrup generously to genoise
9. Spread a thin layer of the coffee buttercream on the genoise
10. Using your towel or parchment, roll up the genoise tightly from the long end. Wrap and refridgerate until firm.
11. Once firm, trim the edges of the cake at a diagonal, cutting one edge about 2 inches away from the end. Position this piece on top of the Buche.
12. Cover with buttercream and use a fork to make impressions.
13. Decorate as desired with marzipan pieces (e.g. mushrooms, berries and holly, powdered sugar for snow, etc...).