Tasty Morsels: Bûche de Noël a sweet holiday treat ‘yule’ love

By: Susie Iventosch
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This past weekend, my son Joel took a break after finals to come home and hang out. I just love it when the kids come home! Like me, he enjoys entertaining so he invited some friends over for dinner. Since I was making a Bûche de Noël to take over to a friend’s house, we decided to make two — one for his friends and one for mine! Because it is a fairly complicated recipe, we divvied up the tasks. He made the mousse, and I made the cake and frosting, but together we assembled the Yule Logs. Talk about a production — one cake and one cook usually makes for a big enough mess in the kitchen, but the two of us were elbow-deep in chocolate and it was a lot of fun. This dessert is traditionally served during the Christmas holidays in France, Belgium, and many other countries where French customs prevail. It can be made from yellow, chocolate or mocha flavored sponge cake with any number of fillings and frostings. Really creative cooks make fancy decorations from meringue or Marzipan to adorn the cake with mushrooms, holly, or even Christmas trees. I first experienced one of these festive cakes in my high school French class, and have enjoyed making them ever since, but have yet to create marzipan decorations. I opt instead to hustle over to Ben Franklin and pick up some silk holly leaves. Maybe one day I’ll make my own, but usually after making the Genoise (a sponge cake named after the city of Genoa, which uses whipped eggs to make it light and airy), the filling, the frosting, and then assembling it, I never have time left for homemade decorations. But, perhaps you are better organized and you will. If so, please e-mail me to let me know what you did. Find Tasty Morsels in the Journal’s Home & Garden section. Reach Iventosch at Chocolate Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) Chocolate Genoise (sponge cake): 5 tablespoons unsalted butter 2/3 cup cake flour 1/2 cup cocoa powder 1/8 teaspoon baking soda 6 large eggs 3/4 cup granulated sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla (or 1 teaspoon almond) extract   Line a 10.5-by-15.5-by-1-inch jelly roll tin with parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray such as PAM and dust with flour. Knock out excess flour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, cocoa powder and soda together into a medium bowl and set aside. Melt butter over low heat and set aside. In a heat-proof bowl, whisk eggs and sugar together. Set bowl over a pan of boiling water, and stir until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and beat with electric mixer on high speed until mixture has thickened and is pale yellow. Add vanilla or almond extract and continue to beat on medium speed for two more minutes. Fold flour into egg mixture in three additions, mixing gently with rubber spatula. Drizzle melted butter into mixture and fold in. Pour batter into prepared pan, and spread evenly into corners. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Do not over bake or cake will be difficult to roll. Allow cake to sit on wire rack until cool enough to handle. Place a sheet of waxed paper over cake, and a damp towel over waxed paper. Invert cake and remove parchment paper. Starting at the long end, roll cake into waxed paper and towel. Cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to assemble. Chocolate Mousse Filling: 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 4 large eggs, separated (We use Deb El’s “Just Whites” as a safer substitution for egg whites and save the real raw egg whites for use later in scrambled eggs). Pinch cream of tartar 1/2 cup heavy cream In a medium saucepan or the top of a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth, whisk in egg yolks and immediately remove from heat. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. (If using “Just Whites” follow directions on can for equivalent of 4 egg whites). Whisk one third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Then gently fold in the remainder of the whites. Whip cream to soft peaks, and fold into chocolate mixture. Chill for about one hour, or until set. Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting: 1/2 cup butter, softened 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon almond extract) 1-2 tablespoons milk, as needed to reach desired spreading consistency In a large bowl, beat butter with cocoa powder until creamy. Add vanilla and mix well. Beat in powdered sugar and milk until fluffy and spreadable. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to assemble cake. Bring back to room temperature before assembling.   Assembly: Unroll cake onto a clean work surface such as a plastic mat or bread board, removing towel and waxed paper. Spread evenly with mousse and tightly roll from long end, ending with seam side down, if possible. Remove and snitch any excess mousse that strays from cake. On a slight angle, cut off a small 4-inch section to use as a branch and place it next to main portion of log. Secure with toothpicks if necessary, but frosting will probably hold it. Spread frosting all around the rolled cake and branch, leaving the ends open, with no frosting. Using the tines of a fork, make little bark-like marks, and knots in the frosting. Decorate as desired with candies, silk flowers, or Marzipan/meringue decorations. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice into one-inch slices and serve.