The »plat de résistance« of French Christmas tradition with a yumandmore twist – spicy dark chocolate filling and vanilla white chocolate icing. This recipe is my holiday gift to you my readers and followers, thank you for being there and believing in my creativity.
In France, as in most countries with a Celtic tradition, at Christmas a large log called a Yule log was placed in the fireplace on Christmas Eve. It was ignited and blessed and toasted with wine to give thanks and to celebrate the rebirth of the sun after the short winter days. This heathen tradition was later taken on by the Catholic church and as ovens became smaller, the wooden log was replaced by a symbolic cake log. When Napoleon the 1st ordered the Parisians to close their fireplace flues to prevent illness, around 1800, the Paris pâtissiers commercialized the Bûche de Noël or Yule Log cake so that Parisian families could still gather around a log to celebrate their Christmas traditions and stories.- courtesy of Wikipedia -
This recipe was recreated from a mixture of recipes and ideas. My recognition and thanks go out to:
Tom Reisz for his technical notes on Genoise from 1997, to www.caryn.com for their Christmas dessert recipes, to Dyann from www.dyanbakes.com from 2007, and to www.easy-french-food.com and to Francois Pugeaut my favorite French patissier!
Cake – Génoise:
We used a baking sheet to make this since we didn’t have a jellyroll pan; the result is a very thin cake. We made the cake, left it rolled up over night and filled it the next day and chilled again until serving.
- 4 large eggs
- 2/3 cup / 110 grams of sugar,
- 3 TBSP of clarified butter made from 50 grams / 3.5 TBSP of (lactose-free) butter
- 1 TBSP blanched unsalted almonds, 2 TBSP powdered sugar, 1 TBSP pistachios
- 1 cup / 110 grams all-purpose flour or 1 cup / 95 grams of cake flour
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp organic orange zest
- Butter for coating the pan
- 4 sheets of parchment baking paper
Putting the cake together
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit / 190 degrees Celsius.
- Grease your jellyroll pan or baking sheet with a lip, with butter. Cover the butter with a sheet of parchment paper that overlaps the pan. Now also grease the sheet of paper with butter and set aside.
- In a grinder or processor, combine the almonds, powdered sugar and pistachios and process to a fine flour-like consistency.
- Now sift this mixture together with the flour. Sift again and set aside in a dry place.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan – do not boil. Let stand. Then remove the white skin from the top of the butter with a spoon. Pour off the clear butter into a glass measuring cup. Let it stand in a warm place.
- Break the eggs into a large metal bowl and whisk well to combine. Place the bowl of egg over a barely simmering bain-marie to warm them up, stir continuously, testing the temperature of the eggs with your little finger. The eggs should turn warm but not hot or they’ll curdle.
- Remove the bowl of warm eggs and using an electric beater, beat the eggs for 7 minutes adding the sugar tablespoon by tablespoon after the first 3 minutes and the vanilla, orange aroma and zest after 5 minutes
This is the secret: do not stop beating until the whole 7 minutes is up!! and then do not over-mix when adding the flour – see below.
- Stop the mixer after 7 minutes and pour a 1/3 of the flour mixture into the eggs and using a wooden spoon with a hole in the middle or a spatula, fold the flour into the eggs without whipping or stirring. Repeat twice more with the rest of the flour.
- Drizzle in the clarified butter leaving the white residue behind in the cup. Don’t worry if there is some left over.
- Stir once more very gently to barely combine.
- Pour the batter onto the papered pan and spread evenly.
- Bake it in the oven for 10 minutes – the cake will spring back when pressed lightly with your finger.
Next secret: do not over-bake or the cake will be tough!!
- Now for the turning part:
- Remove the cake from the oven.
- Take another baking sheet and cover the back of the sheet with a fresh parchment paper. Place this sheet and paper over the cake and using both hands and potholders, invert the cake onto the clean sheet of parchment and remove the original baking paper from the cake.
- Now place another sheet of fresh parchment onto a cool baking sheet and place both over the cake and reverse once more so that the cake is back to having its baked side up.
- Slide the cake onto the counter with the fresh sheet of parchment, taking care not to break or crack it – move quickly.
- French pâtissier baking secret:
Using a baking brush, brush orange syrup (see recipe below) onto the cake to moisten not soak it. This will help roll up the cake without cracking and it will remain moist.
- Roll up the cake with the parchment paper the long way; I agree with Dyann that it gives you more cake and looks more like a log. Wrap a large clean dishtowel around it to keep it in shape and cool completely or overnight. It will then be ready for filling.
Orange moistening syrup:
Will also be used in the butter cream later.
- Juice of one organic washed orange
- 1 TBSP orange zest from above orange
- Add water to equal 1 cup incl. the orange juice
- ¾ cup / 170 grams
- 2 cloves
- 1 star anise
- 1 TBSP good brandy or cognac is you must – optional
Putting the sauce together:
- Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes to thicken. Strain into a bowl and set aside.
Filling and frosting the bûche:
The filling is made with dark chocolate, cinnamon, orange and chili; the frosting is made with white chocolate.
Ingredients for filling and frosting:
- 2/3 cup / 150 grams of unsalted soft (lactose-free) butter
- 6 cups / 600 grams of powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup / 60 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- 50 grams / 1.7 oz each of white and bittersweet block chocolate
- 2 x 1 TBSP milk
- ¼ cup of buttermilk (or 1/4 cup (lactose-free) milk with 1tsp lemon juice added)
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- 2 pinch chili powder
- 2 x 1 TBSP orange syrup
- 1 tsp orange zest
Putting it all together:
- Sift the powdered sugar and the salt twice.
- Measure the buttermilk (or make it) and add the vanilla seeds to it, mix well.
- Whip the butter with an electric mixer until it is light and creamy.
- Add half the sugar and salt to the mixture along with half the buttermilk. Combine well.
- Add the second half of the sugar and the rest of the buttermilk. Beat until very well combined and smooth.
- Separate the butter-cream into 2 bowls by a ratio of 1/3 and 2/3.
- Melt the dark block chocolate in a bain-marie with 1 TBSP milk, stirring well to combine.
- Using the bowl with 1/3 of the butter-cream which will become the filling; add the unsweetened cocoa powder, the melted dark chocolate, the chili, cinnamon, the orange zest, and 1 TBSP of the orange syrup.
- Continue beating it until it is smooth and well combined.
- In the meantime, melt the white chocolate in the same way as the dark chocolate.
- Unwrap and unroll the cake leaving the parchment paper underneath it.
- BTW: it’s easier if you have help to hold and fill and then roll up.
- Take up your dark filling and smooth it onto the cake, smoothing it with a knife, you can leave a small (max ½ inch) border around the sides without filling.
- Wrap up the cake firmly but not tightly, this time without the parchment paper inside.
- Lay the log roll on its seam, on the parchment paper and press down lightly so it doesn’t unroll.
- Cut off a thin slice of cake on each end to make it straight. Discard into your mouth with some frosting.
- Now cut a thick slice at an angle from both ends, this will serve as the stubs on the log to make it look more real.
- Take up your bowl with the 2/3 butter-cream for your frosting and add the melted white chocolate, once again beating it until it is smooth.
- Glue the stubs on to the log by spreading the frosting under one side and sticking them on at a angle. Now use the rest of your frosting to secure the stubs and to cover the log completely except for the visible side of the stubs.
- Use your knife to create a wood-like design in the frosting.
- Cover lightly with wax paper and cool for at least a few hours or until serving.Decorate with mushroom candles, reindeer, or other woodsy Christmas decorations.
Season’s Greetings and big Holiday Hugs, Karin