This is probably going to be one of the longest posts in the history of blogdom, but I hope to pass along some very helpful tips on creating a beautiful Bûche de Noël. I love this cake because it is so woodsy and heartwarming. I decided to start this project on December 21st, the shortest day and longest night of the year, Winter Solstice.
The instructions below are a time-line of the cake's assembly. Instead of creating a separate post on how to make meringue mushrooms, I've included it in the time-line of this cake. Recipes will be provided at the end of the post for exact measurements.
First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 inch jelly roll pan with shortening. Line with parchment paper and grease parchment paper in the same manner. Set aside and prepare the sponge cake batter.
The batter appears to be a complex task, but it is not. Beat your egg yolks and sugar until thick. The mixture will resemble prepared cake batter. Beat your egg whites until stiff in a separate bowl. Flour is folded into the yolk mixture, yolk mixture is then folded into the whites. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 12-15 minutes.
Prepare a thin tea towel with a generous amount of powdered sugar. I use 1/3 cup and spread the sugar with the palm of my hand to the edges. Turn cake out onto floured surface.
Fold over one end of the sugared tea towel onto the cake and begin rolling from that end. Roll tea towel into the cake, as you would roll up a newspaper.
Carefully prepare the meringue mixture. Make sure all bowls and mixing tools are clean before beginning. Any spot of grease will cause your meringue to flop. Place prepared meringue in a large piping bag. I used a disposable bag fitted with a coupler and no tip. This made nice evenly sized mushroom caps.
For stems, pipe a 1" base and continue piping, gently lifting your bag strait up, until the stem tapers and breaks from the tip. To me, these look like very large Hershey Kisses. I practiced the stems with this in mind.
You'll then bake these at 200 degrees for 45 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 45 minutes. When time is up, turn off the oven and leave them until the oven is cool. You can also leave them overnight.
While waiting on the meringues to bake, you can begin working on the bark. I really like the natural peeling bark look of thinly layered chocolate over the whipped frosting. I use Microwaveable Fondue Chocolate in a 7 oz. tub. It can be found at Cost Plus World Market. You can also use any chocolate with a high fat content that melts easily and dries solid. The instructions could not be more simple.
Melt chocolate, until uniform and smooth, then heat for 30 seconds more. Spread chocolate across a large piece of parchment, and allow to dry. That's pretty much it. As you peel the chocolate off the parchment you'll notice it will break along natural fault lines. This is part of the beauty. Bark is imperfect and you can't mess this up. Flip the chocolate to the reverse side (the part that was touching the parchment) and you'll find bark-like impressions from the drying process. This is from over-heating the chocolate. Neat eh?
Your mushrooms are probably baked and cooled by now, so let's take a look at assembly.
With a skewer, make a hole in the middle of the mushroom caps. To affix caps to stems, you'll need white chocolate or white easy-melt candy wafers. Apply a little melted chocolate to the top of the mushroom stem and top with cap. Allow to stand undisturbed until set, about 10 minutes.
I love it. Even the rejects are pretty.
Now that our mushrooms are setting, let's begin the sponge cake filling.
I can't say I love this filling. It tastes great, but to me it's a little too loose, and takes quite a while to firm up in the refrigerator. I've included it in the printable recipe, but feel free to substitute your favorite chocolate frosting in place of this.
Gently unroll your sponge cake from the tea towel. Spread open. You will find it is very pliable and will not break. Spread frosting to within 1/2" of outer edge of cake. For the sake of time (and daylight) I glazed the inside of the spongecake with some of the not-yet-set filling. I would suggest letting the icing set for the recommended time if you are using the recipe provided. If you choose to glaze as I did, use a pastry brush to paint on the glaze, and do not use the entire amount.
Re-roll cake and place on the surface from which you will be presenting it. Here, I used a rectangular cardboard cake pad covered with aluminum foil. Cut one end of the cake slightly on the bias and reserve piece for later use.
You are now ready to frost the outside of the cake! I love the whipped icing this recipe calls for, it is SO very easy and nearly foolproof. I won't go into the making of the icing because I suspect you will have no problem in this area. (Email if you do have problems, we'll chat.)
The reject mushrooms (for lack of a better name) need to be placed on the log after icing, and before anything else goes on the cake. That is, if you choose to use them. Next, the piece of cake we bias cut earlier and saved can be placed cut-side-out and iced to the side of the log. We could stop here, I mean it's pretty darn cute at this stage, right?
You'll further embellish by placing the chocolate bark pieces all around the cake. Place as many pieces as you can on any exposed icing surface. Use little bitty pieces to cover the icing around the reject mushrooms.
Now all that's left is the garnishing. Below you will see a couple of sliced almond pine cones. I don't have a tutorial for those in this (already very long) post. Would you believe me if I said it's as easy as sticking a bunch of sliced almonds into a hunk of Marzipan? Well, it is!
I dusted the mushrooms with a little cocoa powder, to give them an authentic look.
Place mushrooms on and around cake with a little whipped icing on the base of the mushroom stems. If you still have some white chocolate leftover, it makes a nice fixitive that holds a little stonger than the icing. Dust the entire scene with confectioner's sugar. Garnish with fresh flowers if desired.
If you've made it this far through my wall o' text and pictures, then I'd like to extend a heart-felt thank you. I really enjoyed putting this tutorial together. Hopefully I've not missed anything, and if I have please let me know! I welcome your correspondence.
P.S. The chocolate bark portion is not in the printable recipe, as it is my own flourish to the completed cake.