Buche de Noel

yule log

 

 

 

 

 

At last…buche de noel. This cake took me literally all day to make, between other baking, errands, and visits. A quick internet search revealed the the yule log was a literal log, tossed on the fire around winter solstice. The literal log somehow evolved into a French treat of chocolate cake, whipped cream-like filling, and chocolate ganache frosting. I love traditional buche de noel, but since my mom is coming over for Christmas dinner tomorrow and she doesn’t eat chocolate, voila…almond buche de noel!

Part One: Almond Sponge Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation

Grease a 10 x 15 x 1 baking pan; line with parchment and grease the parchment; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl using the whisk attachment, beat eggs on medium speed for three minutes.

Gradually add sugar and beat until mixture is thick and lemon-colored.

Stir in almond extract.

Gently fold in flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 15 minutes, until center of cake springs back when touched.

Remove from oven; flip onto a cooling rack, remove parchment paper, then quickly flip onto a towel coated with powdered sugar.

Roll up tightly from the short end, place on a cooling rack, and allow to cool completely before filling.

Part Two: Almond Whipped Cream Filling

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preparation

In a chilled bowl, combine whipping cream, almond extract, and powdered sugar.

Using a chilled whisk beater, beat on medium speed until soft peaks form.

Carefully un-roll cake and spread filling inside.

Re-roll cake tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for a few hours before frosting.

Part Three: Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Place butter in a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment and beat for a few minutes.

Add powdered sugar, and with the mixer on low, beat until all sugar is incorporated into the butter. (Hint: I place a kitchen towel over my mixer during this stage to prevent a powdered sugar blizzard.)

Increase speed to medium; add vanilla and beat for three minutes, then taste. If you’d like a stronger vanilla flavor or to increase the sweetness, add additional extract and a few tablespoons of powdered sugar.

Remove cake from plastic wrap; cut off each end to create a flat surface, or leave intact for a more rustic appearance. Brush off excess powdered sugar, otherwise your frosting will not stick.

Frost cake to look like a log, using broad strokes with a butter knife.

Pumpkin Roll

 

 

 

 

 

I love that scene in “Julie & Julia” when Julie Powell kneels before her coffee table, preparing to follow along with the episode of “The French Chef” in which Julia Child de-bones a duck. With that scary chef’s knife in her hand, Julie nods to the television and says, as if hoping to convince herself, “No fear, Julia.”

I thought about this scene while contemplating pumpkin roll over the past few weeks. The concept of the pumpkin roll has long intimidated me. Roll the piping hot cake in a tea towel? What if it cracks? What if it sticks to the towel? What if it’s a total disaster?

Well, if Julie Powell could de-bone a duck, then surely I could make a pumpkin roll.

I summoned as much bravery as possible, mixed my ingredients, and baked my cake. There was a precarious, breath-holding moment when I flipped the cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack, peeled back the waxed paper, then immediately slid it onto the sugar-coated towel. With hope, I rolled the cake in the towel and set it on a cooling rack.

A few hours later, with the filling prepared, I stood before my towel-wrapped cake. Carefully peeling back the towel, I discovered that it was not only intact, but crack-free. After slathering on the filling I re-rolled the cake, secured it in plastic wrap, and with a profound sense of satisfaction, placed it in the fridge to chill.

No fear, bakers.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin

For the filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease a 10 x 15 jelly roll pan, then line with waxed paper and grease and flour the paper.

Place a clean tea towel (linen or flour sack, nothing too textured) on the counter top and sprinkle it generously with powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Beat until thickened, about three to five minutes.

Add pumpkin and beat well.

Stir in flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out the top.

Bake for 13 minutes; the top should be just golden-brown and spring back slightly when pressed.

Working quickly and carefully, invert the pan onto a cooling rack, peel off the waxed paper, and slide or flip the cake onto the tea towel.

Roll up the cake and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.

For the filling:

In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and butter; beat until smooth.

Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until very well combined.

Carefully un-roll the cake from the tea towel.

Spread filling in an even layer, leaving about a half-inch border at the long edges.

Re-roll the cake and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least one hour before serving.