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Yule log (Buche de Noel)

December 24, 2013

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I was lucky to have had some time to make this famous French Christmas or Yule time traditional dessert.  I’ve made it the past several years now,  so it has become something of a tradition for me.  One nice thing about it is that you can mix and match the components to make it to your taste.  It is composed of a rolled cake,  usually a genoise or other type of sponge cake, a filling,  usually a buttercream, and a frosting, also usually made with buttercream.  Mine is a basic yule log  made with a butter enriched sponge cake, white buttercream, and dark chocolate ganache.  The possibilities are endless though.  A chocolate sponge cake could be used with an orange buttercream and white chocolate ganache for example.  Marzipan is often used for making leaves and berries to decorate the log.  Here I’m taking a short cut and making meringue mushrooms and using raspberries,  blackberries and some rosemary.  I originally wanted it to resemble a pecan tree log with marzipan pecans and leaves,  but it will have to wait till next time.  Pecan or cedar yule logs would be more appropriate in Texas.

This recipe will make 2 yule logs.

For 2 sheet sponge cakes (13 by 17 by 1/2 inch):

8 eggs separated

Pinch of cream of tartar (if not using a copper bowl)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 1/2 cups cake flour

Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling

Simple syrup:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons dark rum (or other flavored spirits)

The buttercream (5 1/2 cups):

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup water plus more as needed

8 egg yolks, slightly warmed

1 1/4  pounds cold butter cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes

Optional flavoring

Dark chocolate ganache:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (if using blocks, chop into small pieces)

3/4 cup heavy cream

Meringue mushrooms:

5 egg whites

Small pinch of cream of tartar unless using a copper bowl

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar if very humid

 

For the cakes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line two 13 by 17 inch sheet pans with parchment paper.   Mark a large X  on the sheet pan using butter.  The parchment paper will adhere better while you spread the batter.

Prepare the melted butter in a small saucepan.

Beat the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar (if using) in your stand mixer with a whisk attachment on medium high until medium peaks form. It took mine about 8 minutes, but I’d keep a close watch. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar slowly and beat on high until stiff peaks form.

As the egg whites are beating whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar for a couple of minutes or until they are slightly pale.

Fold together the egg white and yolk mixture.  Put one quarter of the mixture in a small bowl and fold in the melted butter.  Fold the butter mixture back into the egg mixture.  Now add the cake flour by sifting it into the mixture in four parts. After adding each part gently fold it in until no flour is visible.

Spread the batter evenly into the 2 prepared sheet pans. You can spray the sides of the pan with oil to help avoid sticking. Or you can just separate the finished cake from the sides with a knife.  Bake about 12 minutes or until the cake is firm to the touch.  Rotate the pans during baking if they are cooking unevenly.

While the cakes are baking,  sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar on two sheets of parchment paper at least as big as the sheet cakes.

When the cakes are done, remove them from the oven and flip them onto the prepared parchment paper.  Peel off the cooked parchment paper. Let the sponge cakes cool. Trim off any uneven or dried edges.  The cakes should be firm but pliable for easy rolling.

 

For the simple syrup

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to just a hot temperature.  Dissolve the sugar using a whisk.  Let it cool to slightly warm and add the 2 tablespoons rum or other desired flavor.

Brush the sponge cakes  liberally (is it ok to use “liberal” ?) with the syrup.

 

For the buttercream

To warm the egg yolks, place the eggs in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes before cracking and separating them.

Over  medium heat bring the sugar and water to a simmer in a heavy bottom saucepan. While the syrup is cooking, beat the yolks on high speed for about 8 minutes with the whisk attachment of your mixer.  They should become quadrupled in size and very pale.

Meanwhile, check the syrup to make sure it is not ready before the yolks.  It should eventually reach the soft ball stage (238 to 240 degrees F.). If the syrup is ready before the yolks,  add 1 tablespoon water and continue simmering.

When they are both ready,  turn the mixer to high and carefully pour the syrup into the yolks between the whisk and bowl. The syrup will harden and form globules if it comes in contact with the whisk. Continue beating the mixture until it is a little warmer than room temperature. The bottom of the bowl should be neither hot nor cold to the touch.  It required about 8 more minutes of beating before it cooled down enough.

Turn the mixer to medium and add the butter cubes a few at a time.  Make sure they are incorporated before adding more.  Continue beating about 10 minutes until the smooth and fluffy.  For optional flavorings add 2 3/4 teaspoons vanilla or 5 1/2 teaspoons full flavored spirits like kirsch, framboise, or dark rum.

To make the log, spread the buttercream evenly over the two sponge cakes.  Take a short side of the cake and tightly roll it to the other end like you would a jelly roll.  With a bread knife, cut off a small piece from both ends at a 45 degree angle to serve as side branches. Use some buttercream to attach them to the log.

 

For the ganache

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Heat the heavy cream to a simmer in a saucepan and pour it over the chocolate.  Let the mixture sit about 10 minutes then stir it with a rubber spatula for about a minute.  Now use a whisk and stir until smooth.  I then put the ganache in the refrigerator so that it can begin to set.  At this point it is more of a sauce than a glaze.  I took it out after about 1 hour, and then let it sit out at room temperature.  After a total of a couple of hours it was at a good consistency to spread.   Eventually it set well for the glaze, not too hard, not too soft.

Spread the chocolate ganache over the log. I used a butter knife and small spatula to help make a bark like appearance.

 

For the meringue mushrooms

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar (if using) on medium high with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer.   Beat until soft peaks form,  about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the granulated sugar and beat several more minutes until stiff peaks form, 5 to 6 minutes.  Fold in the confectioner’s sugar if the humidity is high.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Using a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch plain tip, pipe out round mushroom cap shapes onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  For the stems, pipe out slenderer elongated standing shapes.  Do this by lifting the bag straight up while squeezing.  Leave a narrow point on top.  Put them in the preheated oven and immediately turn down the temperature to 225 degrees.  It will take about 2 to 4 hours depending on the humidity.  Check them from time to time,  they’ll be ready when the meringue has hardened.  Carve out a little hole on the underside of the caps and attach a stem using buttercream as “glue”. You’ll make more than you need for decorating but they are a tasty sweet treat on their own.  I sprinkled the mushrooms with shimmer dust.  The mushrooms will keep for several days in an airtight container, so they can be made ahead of time.

 

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Do I need to mention this is one very rich cake?

This yule log is based on the one in James Peterson’s book “Baking”.  You’ll find great details in all aspects of baking in there.

I hope you are having a great Christmas season and had a very Happy Chanukah!

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 24, 2013 5:55 pm

    Oh, yum!

  2. December 24, 2013 6:06 pm

    Oh, calorie packed!

  3. The Editor permalink
    December 24, 2013 6:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Recipe Reblog.

  4. December 26, 2013 4:06 am

    What the…I looked away for a minute and you made this! Gorgeous, Gerard. I would not even attempt this one.

    • December 26, 2013 11:21 am

      I’m pretty sure you’d come up with a great looking yule log! Thanks Angie! I hope you’re having a great Christmas season!

  5. January 5, 2014 12:38 am

    Gerard, After I saw your post, a few days later I saw a chef on TV make exactly the same yule log! I wish I could remember who it was! My jaw dropped as I saw him put it together, including the little mushrooms, only he didn’t use Rosemary. He used actual pine sprigs or something like that as I recall. OK, Mr. Baker, the jig is up! Who are you?!?! LOL!

    • January 5, 2014 1:39 am

      You’re too funny Marcella! My Yule log is pretty basic, so I’m sure it resembled more than a few out there! Ganache is less commonly used than buttercream for the “bark” so it would surprise me a little if the chef also used it. It seems that the mushrooms are standard fare. My twist was to dust them with shimmer instead of the usual cocoa. I used rosemary instead of making leaves with marzipan because it was more convenient. At least rosemary is edible. The dessert is so rich I made sure to give one away and then heavily share the other. I wish you could have tried some. Thanks for commenting!

      • January 6, 2014 12:16 am

        YOU wish I could have tried it? I wish I could have tried it! You could always mail it to me since we’re having temperatures that will be below zero. I hope my electrical power holds up. Keep your fingers crossed! I don’t know if I believe you that your yule log is basic. It’s too coincidental that I also saw it on TV. I can’t remember if the chef used buttercream or ganache – I was too speechless!

  6. January 6, 2014 12:44 am

    Stay safe and warm. We’ve been hearing about the snowstorm, hopefully you don’t have to go out. Sounds like soup weather!

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  1. A Christmas Buche De Noel | saraheatsaustin

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