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There is no question that food is a major part of the Winter Holiday Season. It doesn’t matter where you go, people are making up their favorite traditional recipes to share with family and friends. Among them, Buche de Noel ranks highly as a customary cake. This particular confection comes to us from France and is a edible take on the traditional Yule Log, which is exactly what Buche de Noel means , Yule log.

Most culinary historians believe the recipe became popular in the 1800s, but no one in particular seems to be credited with its invention. In keeping with its namesake, this Christmas creation has a log shape made from layered sponge cake.

The sponge cake may have candied fruits or nuts akin to the dreaded fruitcake, or sometimes it’s flavored with rum. In between each layer of cake there’s delectable butter cream (the flavor changes from cook to cook). Finally the last layer of frosting is brown (chocolate) so that it has a more log-like appearance.

From here people may decorate the cake with bits of holly, others may roll the cake in crushed cookie pieces to give it a rough appearing texture, and others still get really creative and use fondant and other culinary methods to create a log complete with twigs and remnant leaves.

Traditionally this particular edible appears at Christmas Eve dinners alongside Christmas pudding. You can make your own from scratch, or when time’s pressing simply buy a nice sponge cake at the store.

Shape the exterior to be more ‘log like’ and then slice the cake into layers. At this juncture you add whatever frosting you choose to hold those layers together (I also like putting jelly in here as a surprise for the eyes and pallet). For the final layer of frosting, just buy a canned chocolate frosting and sprinkle it with chocolate sprinkles.

Add a couple of silk flower leaves or anything else you wish to make the visual impact. In the top of the log you can place candles (provided you put down a protective covering at the base of the candles, so the log literally can burn at the table while you’re eating it to attract good fortune

Coffee Buttercream:
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy
1 Chocolate Genoise Sheet, recipe follows
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
For Finishing:
Cocoa powder
Red and green liquid food coloring
Confectioners’ sugar

To make the buttercream: Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled.

Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Turn the genoise layer over and peel away the paper.

Invert onto a fresh piece of paper. Spread the layer with half the buttercream.

Use the paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder Transfer to baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until set. Reserve the remaining buttercream for the outside of the buche.

To make the marzipan: Combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of the electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until the sugar is almost absorbed. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary; the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly. Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.

To make marzipan mushrooms: Roll 1/3 of the marzipan into a 6-inch long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths. Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms. Smudge with cocoa powder. To make holly leaves: Knead green color into 1/2 the remaining marzipan and roll it into a long cylinder. Flatten with the back of a spoon, then loosen it from the surface with a spatula. Cut into diamonds to make leaves, or use a cutter.

To make holly berries: Knead red color into a tiny piece of marzipan. Roll into tiny balls.

To make pine cones, knead cocoa powder into the remaining marzipan. Divide in half and form into 2 cone shapes. Slash the sides of cones with the points of a pair of scissors.

Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on the buche about 2/3 across the top. Cover the buche with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer the buche to a platter and decorate with the marzipan. Sprinkle the platter and buche sparingly with confectioners’ sugar “snow.”
Storage: Keep at cool room temperature. Cover leftovers loosely and keep at room temperature.

Chocolate Genoise Sheet:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Pinch salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa

Special equipment:

10 by 15-inch jelly-roll pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment

Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees (test with your finger). Attach the bowl to the mixer and with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume.

While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa.

Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until well risen, deep and firm to the touch. (Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry, or it will be hard to roll.)
Use a small paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan.

Invert the cake onto a rack and let the cake cool right side up on the paper. Remove the paper when the cake is cool.

Storage: Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several days, or double-wrap and freeze for up to a month.
Yield: 1 (10 by 15-inch) sheet cake



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