Backstory — La Buche du Noel

La buche du Noel is a festively eye-catching dessert from France. And it wouldn’t have been possible if not for a nineteenth century urbanization trend and the widespread availability of cheap sugar.

Make your own buche du Noel

Maggie Regaisis shared her buche du Noel recipe. Hear her tips in the episode, then try making your own!

Basic Chiffon Cake for Buche du Noel

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp (5 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) vegetable oil
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 5 egg whites, at room temp
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325, line the bottom of a 12×17 jelly roll pan with parchment paper to fit exactly, do not grease the sides of the pan. Sift the flour and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in all but 3 tbsp of the sugar and all of the salt into the flour mixture. In a small bowl whisk the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest together.

Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the egg mixture into it, whisk quickly for 1 min, set aside Pour the egg whites into a stand mixer bowl. Using the whisk attachment beat on med-high speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat at the same speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the 3 tbsp of sugar and beat at the same speed until whites hold stiff shiny peaks.

Gently fold in about 1/3 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten. Then gently fold in the rest of the whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake 20-30 min or until cake is just set to the touch. Set aside to cool in the pan. Once cool run a small knife along the edge to loosen, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack, peel off the parchment and set aside.

Buttercream Filling

  • 1 1/4 cup (10 oz) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp (8 oz) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) coffee, brewed double strength

Cut the butter into tbsp increments.

Fill a sauce pan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Combine sugar, egg whites and salt in a stainless steal bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk together to combine. Place the bowl over the simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water. Whisk over the water until the mixture is hot to the touch (120 degrees), about 5 min.

Remove the bowl from the heat and place in the bowl into the stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Mix on high speed until the the mixture is thick, glossy and holds very stiff peaks, about 5-7 min. Mixture should be cool by this point

Reduce the speed to med-high and add the butter to the mixture 1 tbsp at a time, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Mix in the coffee at a low speed, than increase to med to fully incorporate, set aside. The buttercream was soupy and starting to separate when I added the coffee so I just beat it on high and it re-incorporated itself.

Almond Ganache Bark

  • 1 cup (3 1/2 oz) sliced almonds
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and bake for 5 min or until toasted. Stir halfway through to ensure even toasting. Transfer to a small plate to cool. Place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan bring the heavy cream to just under a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1 min, then stir the mixture until it is melted, smooth and shiny.

Add the cooled almonds and mix gently. Place the mixture in the fridge for 15 min or until it has thickened and is a good spreading consistency. If the ganache becomes too hard for spreading you can place the heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir with a wooden spoon until it softens to the right consistency.

Assembling la buche

Place the cooled cake on parchment paper or plastic wrap. Using a pastry brush, moisten the entire cake with the cooled coffee syrup. Transfer all the buttercream to the cake and spread evenly with a spatula leaving a 1 inch strip on each long side of the cake void of buttercream. Starting from the longest side nearest you, begin rolling the cake tightly, using the plastic wrap to help you. Don’t worry about the state of the ends, they will both be cut off anyways. Refrigerate the rolled cake for at least 2 hours.

Using a sharp knife, cut a thick slice off each end at the diagonal . Set the cleanest best looking end aside. To frost the cake, use an offset spatula to spread the ganache bark evenly over the cake leaving the faces of the two ends exposed. Make sure you reserve enough ganache to frost the “bough” which is your reserved end piece.

Place the diagonal slice, the bough, on top of the frosted cake towards one of the cakes ends. Make sure the diagonal end is facing up. Next frost the sides of the bough leaving the top face exposed. Transfer the cake to your serving dish. Finish with dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

Fun links

Music from this episode

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