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Week 48: Bûche de Noël

December 30, 2012 by Nina Spezzaferro

finished buche de noel

THIS cake is the piece de resistance of this project. At least I was hoping it’d be. Two years ago I attempted to make a Bûche de Noël. It was a disaster. Crafting a successful Bûche was an obvious goal for this year. I used a recipe I found on the Food Network website, which is accompanied by video clips from the show it originally aired on. The videos are very helpful, but I still think Nick Malgieri makes the assembly look WAY easier than it actually is.

I had a challenge on my hands. I needed to have the parts of the cake prepared for transportation via subway to my parents’ house. I reasoned it was best to assemble the cake the day it would be served, so I baked the chocolate genoise cake at home first. Here’s my mise en place.

genoise mise

You’ll see the ingredients are quite simple. But the preparation is not. I placed the 3 eggs plus 3 yolks in a medium saucepan with the  salt and sugar, gave it a whisk, and heat it over medium heat till the mixture became warm.

eggs and sugar on stovetop


Once the desired temperature was reached, I transferred the mixture to a large bowl and whipped until the mixture tripled in volume.

whipped eggs

In a separate bowl, I mixed together the flour, cocoa, and cornstarch before sifting the dry ingredients into the egg mixture.

sift dry ingredients

Once the batter was just combined, I poured it into a greased and parchment paper-lined 10″x15″ jelly roll pan, smoothing the top.

batter in panThe baking process is tricky. The recipe said to bake the genoise at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. I set my time for 5 minutes to rotate the pan and removed the genoise after baking for 10 minutes. But this was when I realized it looked a little dry and I may have overbaked it.

While the cake was baking, I laid a clean kitchen towel on my countertop and sprinkled it with confectioners’ sugar. Once I removed the genoise from the oven, I ran a pairing knife around the sides and flipped it out onto my prepared surface.

finished genoise


Then I immediately rolled the cake up to cool completely.

cooling genoiseAnd that’s pretty much how the genoise stayed for a full 24 hours. In the meantime, I prepared the coffee buttercream. Again, I had to do some stovetop prep. This time it was egg whites and sugar over medium heat.

buttercream on stove top


While the mixture was heating up, I dissolved 2 tablespoons instant coffee into 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier. Then I removed the egg mixture from the heat and beat the eggs and sugar till it had cooled. Next came the butter and coffee.


finished buttercreamOnce I successfully transported the cake parts to my parents’ house, it was time for the first stage assembly.

I unrolled the cake and it cracked, horizontally… in two places. So what I had on hand was essentially 3 rectangles of genoise. I was so wrapped up in getting it back together, I didn’t even photograph it. I just smeared the buttercream on and stuck it all back together before wrapping it in wax paper to chill and set. Nothing to see here. 😉



assembled roll wrapped
I let the log chill overnight, though a few hours would have sufficed. I was relieved when I unwrapped the log to find that evidence of the cracks was minimal. I sliced the ends off the log on a diagonal, reserving one to taste and “gluing” the other to the top with buttercream.

sliced rollI realized refrigerating the spare buttercream overnight was a mistake. As it came back down to room temperature, it started to separate and was difficult to spread. Luckily the texture I was trying to achieve was rough, like bark, so the lumpy buttercream didn’t pose too much of an aesthetic problem. I arranged the decorations I crafted out of canned marzipan and sprinkled the log with confectioners’ sugar “snow.” Then I covered the dish and popped the whole thing into the fridge to prevent the buttercream from separating further.

finished buche de noel

I wasn’t thrilled with the turnout of this cake. The cake was drier than I hoped it’d be. The buttercream was lumpier than I’d have liked. But because my last attempt at making this recipe turned out disastrous, I’ll consider this progress. And next time I’ll bake the genoise 1-2 minutes less and I won’t chill the buttercream before frosting the outside of the log. The marzipan decorations? Well, those turned out PERFECT. But I can’t take too much credit since I got the marzipan out of a can before sculpting the holly berries, mushrooms and pinecone.

finished buche de noel side 2





1 Comment »

  1. Aunt Silly says:

    To this I must attest – the picture does *not* do this work of art justice! Oh my NO! This was a masterpiece! I was incredibly impressed and delighted by the way this cake turned out! What’s more – it tasted delightful! The flavors were yummy!


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