Cooking

Bûche League

An elegant, nontraditional take on bûche de Noël
Photo: Tasting Table
Buche de Noel

"Whenever someone brings a bûche de Noël to our house for the holidays, everyone oohs and aahs at it, but no one actually eats it," a Tasting Table editorial staffer who wishes to remain nameless says. Granted, said bûche is usually store bought with the type of frosting that crackles when you touch it (you know what we're talking about).

You've undoubtedly seen a million photos of the bûche de Noël over the years, that cheery, straight-out-of-a-Wes-Anderson-movie rolled cake made to resemble a yule log. It usually has chocolate frosting combed with a fork to resemble bark, an adorable little stump jutting out and adornments such as playful marizpan holly and meringue mushrooms. So why don't more people make the classic French (and French-Canadian) holiday dessert from scratch?

There's the rolling of the cake (intimidating). The making of the meringue mushrooms (time consuming). The fear that your log's stump won't attach properly (mortifying).

But when it's done right, the woodland-inspired dessert is a showstopper.

In order to minimize effort (who needs to spend all day piping meringues?) while still maximizing that wow factor, food editor Andy Baraghani goes simple with our version (see the recipe). His elegant, understated bûche de Noël looks like a snow-dusted log in an enchanted forest.

The cake itself is a traditional genoise, but he swaps the typical berry filling for a passion fruit glaze and a white chocolate ganache, and dusts the finished cake with unsweetened grated coconut for a bit of texture. The overall effect is reminiscent of tres leches cake but much prettier. It's the "winter white" yule log your family will oooh and ahhh over—but actually eat.

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We've broken down the steps for making our bûche de Noël. Before you get started, there's some equipment you'll want to have on hand: a wire rack (on which the cake can cool), an offset spatula (for spreading the ganache) and two large metal spatulas (for moving the finished cake to its serving dish.

Now, get ready to roll.

1. Sponge cake: Our traditional white genoise uses cake flour and powdered sugar, which both make the cake light and pliable. The method is traditional: You'll fold egg whites into an egg yolk mixture for a super-fluffy batter. Just make sure that when you remove the cake from the oven, you take it off its baking dish immediately to stop it from baking further and getting tough. You'll brush it with sweet passion fruit juice and roll it before it cools, so that it keeps its shape.

2. White chocolate ganache: Instead of a jelly filling and chocolate frosting, our ganache pulls double duty as both a filling and a glaze for the outside (it gives the exterior a slightly sticky texture as well, allowing the stump to attach easily). If you went to culinary school, unlearn your stovetop ganache-making technique and make it the easy way: in a blender.

3. Coconut flakes: Grated coconut not only adds texture, it makes the yule log look like it's been dusted with a snow flurry.

4. Decorations: We took a shortcut here, eschewing time-consuming adornments for Meiji chocolate mushroom and acorn (technically bamboo shoot) cookies. They're cute, they're delicious and they give the cake that undeniable foresty feel.

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