Sure, a perfectly cooked rib roast will no doubt impress your holiday guests, but this year, your real showstopper should be the French gâteau known as bûche de Noël.
This version omits some of the traditional embellishments, such as marzipan holly and chocolate frosting that's scored with a fork to resemble bark. It also isn't made with yellow cake and rolled with raspberry jam: Instead, it's an all-white dessert made with an all-essential pliable sponge cake that's needed to form the bûche. The cake is then lightly doused with passion fruit juice and draped with a white chocolate ganache before being sprinkled with grated coconut.
It's lighter, less sweet and a little bit more adventurous than the classic version. Consider it your snowy masterpiece.
To learn more, read "Bûche League."
Bûche de Noël
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 1 cake
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours, plus chilling time
Total Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, plus chilling time
For the Sponge Cake:
6 large eggs, separated
1¼ cups (170 grams) powdered sugar
¼ cup boiling water
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup (150 grams) cake flour
½ cup passion fruit juice
Grated unsweetened coconut, for sprinkling
For the White Chocolate Ganache:
1 pound white chocolate, roughly chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
1. Make the sponge cake: Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper so that it drapes over the rim by 1 inch.
2. With an electric mixer, beat the eggs yolks and sugar until the yolks become a pale yellow. Add the boiling water, one tablespoon at a time, and the vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture has thickened.
3. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until stiff, glossy peaks form.
4. Over the bowl with the egg yolk mixture, sift the cake flour, gradually folding in the flour as you go.
5. Fold ⅓ of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture until fully incorporated. Fold in the remaining egg whites.
6. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking sheet and smooth out using a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake has just set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and immediately lift the cake out of the baking sheet using the parchment paper and transfer it to a clean work surface to stop the cake from cooking.
7. Using a paring knife, trim 1 inch from all sides of the cake; discard the trimmings.
8. While the cake is still warm, roll the cake into a cylinder, working quickly, and let it cool for 20 minutes.
9. Meanwhile, make the white chocolate ganache: Place the white chocolate in a blender. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate and let it rest for about 10 seconds until melted. Blend the ganache on high speed until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.
10. Unroll the sponge cake and place on a new sheet of parchment paper.
11. Using a pastry brush, brush the cake with the passion fruit juice until fully coated. Spread the top of the cake evenly with some of the ganache. Let the cake stand for 5 minutes until set.
12. Begin rolling the cake, brushing the other side with passion fruit juice as you roll. Use the parchment paper to wrap the rolled cake; twist each end then freeze for 1 hour so that the cake will hold its shape.
13. Remove the cake from the freezer and unwrap it. Trim ¼ inch from each end and discard the trimmings. Cut a 2-inch length from one end on a diagonal to form a stump. Place a wire rack over a sheet pan and place the cake on the rack. Pour the ganache over the cake to glaze. Place the stump on the top of the glazed cake. Pour the remaining ganache over the stump. Sprinkle the cake with grated coconut flakes until evenly coated.
14. Using two long metal spatulas, transfer the cake to a platter and place in the fridge to set for 30 minutes. To serve, decorate with mushrooms and powdered sugar.