December is a month for lists, so here we go:
What this is:
- A Yule Log, or Bûche de Noël.
- The December Daring Bakers challenge, hosted by Lis (La Mia Cucina) and Ivonne (Cream Puffs in Venice), who are also the illustrious founders of the DBs.
- My interpretation of the recipe Lis and Ivonne adapted from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert. (The recipe should be up on their blogs soon.)
- A genoise cake rolled with coffee buttercream filling and frosted with mocha buttercream, garnished with meringue mushrooms and other embellishments.
What I did:
- Followed the recipe exactly for the plain genoise. No fancy flourishes for me here. I’m a cake neophyte, so best to stick to basics. Luckily, this went without a hitch.
- Followed the recipe for the coffee buttercream filling exactly, only substituting Kahlúa for the rum I was out of.
- Because the alcohol flavor in the filling was quite strong, enough for the entire cake, I made another batch of buttercream for the outside. This time I left the Kahlúa out, and added about 1/3 cup of melted semi-sweet chocolate.
- Rolled the cake with the filling two days before serving, and kept it in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic.
- Frosted the cake the night before serving, and kept it refrigerated, covered with a plastic cake dome.
- Made meringue mushrooms one day ahead and stored them in a ziploc bag.
- Made sugared cranberries by dipping toothpick-impaled raw berries in a light sugar/water syrup, then in granulated sugar. Same for the rosemary, minus the toothpick of course.
- Brought this to my clinic’s holiday party.
- Failed to take any photos of the cut cake. I’m self-conscious enough taking photos of my food at home; I draw the line at doing it in front of my colleagues.
What I liked:
- I’m sorry if saying so is immodest, but it looked amazingly like a “real” yule log (i.e., one made by someone who actually knew what they were doing).
- I haven’t has this much fun with mushrooms since… well, never.
- I haven’t had this much fun assembling a cake since… also never.
- The parts could all be made ahead, and each element was pretty straightforward to make.
- It was definitely a crowd-pleaser.
What I didn’t like (happily, a short list!):
- The flavor reminded me of one of my least favorite desserts, tiramisu. Next time (and there will definitely be a next time, very soon) I will leave the alcohol out completely, and probably make some kind of fruit filling instead of the buttercream.
What I learned:
- Burning a (real) yule log started as a Scandinavian pagan Winter Solstice tradition, and symbolizes protection, warmth, and light.
- Genoise is a sponge cake leavened only with the air beaten into the batter. It also contains no butter or oil.
- Coffee powder dissolves nicely in Kahlúa, not so much in melted chocolate. (Which is not necessarily a disaster if the aim is to make your buttercream frosting resemble bark.)
- Raw cranberries are surprisingly edible when glazed with sugar.
- Mushroom stems that fall over during piping or baking let you make mushrooms that grow on the side of the log.
- If you bring this to a party, be prepared for everyone to ask how you made the mushrooms. Next time I think I will prepare a poster.
Thank you Lis and Ivonne for a dazzling challenge! And to everyone, may your holiday season be filled with warmth and light.