Bûche de Noël
This traditional holiday cake is created from a chocolate and whipped cream roulade, or rolled cake, decorated to look like a log. The finished cake takes some time, but it makes a fun family project. The little marzipan and sliced almond pinecones are simple to make and, along with sprigs of rosemary and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, add a charming woodland touch.
For the marzipan:
- 1 1/2 cups (5 oz./120 g) super-fine almond flour, plus more as needed
- 1 1/2 cups (6 oz./185 g) confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed
- 2 tsp. almond or vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. rose water (optional)
- 1 egg white
For the cake:
- 1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) canola oil, plus more for greasing
- 1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 oz./265 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2/3 cup (2 oz./60 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cups (11 oz./345 g) granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) buttermilk
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 lb. (125 g) semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
- 3/4 tsp. espresso powder
For the whipped cream:
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) heavy cream
- 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the chocolate frosting:
- 3 cups (18 oz./560 g) semisweet chocolate chips
- 3 cups (24 fl. oz./750 ml) heavy cream, plus more as needed
- 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) sliced almonds
- 4 fresh rosemary springs
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
To make the marzipan, in a food processor, combine the almond flour and confectioners’ sugar and pulse until well combined. Add the extract, rose water and egg white and pulse until a thick dough forms. If the dough is wet and sticky to the touch, add 1 to 2 Tbs. more almond flour and pulse again. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead a few times. Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 month.
To make the cake, preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a rimmed sheet cake pan, line the pan with parchment paper, then grease the parchment. Dust with flour, then tap out any excess.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the granulated sugar, eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla on medium speed until blended, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, slowly add the flour mixture, and beat until incorporated, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the melted chocolate and espresso powder and beat until combined. Raise the speed to high and beat for 30 seconds.
Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then place a clean tea towel over the top of the cake. Invert the cake and towel onto a cutting board and peel off the parchment from the cake bottom. Starting at the short end of the cake, gently roll the cake away from you, rolling the towel as you go, until you form a log. Let cool until just barely warm, about 20 minutes.
While the cake cools, make the whipped cream and chocolate frosting. To make the whipped cream, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the cream, granulated sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the chocolate frosting, put the chocolate chips in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the cream to a simmer, about 3 minutes. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 10 minutes. Using a handheld whisk, whisk until the mixture is velvety and smooth and completely cooled.
Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. If it is too thick, beat in 1 Tbs. cream at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Set aside.
Carefully unroll the cake and remove the tea towel. Spread the whipped cream evenly over the top of the cake, then reroll the cake. Roll the log slowly, using even pressure on both sides to prevent cracking. If the roll does crack, the whipped cream filling will hold the cake together. Refrigerate for 10 minutes before frosting.
To frost the cake, using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate frosting evenly over the rolled cake, then use the end of the spatula to create ridges and lines to look like tree bark.
Remove the marzipan from the refrigerator and let the dough stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Cut the disk into 2 equal pieces. Rewrap 1 of the disks in plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator, reserving it for another use.
To make the pinecones, using your hands, roll about 1/2 Tbs. of the remaining marzipan dough into a ball. Starting at the bottom and working your way up, insert some of the almonds into the marzipan, creating a layered effect. Repeat with the remaining marzipan and almonds. The pinecones can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.
Decorate the cake with the pinecones and rosemary sprigs, dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve. Serves 12.
Adapted from Williams Sonoma Favorite Cakes (Weldon Owen, 2017)