December 22, 2017

Bûche de Noël {Recipe for Mocha Layer Cake}

Bûche de Noël featuring chocolate "hedgehog" truffles

Every December in Paris, something magical occurs. On the elegant boulevards and quaint cobblestone streets, the daintiest of pâtisserie shops transform their boutique windows into marvelous showcases of "bûches de Noël" (Yuletide logs). Considered the essential dessert to celebrate Christmas, these exquisite oblong-shaped cakes come in a variety of flavors such as chocolate, chestnut, coffee or vanilla. But the decor always features a forest theme, with details ranging from marzipan leaves to meringue mushrooms. 

Interestingly, the woodland motif originates from an early pagan tradition in France. During the pre-Christian era, on December 24th every househould would take a large log from the forest and light it in their fireplace. This Yule log custom found its way into the pâtisserie repertoire beginning in the 19th century, delighting French holiday celebrants ever since. 

Window Dispaly at Maison Lenôtre {Photo Credit: J'habite à Paris!}
Bûche de Noël (Mocha Layer Cake)

My bûche de Noël is prepared like a layer cake, using a few of my favorite recipes. The decor is unconventional but sure to elicit smiles. For a touch of whimsy, I used Truffili chocolate "Hans the Hedgehog" truffles.

Chocolate Almond Cake Recipe 

(from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child)

4 ounces of dark chocolate
4 ounces (8 tablespoons = 1 stick) of unsweetened butter (at room temperature)
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup of ground almonds (almond flour)
2 tablespoons rum or coffee
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract
1/2 cup of cake flour (or all-purpose flour)

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2.) Butter and flour a 9" square cake pan.
3.) Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is soft and fluffy.
4.) Beat the eggs until pale and fluffy. (Note: Julia Child separates the eggs and white and beats the egg whites untl they form stiff peaks, but I skipped this step since I don't think it's essential.)
5.) Melt the chocolate in a bain marie (steam in a bowl over bowling water) then using a wooden spoon, stir in the butter-sugar mixture, ground almonds, rum or coffee and almond extract.
6.) Gradually incorporate the whipped egg.
7,) Sift the flour and gently fold it into the chocolate-egg-butter mixture using a spatula
8.) Pour a thin layer (3/4" inch) of batter onto the cake pan and bake for about 15 minutes. 
9.) Remove and place on a cake rack to cool.

Chocolate Ganache Recipe 

(from "Paris Boulangerie Pâtisserie" by Linda Dannenberg)

1/2 cup of heavy cream
4 ounces of dark chocolate (chopped in small pieces)

1.) Bring the cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
2.) Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth (about five minutes of stirring).
3.) Transfer to a bowl and cool; then cover and chill in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.
4.) Spread onto the cake when the ganache is slightly chilled but not solid.

Coffee Buttercream Recipe 

(adapted from a recipe in "Cocolat" by Alice Medrich)

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 large egg
6 ounces of unsalted butter cut in small pieces (at room temperature)
2 tablespoons of strong coffee or espresso
2 teaspoons of coffee liquor

1.) Beat egg with an electric mixer until it becomes thick and pale. 2.) Boil water and sugar until is reaches 242 degrees Fahrenheit.
3.) Pour hot syrup over the whipped egg, blending constantly until the mixture is at room temperature.
4.) Whip the softened butter into the egg-sugar mixture until it's completely incorporated (the texture should appear fluffy).
5.) Blend in the coffee (or espresso) and coffee liquor. 
6.) Spread the buttercream onto the cake when it's at room temperature; then place the entire cake in the refrigerator before serving. 

Copyright © 2017, Lisa Alexander. All rights reserved.

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