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Buche de Noel, a French Christmas classic

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A delicious tradition in France is to serve Buche de Noel for Christmas. It is a chocolate cake that is a replica of the Yule Log. It is made to appear as a branch or tree stump and is accented with marzipan mushrooms. It is well worth the effort, as it not only makes a stunning centerpiece, it tastes decadent and delicious.

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Buche de Noel

Cake

3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling

1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules or crystals

Chocolate buttercream frosting

1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons hot water

Marzipan

8 ounces almond paste
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup

Directions

  • Heat oven to 375°F.
  • Line 15x10x1-inch pan with foil or waxed paper; grease with shortening or cooking spray.
  • In small bowl, beat eggs until very thick and lemon colored.
  • Pour eggs into large bowl; gradually beat in 1 cup granulated sugar.
  • Beat in 1/3 cup water and the vanilla.
  • Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt, beating just until batter is smooth.
  • Pour into pan, spreading batter to corners.
  • Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Immediately loosen cake from edges of pan; invert onto towel generously sprinkled with powdered sugar.
  • Carefully remove foil.
  • Trim off stiff edges of cake if necessary.
  • While hot, carefully roll cake and towel from narrow end.
  • Cool on cooling rack at least 30 minutes.
  • 
In chilled medium bowl, beat all filling ingredients on high speed until stiff.
  • Unroll cake; remove towel.
  • Spread filling over cake.
  • Roll up cake.
  • 
In medium bowl, beat cocoa and butter on low speed until thoroughly mixed.
  • Beat in powdered sugar until mixed.
  • Beat in vanilla and enough of the hot water until frosting is smooth and spreadable.
  • For tree stump, cut off a 2-inch diagonal slice from one end of cake.
  • Attach stump to one long side using 1 tablespoon frosting.
  • Frost cake with remaining frosting.
  • With tines of fork, make strokes in frosting to look like tree bark

To make the marzipan

  • Combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is almost absorbed.
  • Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  • Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary; it will still appear crumbly.
  • Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
  • To make marzipan mushrooms:
  • Roll 1/3 of the marzipan into a 6-inch long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
  • Roll half the lengths into balls.
  • Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.
  • Smudge with cocoa powder.
  • To make holly leaves:
  • Knead green color into 1/2 the remaining marzipan and roll it into a long cylinder.
  • Flatten with the back of a spoon, then loosen it from the surface with a spatula.
  • Cut into diamonds to make leaves, or use a cutter.
  • To make holly berries:
  • Knead red color into a tiny piece of marzipan.
  • Roll into tiny balls.
  • To make pine cones:
  • knead cocoa powder into the remaining marzipan.
  • Divide in half and form into 2 cone shapes.
  • Slash the sides of cones with the points of a pair of scissors.

For great traditional French dessert recipes, please see http://www.saveur.com.

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