The problem with making a cake like this is not the time it takes. It isn’t even the effort it takes, although this is easily the most difficult baked good I’ve ever attempted. The recipes are good; the instructions are clear.
First, I enjoy time in the kitchen. Second, the steps can be broken up over a few days without sacrificing quality. Third, the ingredients are standard pantry items. I didn’t even have to hitch a ride to the store for this one.
The most difficult part about making a cake like this is that no one wanted to eat it. “Too pretty,” they claimed. “You worked too hard on it, Branny,” they reasoned. Eventually, I took charge and hacked into it with the party hostess’ best machete kitchen knife.
And what a relief! I traded out the traditional mocha flavored filling for peanut butter mousse and let me tell you, let me really tell you: Santa Claus won’t be able to bring a gift that tops this combination. The peanut butter filling was light and creamy, the cake was slightly chocolatey and moist, and the ganache that enveloped it all made for the most perfect ending (or beginning?) to this cake.
Speaking of the ganache, it almost didn’t make it onto the cake itself. Although it would have surely been missed and was an absolutely perfect guest to the cake party, the appearance of the rolled genoise looked so perfectly like bark that covering it in melted chocolate and whipping cream was a tad bit difficult for me.
But I summoned the courage and persevered, creating both the chocolate coating and decorated forest floor out of ganache. I used powdered sugar from a sieve to create the snowy appearance seen in the first picture.
I created this buche de noel from three different sources: Martha Stewart, Better Homes and Gardens, and Lynne Rossetto Kasper of the Splendid Table radio program I listen to on NPR (with a middle name sounding suspiciously like risotto how could she not be a good recipe source?). Below is my compilation.
Chocolate Genoise Cake (Martha Stewart)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for parchment and pan
2/3 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
Pinch of baking soda
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 1/2-by-15 1/2-by-1-inch jelly-roll pan. Line with parchment; butter and flour paper, tapping out the excess flour.
In three additions, sift flour mixture over egg mixture, folding in gently with a spatula. While folding in last addition, dribble melted butter over batter and fold in.
2/3 cup whipping cream
1 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter (do not use natural peanut butter)
4 tablespoons milk
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
Ganache Icing (Martha Stewart)
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
Chop chocolate into small pieces, and place in a medium bowl. Heat cream until bubbles begin to appear around the edges (scalding); pour over chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Refrigerate until cold but not solid, stirring occasionally.
Place rolled cake on serving platter of choice.
Cut one end of cake at a 45* angle about 3-4″ down the length of log. Reposition cut portion along side remaining cake to make a branch like appearance. Spread cooled ganache over all surfaces and create puddles around bottom portion of the cake. Place meringue mushrooms decoratively around base of cake. Chill in refrigerator about an hour.
Using a sharp knife, create bark-like lines in the ganache by dragging the knife’s blade in a staggered fashion down the length of the cake.
Place powdered sugar in a sieve and gently tap the sieve to release sugar, creating a powdered snow appearance.