Some people go all out and turn their yule logs into out-and-out winter wonderlands. This Black Forest Buche de Nöel is very much in my style: big on taste and texture, and minimalist in terms of decoration. Plus, nothing is there just for looks; the mushrooms are delicious. If you’re accustomed to baking from scratch, this cake is a fairly easy bake – but don’t let that lead you to believe that it tastes simple. It’s luxurious, tender, tasty, feels deceptive light … and a typical slice is modest enough to leave you feeling delighted rather than overstuffed at the end of a big meal. As an added bonus, the decorations are surprisingly easy.
I adopted much and adapted some of this recipe from sources that I cite at the end of the post.
Yields 12 1½-inch slices
5 oz. of egg whites (from 5 large eggs), at room temperature
6 oz. granulated sugar
6 oz. sifted confectioner’s sugar
Cocoa powder for dusting
4 oz. good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat to 250ºF. Line baking sheets with Silpats. Whip whites on medium speed, until foamy. Add granulated sugar a Tbs at a time. Increase to med-high and beat to stiff and glossy peaks, about 5 mins. On low speed; whip 2 min. Fold in confectioner’s.
Pipe with a ½-inch round tip. Watch this video. It’s a much better way to learn how to pipe the mushrooms than me trying to explain it in writing. Bake meringues until firm and dry, about an hour, lowering to 200ºF if they look like they might brown. Cool in the (turned off) oven for an hour.
Grab a stem, and with a serrated knife, saw its pointy tip off. Balance a cap on it. If you can’t get the resultant mushroom to stand up on its own, make adjustments. Repeat until you have as many shrooms as you need. Make a few extra, just in case.
Nuke chocolate, low power, 30-second bursts, stirring in between, until there are only a few larger unmelted pieces. Immersion-blender that s**t. Yeah, that’s what I said. Take an immersion blender to it until it bows down in tempered obedience (until perfectly smooth). Set bowl in warm water. Grab a cap, swoosh it through the chocolate just to coat the bottom, and stick it back on the stem. Adjust if it seems inclined to fall over. Repeat with remaining meringues. Store airtight.
- This takes forever. Thank God a lot of that time is spent sitting around, but still … it’s a time suck. I strongly recommend that you make the meringues and the cake on different days.
- This recipe produces more than twice what you need, but it’s difficult to halve. With the extras, make more caps, but don’t make them very tall. Don’t dust’m. Maybe add a few drops of flavoring before piping them. Dip the bottoms in dark chocolate. Serve’m as cookies.
- Check your oven thermometer carefully. You probably don’t bake at 250°F very often, and even though your oven may be accurate at 350°F, that is no indication that it’ll be true to you at temperatures more than 50° in either direction.
- When I say “good quality chocolate,” I mean something like Valrhona or Callebaut. The process I’ve given won’t temper the chocolate, but assumes it’s already tempered. This may not be true of lesser-quality chocolate or chocolate chips. Read more about this here.
- Have you ever heard that snorting cocoa can get you high? Well, if you accidentally sprinkle too much cocoa on the mushrooms, and so have to do quite a lot of blowing to get it all off, and all that blowing makes you have to inhale pretty deeply, and you do that with your face pretty near the cocoa, you’ll find out that it does give you a kind of nice, short-lived buzz.
- Don’t give in to the temptation to use a chocolate coating compound. Yes, it will be much easier – but these merengues are pretty much nothing but sugar, and coating compound is too sweet to complement them.
3¾ oz. egg yolk and 5 oz. whites (from 5 large eggs), room temperature (or not)
4 1/8 oz. (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
½ oz. (3 Tbs) unsweetened natural cocoa
¼ oz. cake plus 3/8 oz. bread (or 2 Tbs AP) flour
Grease a 18x13x1-inch baking sheet, parchment the bottom, grease and flour. Preheat to 350ºF.
Beat yolks on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add sugar; continue beating (for about 30 seconds) until thick, pale, and at the “ribbon” stage. Combine cocoa and flour, sift over yolks, and mix on low. In a clean bowl, whisk whites to soft peaks. Fold whites into yolks.
Spread batter evenly in sheet pan, rapping it once or twice firmly against the counter to let it know you mean business. Bake until it just begins to pull away from the sides, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.
NOTE: if you come up short on yolk, crack another egg. If you come up heavy on whites, that’s OK.
3 oz. (¼ cup+) cherry jam
¾ oz. (1 Tbs+) water
8.1 oz. (1 cup) heavy cream for whipping
1½ oz. (2 generous Tbs) mascarpone, optional
1/8 oz. (1 Tbs) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
21-oz. can pie filling; withhold 6 oz. (a scant cup) for decoration
Powdered-sugar a piece of parchment; turn the cake on to it. Gently peel off the baked-on parchment. Bring the jam and water to a boil. Brush – but don’t soak – cake with jam. Beat cream, (mascarpone), sugar, and vanilla until stiff; spread over cake. Attempt to extract cherries from pie filling and leave as much of the goop as you can behind. I mean, don’t try to be scientific about it; just concentrate on the berries and avoid goop in as much as it seems easily possible. (Loads of goop will make the cake seem heavy. A bit of incidental goop is perfect.) Distribute cherries. Roll the cake. Cut and place branch(es), diagonally. Refrigerate until firm.
- Get the kind of pie filling that has extra cherries.
- Mascarpone will give the filling a hint of heft and a subtle cheese flavor that will blend nicely with the cherries. If you want even more of a cheese flavor, fold in 3½ oz. of plain Greek yogurt after the cream mixture’s been whipped.
6 oz. (1½ cups) confectioner’s sugar
1 oz. (6 Tbs) unsweetened natural cocoa
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1½-2 oz. (3-4 Tbs) milk
1½ oz. (3 Tbs) unsalted butter, softened
Paddle the sugar, cocoa, salt, vanilla, and the least amount of milk. You won’t think anything’s happening. Be patient, and it will start to come together into a sticky mass. Beat in butter. If you feel the frosting is too thick to be spreadable, add more milk by the drop until it is.
This is just enough frosting for a very thin layer. Start with the places that will need the most frosting, like the joint between the main branch and the offshoot(s), and the bottom of the cake, where it meets the plate. Then, spread as thin a layer as you can over the rest of the cake. If you have leftover frosting, feel free to thicken the layer as you wish.
NOTE: this is a substantial frosting. A little goes a long way. It’s the type of frosting that, when it sets, will develop a dry, micro-thin exterior, yet will remain soft and creamy underneath. That means it will be easy for you to wrap this cake fairly securely in plastic wrap without damaging the frosting. If you do this, the cake will stay fresh for an impressive amount of time – perhaps a week.
Just before serving, decorate with shrooms. Have extra to add to each plate.
Black Forest Buche de Noël
This content was not solicited, sponsored, or written in exchange for anything. Our recipe relies heavily on one by Lady Disdain. She adapted the meringue mushrooms from Jacques Torres’ (whose chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve adopted as my own) Dessert Circus at Home, 1999 and Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, 2010. I’m fully aware that my roll is for shit visually. It almost looks like a fold. There is an alternate method, which my cultural-élite self made as a teenager while studying French, from a French-language recipe, that involves rolling the cake, while still hot, in a tea towel that is heavily dusted with sugar. Once cooled, unrolled, filled, the cake is far more compliant when it comes to rolling. Note that in this case, you would skip the syrup.
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