Kitchen adventure: Buche de Noel

I have an interesting project slated for today. We’re having a birthday party for our daughter’s boyfriend tonight.  When I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, he first joked about avoiding squirrel parts.  Then almost as an afterthought he mentioned a cake his high school french teacher had told him about.  Buche de noel —it’s  not your typical birthday cake request.  I was intrigued.  Always willing to expand my culinary horizons, I googled it.

Buche de noel (boosh day noel) is a jelly-roll style cake decorated to look like a log.  There’s a beautiful example here— it would take a miracle to make a cake of mine that pretty.   Nevertheless I am giving it an attempt.  Just for fun, I thought I’d live-blog my efforts.  Rather than putting up a bunch of different posts, I’ll just add to this one as the day goes on. At the moment, we’re just gearing up for a pancake breakfast, and after that I’ll begin with meringue mushrooms and cream filling.  Pictures– pretty or not–  coming too.  So check back in an hour or two!


10:15 AM update:  Going to the store for parchment paper.

11:30- Back home, mixing up cake batter and spreading parchment paper on two cookie sheets.  (I doubled the recipe)  Since I’m paranoid about things sticking, I opt to grease the parchment paper and hope that won’t mess anything up.   I also opt to bake the cakes one at a time, since I am concerned that rolling up two cakes both at the optimal cooling time.

12:00 First cake almost done.   Whipping cream is puffing up nicely.   Love my Christmas Kitchen-Aid!

12:15 – Second cake in.  First cake got really big and puffy.   I hope it rolls!  Whipping cream done and into fridge.

12:20  — Psyching up to roll up the first cake.  Am really doubting, it is so thick.

12:22 — Enlisted 12 yo to take picture.   Rolling, cake is cracking.  “Keep taking pictures”” I tell him breathlessly as I wrestle cake into an approximation of a roll.   “It’ll still taste good, ” he reassures me.  Why do I think I’ll say that at least another half-dozen times today?  The heady aroma of chocolate wafts around the room.

12:30– First cake set aside to cool 30 minutes.  Second cake out to cool.  This one is thinner.  Maybe it will roll better.

12:35– Second rolled same as first.  First 1/3 of the cake cracked.  Looking at the pictures I think a long wooden dowel would be a help in supporting that first bit of the roll.  However the rest of the cake rolled nicely, and with frosting as glue I’m sure it will be great!

1:00- Carefully unrolled both cakes and spread insides with whipped cream, then rolled back up, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated.   Looking yummy!!

1:40- Moving on to the meringue mushrooms.   KitchenAid is again whipping away, this time with egg whites– very fun.

2:00- Squeezing meringue onto cookie sheets to make ‘mushrooms’.  Very cute!

2:40 — After making a couple dozen mushrooms, I still have oodles of meringue.  What else can I do with meringue?  Googling blueberry meringue pie…. hhmmmmm….riffing off this recipe, I wonder if I can make blueberry meringue crisp, thus avoiding the need for piecrust…?  Remind self that I still need to frost and decorate the cake….

2:50– Making buttercream frosting– as soon as I wash the KitchenAid again, that is.  Good thing I grabbed Wal-Mart pizza for dinner while I was there for the parchment paper.  🙂

3:15 — I pull the meringue mushrooms out of the oven to cool.  They look cute.  I drop first dollops of too-stiff frosting onto too-soft cake.  Crumbling ensues.  Arg.  Is this thing going to come together or fall apart?  Kids come past saying, ‘oh well, it will taste good.’  Good momma that I am, I tell them to go away.  Crankily.  Tense moments ensue as I smooth the frosting with water dabbed on a spatula.

3:30 — Enough of the ‘log’  is covered with frosting now that it starts looking hopeful.  My mood recovers and the project becomes fun again.

3:45 — The girls help assemble the mushrooms, which look utterly convincing.  We are all charmed.  My 15 year old son makes a blueberry meringue crisp with the rest of the meringue, blueberries, and crumb topping.  No shortage of dessert tonight!

4:15– The cake is covered with frosting and I’ve got the finishing touches set out and ready to add:  my mushrooms, of course, plus sprigs of greenery, green frosting, and pistachios.

4:30– The rest of the decorating is pure fun.   We can’t get over how adorable and perfect the mushrooms look– they’re easily my favorite part of the project.  Then all there is to do is take pictures of the finished product and wait for the party to start!

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  1. my mom has made that at Christmas time over the years and I added it to my Christmas party a few times…..believe me, icing covers a MULTITUDE of cake sins…..have fun!!

  2. How sweet of you to do this. The cake is lovely…I’ve made “log” type cakes and have made meringue mushrooms before…they look harder than they really are. BUT what settled with me about your post had nothing to do with baking. You are having a party for your daughter’s boyfriend. I love that. I wish I could get my daughter’s boyfriend to just sit down when he comes over!!

  3. A friend introduced me to those meringue mushrooms when we were in collage and I have made them a couple of times since. They are so fun and a real crowd pleaser. Have fun 🙂

  4. If your meringues have sugar added, fold in chocolate chips and drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased parchment paper. Place on cookie sheet in 400 degree oven and turn off oven. Leave for 8 hours or overnight. But I think you are going to need your oven.

  5. I can’t wait to see the final cake. How nice of you to make a cake for your daughter’s boyfriend.

  6. I make this at Christmas time as well! My hint is to line the jelly roll pan with parchment, then after the cake is done, take a tea towel (the flour sack kind not a terry towel) and sprinkle it liberally with powdered sugar. Flip the cake onto the towel and use the towel to help you roll it up. Works like a charm and the powdered sugar keeps it from sticking to the towel.

    And it will taste delicious anyway!

    • YES! We do this as well. It works wonderfully.

    • Yes. This is exactly what I do. Except. I don’t sprinkle any powdered sugar on it. I guess you could use some cocoa powder if you wanted to stay with the chocolate theme. It looks like you’re using cake mixes. I use them myself but not for this. I make a French sponge cake. Just google. I like to let it cool for five or ten minutes then gently coax off the parchment paper. Roll it up it the flour sack tea towel and here’s the important part. Leave it rolled up like a big Tootsie Roll for a long time. I leave it that way over-night. Next day gently unroll and fill. I have never had my rolls crack. Another suggestion. I too made these at Christmas so I add peppermint extract to the whipped cream. Sigh. Yes, it’s a lot of work but so divine to eat and look at. Hey, what did the birthday boy say?

  7. Amazing! I do NOT have that kind of patience! 🙂

  8. I loved this part of the narrative:

    Enlisted 12 yo to take picture. Rolling, cake is cracking. “Keep taking pictures”” I tell him breathlessly as I wrestle cake into an approximation of a roll. “It’ll still taste good, ” he reassures me.

    It’s as if I’m right there with you! And, oh how I can relate to rescuing things with frosting. One of my best friends says that as long as you don’t leave a big ol’ handprint smack dab in the middle of the cake, people will always be amazed by those handmade efforts with the pretty frosting covering all of the mistakes.

  9. Your cake looks beautiful! I loved how you shared the story of making it with us. Happy Birthday to the boyfriend!

  10. You did it! It looks great and I bet it tasted great too. He must be some kind of boyfriend for you to spend all day making him a cake! 🙂

  11. da fambly’s in da kitchen! Such a wonderful tale! Y’all done good…

  12. my husband whose hands shake constantly actually makes these and they have always turned out well.His tips were use a linen towel (or in one case my old cotton table cloth) powdered very well with xxx sugar AND do NOT over bake.He starts checking for doneness about 5 min before the time stated.ALso boxed cakes mixes do not do as well as a sponge cake from scratch.Boxed cakes are not sponge cakes and there is a difference in texture that allows it to roll without cracking.

    I am not the baker in the family, the men are HA HA

  13. It’s beautiful! What a dear Mother in Law you are :o)

  14. Glad I am not the only one that demands my children leave the kitchen when the moment gets tense. (LOL) Lovely cake!

  15. Awesome! I love it!
    You guys are a ton of fun! The narration was great! Thanks.
    Now, I want cake!

  16. My favorite part of it all was your mentioning the salvation of a WalMart pizza. I’ve done the same thing many times, when at a certain point in the day it becomes clear that cooking dinner will not be part of my agenda.

    I think that boyfriend now has a better idea of what a great family your daughter comes from. How awesome of you to go out of your way for him.

  17. Also, I don’t know why kids seem to think giving Mom commentary when she’s in the middle of culinary catastrophe would ever be a good idea–but my kids do the same thing.

  18. I tried to make one of these once for a high school French project…massive failure, crying, and self-righteous indignation ensued. 😉 Yours looks AMAZING!!

  19. Mmmmmm….buche de noel. We had The Most Incredible one ever the Christmas we spent in France! (You know they’re for, um, Noel, right? Oh well–you’re in America 🙂 ) It was chocolate and orange, made with Gran Marnier. And we actually had a lovely one last year here in Rabat, from a French bakery. It was “fort en chocolat.” Your daughter’s boyfriend can explain that. Every French family I know orders one from a bakery rather than making it themselves.
    I’m v impressed that you made your own.

  20. looks fabulous! Just a tip, it’s easier to roll if you sprinkle a dish towel with powder sugar, put the cake on top and roll. I make pumpkin roll every year and this little tip has saved me LOTS of trouble! Who knows, maybe I’ll even attempt this one!

  21. Thank you for posting this recipe. My jr. high french teacher taught us how to make these and I’ve been craving it lately. Do you know how hard it is to find a recipe that you *thought* you saved from 8th grade?

  22. How CUTE!!! Wow – – great job, Mary! [:-)

  23. Hi, I’m pretty sure my mum used to use a damp tea towel to roll her chocolate logs – try that next time!

  24. I love it! The mushrooms are fantastic.
    I could totally relate to the cranky/tense feeling that comes with a detailed project like that. Each time I’ve tried a shaped cake I have the same feeling and then later I get over it and do a happy dance of excitement as it starts coming together!