If the Christmas Wreath Pavlova wasn’t enough of a showstopper for you, I’m thinking this Flourless Chocolate Bûche de Noël might be what you’re looking for. It’s also gluten free, as an added bonus. Bûche de Noël, or French for “Yule Log”, and I go way back. My senior year of high school, we were assigned a final project for our International Baking class. I, ever the Martha Stewart fan, decided to make her Bûche de Noël recipe –a three-day endeavor. Her beast requires a chocolate mousse filling, chocolate genoise cake, ganache frosting, and fussy little meringue mushrooms. Kudos to my mother for indulging my ambitions and forging on with this project that I never would have completed without her help. It was success. I got an A+++ on the project (formerly thought mathematically impossible) and a recommendation from my teacher that I go on to the CIA (which confused me until I realized she meant the Culinary Institute of America).
Luckily for me and my mother, we developed a much easier, less fussy recipe for a yule log that reaps all of the awards of Martha’s with one-third of the effort. Filled with a simple sweetened whipped cream, which you could flavor with Kahlua or peppermint or whatever your heart desires, this gluten-free flourless chocolate cake is a cinch to prepare. After baking the cake, you invert the warm cake onto a powdered-sugar dusted clean kitchen towel and roll it up, letting it cool in the roll. After it’s completely cool and pliable, unroll it, spread the whipped cream on, and then roll it back up. Cut the ends off at a diagonal, attach them with ganache, and frost the entire “log” with ganache. The best thing about this cake is that it doesn’t need to be perfect. The frosting should resemble rough bark. I kept the meringue mushrooms because they’re adorable, but you could decorate yours with rosemary sprigs and Sparkling Sugared Cranberries, like The Bees Knees did here, if you’d like.
Bûche de Noël
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 egg whites
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- confectioners' sugar for dusting
- 1 bag of dark chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup egg whites about 3 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 ounces chocolate confectioners' coating
To make the mushrooms:
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large glass or metal bowl, use an electric mixer to whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla. Continue whipping until the whites hold soft peaks. Gradually sprinkle in the sugar, and continue whipping until the mixture holds stiff shiny peaks.
Fill a gallon sized ZipLock bag half way with the meringue and snip off one corner. Squeeze out small, round mounds of meringue onto one of the prepared cookie sheets. Pull the bag off to the side to avoid making peaks on the top. For the stems, press out a tiny bit of meringue onto the other sheet, then pull the bag straight up. They should resemble candy kisses. Do not worry about making all of the pieces exactly the same. The mushrooms will look more natural if the pieces are different sizes. Dust the mushroom caps lightly with cocoa using a small sifter or strainer.
Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until the caps are dry enough to easily remove from the cookie sheets. Set aside to cool completely. Melt the chocolate chips in a metal bowl over simmering water, or in a glass bowl in the microwave, stirring occasionally until smooth.
Poke a small hole in the bottom of a mushroom cap. Spread chocolate over the bottom of the cap. Dip the tip of a stem in chocolate, and press lightly into the hole. When the chocolate sets, they will hold together. Repeat with remaining pieces. Store at room temperature in a dry place or tin.
For the filling:
In a large bowl, whip cream, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until thick and stiff. Refrigerate.
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Line a 10x15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale.
Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt.
In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks.
Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
Dust a clean dishtowel with confectioners' sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel.
Remove and discard parchment paper. Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. Cool for 30 minutes.
For the ganache
Heat cream in a saucepan and pour over the chocolate chips. Stir until evenly melted and let cool to spreading consistency.
Unroll the cake, and spread the filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Roll the cake up with the filling inside. Place seam side down onto a serving plate, Place cake on serving platter; cut off both ends, one straight across and one at a diagonal. Position diagonally cut piece against side of cake roll and straight cut piece on top using about 1 tablespoon ganache to attach to cake. Frost cake with remaining ganache. With tines of fork, make strokes in ganache to look like tree bark. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and decorate with rosemary, meringue mushrooms, pinecones, or cranberries.