At home, in the kitchen
This holiday season, I thought I would share something different with you - not from within my studio but from my kitchen. Every year for the holidays, my siblings and I gather with our kids at my sister’s place in Quebec. My sister loves to cook so she tends to be the one making the meals. My brother takes care of the wine, my other sister helps with the side dishes, and my job has always been the desserts. I’ll make a variety of desserts over the Christmas holiday from a Pavlova (super easy to make a delicious) to cookies or bars.
For Christmas dinner, however, my piece de resistance that I make every year is a bûche de Noël. Some of you may know it as a Christmas log and others may have seen it advertised as a Swiss roll. It’s basically a chocolate rolled cake that resembles a log of wood with either whipped cream or chocolate on the inside and more chocolate on the outside. I use Nigella Lawson’s recipe. I’ve adapted it slightly. Her recipe calls for a chocolate icing and she will spread it thinly on the inside of the log and then uses the same icing to cover the log on the outside. I prefer to make a light whipped cream filling for the inside and use her chocolate icing just for the outside.
Below is the recipe. It’s an easy recipe to follow - very light, chocolaty and sure to be a hit at the dinner table. Enjoy!
Makes about 12 fat slices
FOR THE CAKE
- 6 large eggs (separated)
- 150 grams caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 50 grams cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 teaspoons icing sugar (to decorate)
FOR THE FILLING
- 1 cup of whipping cream
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of icing sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
FOR THE ICING
- 175 grams dark chocolate (chopped)
- 250 grams icing sugar
- 225 grams soft butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites until thick and peaking, then, still whisking, sprinkle in ¼ cup of the caster sugar and continue whisking until the whites are holding their peaks but are not dry.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining caster sugar until the mixture is moussy, pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract, sieve the cocoa powder over, then fold both in.
- Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the egg whites, folding them in robustly. Then add the remaining whites in thirds, folding them in carefully to avoid losing the air.
- Line a Swiss roll tin or a cookie sheet with baking parchment, leaving a generous overhang at the ends and sides, and folding the parchment into the corners to help the paper stay anchored.
- Pour in the cake mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool a little before turning it out onto another piece of baking parchment. If you dust this piece of parchment with a little icing sugar it may help with preventing stickage, but don’t worry too much as any tears or dents will be covered by icing later. Cover with a clean tea towel and roll it along the long end. Rolling it before you put the icing in will help later in keeping the shape of the cake. Let the cake cool completely encased in its towel.
- To make the filling, beat the whipped cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla, until it holds stiff peaks.
- To make the icing, melt the chocolate — either in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave — and let it cool.
- Put the icing sugar into a processor and blitz to remove lumps, add the butter and process until smooth. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and the tablespoon of vanilla extract and pulse again to make a smooth icing.
- Gently unroll the chocolate cake and remove the parchment paper.
- Spread some of the whipped cream over the sponge, going right out to the edges. Start rolling from the long side facing you, taking care to get a tight roll from the beginning, and roll up to the other side.
- Cut one or both ends slightly at a slight angle, reserving the remnants, and place the roll on a board or long dish. The remnants, along with the trimmed-off bits can make a branch or two; you get the effect by placing a piece of cake at an angle to look like a branch coming off the big log.
- Spread the yule log the chocolate icing, covering the cut-off ends as well as any branches. Create a wood-like texture by marking along the length of the log with a skewer or a fork, remembering to do wood-like circles, as in tree rings, on each end.
- I like to dust the log with icing sugar to give it a fresh fallen snow effect. Best to use a sieve so the sugar doesn’t clump plus it looks more natural that way.
If you’d like to get fancy, you can decorate the cake with shaved white or dark chocolate or add a few raspberries or twigs of rosemary for decoration. Cut the cake in 1 inch thick slices and serve immediately or refrigerate until needed. This cake is best served on the first day it’s made, but it will last for a few days in the refrigerator, though given how delicious it is, I doubt it will last that long!
Next week, I’m tackling macarons for the first time. If you have any tips or tricks for making perfect macarons, I would love to hear it. In the meantime, wishing you and yours a happy holiday season!