Growing up, we were so lucky to have access to some amazing desserts and pastries, especially at Christmas. If you have been reading the blog for a while you’ll know that my Grandparent’s used to own a bakery. Although Easter was a busy time for them, Christmas was by far the busiest, where they would go many sleepless nights working to produce tasty and beautiful confections. I would often go to help them at the bakery, which was secretly my absolute favourite way to spend the first few days of my school holidays. Although, much time was spent helping my grandpa put the candied fruit on the Bolo Rei (Portuguese King Cake), a traditional Portuguese Christmas sweet bread, I must admit it was not my favourite thing to eat. Throughout the year he would make a log cake made of traditional genoise filled with chocolate or other flavours, and at Christmas they transformed into Buche de Noel. Although the Buche Noel pictured above is very different than the one he made, it’s my version of something that I remember each and every year at Christmas.
Earlier this week when I started working on this cake, I had made all the components, had my roll, rolled and unfilled, and I was about less than 5 minutes away from assembly, when a certain little 3 year old had beat me there, and demolished the entire cake. Well, needless to say I wasn’t very happy. I wasn’t entirely happy with the cake portion anyhow, so perhaps it was the perfect reason to start again. This time around I decided to make the cake from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, and I’m so glad I did! It created the perfect chocolate biscuit for rolling. The texture and taste were awesome, and what I loved the most is that it had a combination of flour and almond flour. I absolutely love the taste and texture of genoise/biscuit made with almond flour, so I knew it was meant to be.
Now while I love the Bouchon Bakery cookbook, my only issue is that the directions for some of the recipes is that they require a little bit of guesswork. I’m not sure if it is more geared towards professionals, but I think you definitely need a fair amount of baking experience. I followed the recipe with no changes or substitutions, and it worked out perfectly. I have tried to write the directions as easy as possible and the way I did it to make it easier. I highly recommend using a Digital Kitchen Scale for this, as it will make it easier and quicker to make. If you don’t already own one, I highly recommend investing in one. Mine cost around $15 dollars, and I use it everyday! The recipe didn’t state which size pan to use, so I used a half-size sheet pan, which was fine, but if you prefer a thicker cake portion, you can make it in a smaller pan. Keeping in mind that it will require less rolling. My grandpa always used to sprinkle the top of the cake with granulated sugar instead of cocoa powder or powdered sugar like many recipes call for before rolling, so I did the same. Although my cake was chocolate and he always used a vanilla genoise, upon tasting it, that very small detail of the sugar immediately brought me back to the cake he used to make. It also helps to adds a nice little texture to every bite.
For the filling I used an espresso and brown sugar swiss meringue buttercream which was delicious, and to frost it I used the same buttercream but then added some melted good quality milk chocolate to it to give it a mocha flavour, and it was so good! I roughly slathered on the icing on the outside than added the chocolate “bark” to it, and I absolutely loved the way it looked. Believe me, the chocolate bark is surprisingly very quick and easy to make, and takes less than 5 minutes to create a really impressive finish. Now I must say, this cake looked beautiful uncut, but I thought it looked even more beautiful when it was cut and sitting upright on the plate. I only wish that I had done that for pictures. This is a cake that is definitely one that is sure to impress family and friends!
I’ so happy I made this cake, not only was it delicious but oddly provided me with a bit of comfort during the difficult time around the holidays. I will definitely be making this again for Christmas, and can’t wait for my family to taste it!
So tell me, what is your holiday dessert tradition?
A chocolate almond sponge, filled with an espresso swiss meringue buttercream, topped with a mocha frosting and dark chocolate 'bark'.
- 33 grams (3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) all-purpose flour
- 25 grams (3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) almond flour/meal (I used Bob's Red Mill)
- 16 grams (2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon) Dutch processed cocoa powder
- 123 grams (1/2 cup, about a little less than 3 eggs) whole eggs, see notes
- 58 grams ( 3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons, about 3 yolks) egg yolks
- 111 grams (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
- 23 grams (1 tablespoon + 2 1/2 teaspoons) granulated sugar
- 74 grams egg whites (1/4 cup +1 tablespoon, less than 3 whites) -see notes
- 4 Egg whites (120g)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
- 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, slightly cool and cut into 1 tablespoon chances
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 2 ounces melted chocolate of your choice, I used 40.5% good quality milk chocolate
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a half size sheet pan (18x13-inches, or slightly smaller) with a silpat or parchment paper. Note: I used a silpat and greased just the sides of the pan, and this worked incredibly well, much better than parchment paper. If using parchment, lightly grease.
- Using a large bowl, add in the all purpose flour, then sift in the almond flour and then the cocoa powder. Whisk to combine.
- For the eggs: Whisk 3 large eggs to combine in a small bowl. Separate 3 large eggs.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in 123grams of the whisked whole eggs (You may have some left over, you can save them for something else.), and the egg yolks (it worked out to 3 yolks). Add in the 111 grams of sugar into the bowl, and using the whisk attachment, mix on medium-low speed for about 1 minute until combined. Increase the speed to high and whip for about 7 to 10 minutes until the mixture has quadrupled in volume, is thick, and pale yellow. When the whisk is lifted the mixture should hold a ribbon for about 8 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, about 5 quarts. (if you have another mixer bowl you can just keep it in there)
- In a clean mixer bowl, whip 74 grams of eggs whites (a little less than 3 whites, use from separated eggs from above) , on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until foamy. Lower the speed and slowly add in the 23 grams of sugar, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for about 3 minutes, or until the whites are glossy with soft peaks.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture in 2 additions. Then fold in the egg whites in 2 additions. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and using an offset spatula smooth out the batter in an even layer, being sure to get it into the corners.
- Bake the cake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Mine took about 12 minutes. Be sure not to over bake or the cake will crack while rolling!
- Let the cake cool in the pan on a cooling rack until cool. Sprinkle the top of the cake with granulated sugar, about 1 to 2 tablespoons. Lay a piece of parchment larger than the sheet pan on the counter. Gently run a knife around the edges of the pan and invert the cake onto the parchment, then remove the parchment or silpat on the top. Use the cake right away and assemble as directed below. Alternatively, they cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for 4 hours, in the fridge for 3 days, or frozen up to 2 weeks.
- In the clean bowl of a stand mixer, add in the egg whites, both sugars, and espresso powder. Gently whisk to combine. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, so that it is not submersed. Keep whisking the egg white mixture until the temperature reaches 160 degrees F, about 5 minutes. If you don't have a thermometer, you can check by rubbing some of the mixture between your fingers, you want all the sugar to be dissolved.
- Remove from the heat, and using your stand mixer, with the whip attachment, beat the mixture starting at slow speed, and gradually increasing to high speed. Beat the meringue for about 10 minutes, or until the bottom of the bowl is about room temperature.
- Switch to the paddle attachment, and on medium-low speed, slowly add in the butter, about 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time until each one is incorporated. The mixture may look a bit curdled half way through, but keep mixing and adding the butter, it will come together. Once all the butter is incorporated, the buttercream should be smooth and silky. Add in the salt and vanilla extract, and beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes to remove any air bubbles.
- Set aside about 1/2 of the buttercream in another bowl. Add the melted chocolate to remaining buttercream (in the stand mixer) and beat on medium speed until all the chocolate is incorporated. Set aside, this will be used to frost the cake.
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a double boiler until the chocolate has melted. Lay a piece of wax paper on the counter about 12-inches long, and cut another one slightly longer. Pour the melted chocolate onto the shorter wax paper piece, and using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate in an even layer, leaving about a 1/2-inch border around the sides. Gently put the second piece of wax paper over top. Gently flip is over, and roll it up starting with the short end. You don't want to roll it too tight, but a diameter of about 1-inch is perfect. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. You can also put in the freezer for about 30 minutes if you prefer to set it up faster.
- Lay out a piece of parchment paper on the counter, slightly longer than your sheet pan. Gently flip the sheet of cake onto the parchment. Evenly spread the reserved espresso icing onto the cake, leaving about a 1/2-inch on all sides. Using the parchment paper to help you, very gently roll the cake starting from the short side into a tight roll. It may crack just a little on the very first roll, that's okay, just keep going. Once done rolling, gently adjust the cake so that the seam side is down. Diagonally cut about 3/4 to 1-inch off both ends of the cake and reserve. Very gently transfer the cake to a cake platter, or serving dish.
- Using some of the chocolate icing, spread some on one or both of the cut pieces and affix them to the top of the cake to make it look like a branch. I only used one. Spread the icing on the cake, to the top, sides, front and back of the log, as well as the "branch". It doesn't have to be perfect.
- Remove the chocolate from the refrigerator, quickly unroll it. The chocolate will break. Working quickly, and with a small paring knife, add the pieces of 'bark' to the top of the cake filling it all up, leaving the ends with just icing.
- The cake can be refrigerated or at room temperature. Remove from the fridge at least 1 hour before serving.
Please read directions for the cake a few times before baking. I highly recommend using a scale for the cake as it will make it quicker and more accurate cake making. I have tried to make the directions as easy to follow as possible, please ask any questions if you have them. See my notes in the post about the eggs. Although it looks difficult, it is rather easy, you just have to pay attention to measurements and follow the directions.
- Although this appears like a lot of work, it actually comes together rather quickly. I made the frosting and bark one day, then the cake and assembly the next. Spreading it out makes it really easy.
- You could of course use any filling/frosting you like for this.
- If you want to keep this simple, you don’t need to add the chocolate bark. Simply cover with frosting then use a fork lightly along the icing to make ridges in the icing.
- For the cake- the egg measurements are weird but it works. Don’t mess around by adding more eggs than what the recipe says or you could end up with a subpar cake. For the whole eggs, I whisked together 3 whole eggs, then weighed out what I needed. Saved the rest for my lunch as not to waste. The egg yolks were exactly 3 yolks, and a little less than 3 whites for the egg white portion. The remaining whites were added to the leftover whole eggs (for lunch )
Cake adapted from Bouchon Bakery, frosting and bark technique adapted from Food and Drink (LCBO) Magazine, Holiday 2012.
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