Chocolate-Espresso Buche de Noel

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?

 

Chocolate-Espresso Buche de Noel

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: One 13-inch log cake

A chocolate almond sponge, filled with an espresso swiss meringue buttercream, topped with a mocha frosting and dark chocolate 'bark'.

Ingredients

    For the Chocolate Sponge
  • 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
  • For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 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
  • For the Bark
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Sponge
  1. 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.
  2. Using a large bowl, add in the all purpose flour, then sift in the almond flour and then the cocoa powder. Whisk to combine.
  3. For the eggs: Whisk 3 large eggs to combine in a small bowl. Separate 3 large eggs.
  4. 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)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. For the Buttercream
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. For the Chocolate Bark
  15. 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.
  16. Assembly
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. The cake can be refrigerated or at room temperature. Remove from the fridge at least 1 hour before serving.

Notes

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.

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Jessica’s Notes:

  • 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 :) )

 

Enjoy!!

xoxo Jessica

 

Cake adapted from Bouchon Bakery, frosting and bark technique adapted from Food and Drink (LCBO) Magazine, Holiday 2012.

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

 

 

 

  • jansutter

    I love the way you made the chocolate curls, it looks like bark so much better than just using frosting!!

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks so much!

  • http://twitter.com/realnutritioncg claire

    This is absolutely stunning. I feel like I would completely fudge this up!

  • Camila

    Made this yesterday for Christmas Eve and WOW! Everyone was so impressed with how beautiful and delicious this dessert was. It was my first time making any dessert like this and I was a bit intimidated, but reading the directions a couple of times over before starting really helped! I also made the whole cake by weight, and after everything is all measured, the cake come together rather quickly. I highly recommend this. It was delicious and such a success!!

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Awesome!! So glad you enjoyed it!! Merry Christmas!

  • http://twitter.com/BakerByNature Ashley

    This is seriously like art! So so so soooooo gorgeous, lady!

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks so much, Ashley!

  • http://damndelicious.tumblr.com/ Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious

    Wow, what gorgeousness! I’m a bit intimidated by all the steps but I definitely want to add this to my “to-make” bucket list!

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks, Chung-Ah! Don’t be intimidated, it’s not as bad as it looks. I just wrote really detailed directions with notes in the recipe.

  • Carol | a cup of mascarpone

    Jessica…this is absolutely, positively, GORGEOUS!!! LOVELY!!!

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks, Carol!!

  • Michelle @ Brown Eyed Baker

    This is such a beautiful dessert! Totally impressive and a show stopper. Maybe next year I’ll tackle one of these! In the meantime, can you send me a piece? ;-)

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks so much, Michelle!

  • http://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com/ Joanne (eats well with others)

    I have always wanted to make a buche de noel but I’ve always found them so intimidating! Something about rolling up a huge cake and then trying to make it look like an log. Yours is gorgeous though and actually looks doable! I’m so glad it brought back some happy holiday memories for you.

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks so much, Joanne!! It was actually my first time making it, and it was quite fast to put together. Give it a try ;)

  • Lisa

    This is simply amazing! My eyes can’t believe how beautiful it is. Love, love this!!!

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks do much, Lisa!

  • http://www.unegaminedanslacuisine.com/ Valerie

    Spectacular! This belongs on the cover of ever holiday recipe magazine. Extra points for putting in all the work after the first one was demolished. :D

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks do much, Valerie!

  • http://twitter.com/Tutti_Dolci Tutti Dolci

    My jaw just dropped, this is such a stunner!

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks, Laura!

  • http://www.averiecooks.com/ Averie Cooks

    Jessica this is a WORK OF ART!!! Omg it’s absolutely stunning – both the flavors and the chocolate work and the artistry…It’s just gorgeous.

    And that is a major pitfall of that cookbook not having airtight directions. I don’t own it (want it!) but have read others say there’s lots of shades of gray.

    Pinning!

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks so much, Averie!! It’s a great book, but definitely not for the novice baker. Your an awesome baker, so I think you would love it!

  • http://www.thelawstudentswife.com/ Erin@theLawStudentsWife

    Holy moly!! This is so gorgeous. What a special dessert. Thanks for sharing your memories of helping your grandparents in their bakery too. Looks like it runs in the family :-)

    • http://www.portuguesegirlcooks.com/ Jessica |Portuguese Girl Cooks

      Thanks so much Erin! I really appreciate your sweet words :)

  • CrunchyCreamySw

    Stunning! I LOVE the chocolate bark!