Bûche de Noël or Yule log is a traditional French dessert served during the Christmas holidays. One popular story behind the creation of this dessert is that Napoleon I of France issued a proclamation requiring households in Paris to keep their chimneys closed during the winter, based on the notion that cold air caused medical problems. This prevented Parisians from being able to use their fireplaces, and, thus, prevented them from engaging in many of the traditions surrounding and involving the hearth in French Christmas tradition. French bakers, according to the theory, invented this dessert as a symbolic replacement around which the family could gather for story-telling and other holiday merriment.
The traditional bûche is made from a Génoise or other sponge cake, generally baked in a large, shallow pan, filled with chocolate cream, rolled to form a cylinder, and frosted on the outside. As the name indicates, the cake is presented and garnished so as to look like a log ready for the fire. Last Christmas I made this one in the picture and hopefully I’ll have some time to do it again soon. I had a lot of fun doing the cake and the decoration plus it turned out so good and pretty that I promised to do it again every year, only changing the flavors. The one I did was a basic genoise filled and covered with a chocolate ganache. The most common combination is a basic yellow sponge cake, frosted and filled with chocolate buttercream, which is ideal to produce a bark-like texture. Many variations on the traditional recipe exist, possibly including chocolate cakes, chestnut cream or any flavored frostings and fillings. These cakes are often decorated with powdered sugar to resemble snow, tree branches, chocolate leaves, fresh berries, and mushrooms made of meringue, very cute! For a good result the most important thing is to get the genóise right, so here it goes the recipe for a perfect one!
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup cake flour, sifted
2 tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 400F, and line a 10x15 inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Fill a medium saucepan one-third full with water and bring to a simmer. Whisk the eggs and sugar by hand in a bowl of an eletric mixer and place the bowl over the pan of simmering water, whisk constantly until mixture is warm. Transfer to the mixer stand and beat at high speed until the mixture doubled in volume, about 8 minutes. Gently fold in the cake flour. Place the melted butter in a large bowl and stir a scoop of the cake batter into the butter until well combined, then gently fold that mixture into the cake batter. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake it for 7 minutes, until the top is light golden brown. Be carefull to not overbake and end up with a dry cake. Place a wire rack over the cake , invert and cool completely. Make the filling you like and scrape it onto the cake, spreading in an even layer. Roll the cake up tightly and decorate it as you wish.