Buche de Noel or Yule Log is a traditional cake served at Christmas in France, Belgium, Quebec, United Kingdom, and United States. My mother and I first made this cake when I was in junior high; I remember how excited I was to create such an unique cake. She made up the sponge cake and baked it in a sheet pan. When it was done, it was turned out onto a cocoa-dusted dish towel and rolled up, while it was still warm. That way the cake was formed and when it was unrolled, it was easy to fill and roll up again. My role was decorating and making the meringue mushrooms. I made this wonderful ganache and iced the "log," after cutting off an end to create a sawed-off limb on the log. Traditionally, the last step is to take a fork and run the tines through the icing to create the look of bark. Mushrooms are placed strategically around the log for that authentic look of finding it in an enchanted forest!
Today, I thought...why not recreate a Buche de Noel in a cupcake? I made up my favorite chocolate cake recipe, but you could also do a genoise or your favorite vanilla cake. Instead of one big log, the cupcakes would resemble "little stumps" in the forest--just the perfect size for Ari and Maddie to enjoy after Christmas dinner.
There are a few extra steps to make this dessert, but I promise it is well worth the effort. In addition, the meringue mushrooms can be made several days ahead and stored in an airtight container. Why not have the whole family help and make this a tradition for Christmas dessert in your home!
Buche de Noel
Meringue Mushrooms: (from The America's Test Kitchen-Family Baking Book)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
(1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted for "glue" to assemble mushrooms)
Heat oven to 200F-degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
1. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine.
2. Use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to whip the egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar on medium low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.
3. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip the egg whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually whip in the sugar mixture, taking about 1 minute to complete. Continue to whip the whites until they are glossy and form very stiff peaks. (If you can turn the bowl upside down and they stay in the bowl, you've got perfect meringue!)
4. Fill a pastry bag with a plain tip (#12) and fill the bag with the meringue. Pipe mushroom stems, holding the bag perpendicular to the pan. To shape the caps, hold the pastry bag about 1/4-inch above he paper and pipe about 40 rounds. If "tips" form on the caps, dip a finger into cold water and smooth the top of the caps.
5. Bake in the preheated oven until the meringues are smooth and dry; about 1 hour. Turn the oven off and let the meringues cool in the oven until completely dry and crisp. (About 1 hour more.)
6. To assemble--use a small paring knife to make an indentation in the bottom of each cap. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave and dip the end of the stem into the chocolate. Insert into the indentation of the cap and press lightly. Allow to dry, upside down.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 T Vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups Cake Flour
1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven 350F-degrees. Line muffin pans with cupcake papers.
In the KitchenAid, using the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until fluffy; about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and combine well. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down sides, then, mix 1 minute more.
Use a scoop to divide batter among the lined cupcake pans. The batter makes 24-28 cupcakes, depending on how full you fill your liners.
Bake for 17-20 minutes, but don't over bake. (The cupcakes continue to bake even when you remove them from the oven. Use your fingers to test the tops--they should spring back when lightly touched)
While the cupcakes are baking, make the chocolate buttercream.
10 oz. chocolate, chopped or use chips
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
18 T (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Place the chocolate in the food processor. On the stove, in a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream, light corn syrup, and salt to a low boil. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and process the mixture until smooth.
Add the sugar and vanilla and pulse several times to combine (about 30 seconds). With the machine running, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time and combine until smooth and no butter chunks remain. Transfer frosting to a medium glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until thick and spreadable, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Once the cupcakes are out of the oven and cooling. Make Mocha Buttercream.
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2-4 T heavy cream
1 T Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. espresso powder
2 T cocoa
3 cups confectioners' sugar
In the KitchenAid, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until fluffy. Add one cup of the confectioners' sugar, two tablespoons of the heavy cream and the cocoa. (If young children will be eating these, leave out the espresso powder, but otherwise, mix it in the vanilla extract before adding that ingredient to the butter/sugar mixture). Add 2 more cups of confectioners' sugar and more heavy cream to achieve a fluffy buttercream.
Vanilla Cream Cheese Filling
6 oz. cream cheese
1 Vanilla bean, scrapped
1/2 cup Heavy cream
In a medium bowl, using an electric mixture, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the vanilla bean "seeds" and heavy cream. Beat to incorporate.
If you're doing the filling, use an apple corer to remove a "plug" of cake from the center of the cupcake. Place filling in a piping bag with a #12 tip and fill with the Vanilla Cream Cheese.
Place the Mocha and Chocolate Buttercream in separate piping bags. Alternate circles of buttercream, making sure you do the outer circle in the Chocolate Buttercream.
Use a small fork to add the bark features.
Dust the meringue mushrooms with cocoa powder and place on the "stump."
Yes, Virginia, there are a lot of steps, not to mention equipment, to making these wonderful cupcakes. However, I guarantee they are worth it and your family (and Santa) will be appreciative. And, if you're wishing for a White Christmas, dust your dessert dish with a little confectioners' sugar. Enjoy!