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Bûche de Noël / Christmas Log Cake

This classic French Christmas dessert starts with a rolled chocolate cake (like a jelly roll, but chocolate) that's filled with frosting and rolled up so it resembles a log. The ends are cut and positioned to look like branches and then the whole thing is covered in more frosting that's roughed up to look like bark. The log can be decorated with meringue mushrooms, chocolate leaves, powdered sugar 'snow' and/or sparkly sugared edible flowers or whatever takes the cook's fancy. This recipe is adapted from Marlene Sorosky's Year Round Holiday Cookbook.


CHOCOLATE ROLL CAKE


Ingredients:

6 egg yolks

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

- - - - -

6 egg whites (room temp)

Pinch of cream of tartar

Pinch of salt (fine grind)


Directions:

* Preheat oven to 350º

* Lightly spray a 10.5 x 15.5 x 1" baking pan w/ canola spray and line w/ parchment paper; butter paper well; set aside.

* Sift powdered sugar and cocoa together; set aside.

* In a deep mixing bowl, beat whites until frothy; add cream of tartar and salt and continue beating until stiff; set aside.

* Beat yolks w/ electric mixer in a large deep bowl until thick and lemon colored (±3-5 min); gradually add in the sugar & cocoa, beating constantly.

* Beat in a few spoonfuls of the whites to lighten the yolk mixture, then gently fold in the rest of the whites by hand.

* Spread mixture evenly over prepared pan using a spatula (use a light touch).

* Bake in center of oven for 12-14 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed w/ fingertips.

While cake is baking:

* Place a clean linen kitchen towel (larger than the baking pan) on counter and generously sift powdered sugar over the whole towel.

When cake is done:

Remove from oven and immediately and quickly turn pan upside down onto the towel with the powdered sugar (the cake will stick in the pan just long enough to allow you to easily do this, but don't dawdle).

* Lift off the pan and gently peel off parchment paper right away.

* Roll the cake and the towel together lengthwise as tightly as you can without pressing down on the cake; set aside seam side down.

While rolled up cake is cooling:

* Make icing (see next recipe).

* When cake is cool, unroll and spread w/ about half the frosting.

* Move the whole rolled up cake onto a large piece of aluminum foil; pinch ends to seal the foil and put in the refrigerator until well chilled (it's easier to frost when chilled, but keep the frosting at room temp).

[NOTE: the cake can be prepared ahead and frozen at this point, though you'll have to do a separate batch of frosting to finish the cake; make sure foil is really well sealed and/or roll up in a second sheet of foil.]

When ready to assemble:

* Place cake on a platter and cut a small piece off each end at a diagonal; these cut-offs will become the 'branches' of the log.

* Put strips of waxed paper or foil down the length of the platter to help keep the platter clean as you decorate.

* Position cut-offs to make side branches; when happy with your arrangement, stick them on with frosting and then cover the entire log with the rest of the frosting.

* Rough up the icing so it resembles bark by using the tines of a fork or a serrated cake comb and add any other decorations you like. Wipe up any smudges on the platter and serve as is or line the platter with extra mushrooms or leaves. Take a picture and take a bow! and while it's gilding the lily and completely unnecessary, this cake is even more delicious with a dollop of ice cream on top.


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