The Bûche de Noël is closely related to (or has almost replaced) the tradition of the "Yule Log," when the carefully selected Christmas log was burned to bring warmth and prosperity to the home. Although it's now used in relation to Christmas traditions, it had its origins in a "Winter Solstice" tradition. Some traditions suggest the yule log was burned with the remnants of last years log, while others suggest the 'log' was actual a bundle of sticks tied together, and as each binding broke they toasted with a beverage. There were apparently many variations of the Yule Log, but as people slowly replaced the hearth with other forms of heating in many countries, the tradition slowly declined and was replaced with the edible cake version.
The cake itself is typically prepared using some sort of sponge cake, buttercream frosting, and various decorations possibly including branches, fresh berries, meringue mushrooms, and powdered sugar. Once iced, the log is usually sliced and placed on the side or top as another branch. I didn't want the cake to dry out (and what's wrong with more chocolate!), so I iced this piece as well.
We had our first version of the Bûche de Noël a couple years ago as part of our Christmas Eve / Dad's Birthday celebration, and have managed to find an excuse to make a new one each year since. The extra dose of sweet from chocolate ganache I use to top the log makes for an exceptionally sweet dessert that looks nice and festive sitting on the table with just a little extra adornment.This is by far the most enjoyable recipe of the three that I've tried, so I thought it an appropriate time to share it with you.
For the Cake:
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup flour
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the Filling Icing:
1 Stick Salted Butter, at room temperature
1/2 Tsp Pure Peppermint Extract
1/2 lb Powdered Sugar
3-4 Tbsp Milk
2 Tbsp Dutch Process Cocoa
1. Cream butter. Add flavoring. Add cocoa, powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time adding milk when needed to achieve desired consistency.
For the Ganache (outer frosting):
1-1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
10 Oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate finely chopped
1. Bring heavy cream to a boil. Pour over chopped chocolate and stir until smooth. Chill covered, and stir occasionally until set.
For the decorations, use your imagination! You can sift powdered sugar over the cake and make Meringue Mushrooms as I did here, or you can do whatever suits you, your guests, and your Christmas or Holiday wishes.