Posted by: njbrown | December 26, 2009

Julia’s Bûche de Noël for Christmas – with recipe

December 24, 2009

(Since doing this post, I have revisited Julia’s Buche de Noel recipe, and have expanded it and made it clearer.  To see the improved recipe please go to Julia’s Bûche de Noël Recipe with Improved Directions.   While the recipe is time-consuming, it is well worth the effort.  Nancy)

Julia’s Bûche de Noël 2011

December 24, 2009

This afternoon was devoted to making Julia’s Bûche de Noël for tomorrow’s Christmas dinner.  I decided to try to make the roulade without the almonds, so had to use a recipe for spongecake – Pâte à biscuit – but I added the juice and grated zest of one orange since we had enjoyed the orange flavor in her orange almond cake recipe.

Feeling brave, and with George’s help, I tackled the Italian meringue chocolate icing.  All of this involved moving back and forth between four different parts of  The Way to Cook, and searching for the definition of soft-ball stage sugar syrup in The French Chef.  I think by the time Julia got to The Way to Cook, she assumed all of us had worked through her other books and knew things so she was teaching “transferable principles.”  However, it makes it a challenge as you go from master recipe to variation, and variation of variation.  But I think Julia is wonderful, so I’m not going to complain.  It took George’s reading me the various recipes step by step – and repeating the instructions slowly – to get me through this tour de force.  However, the roulade rolled and unrolled without a hitch, the meringue was glossy and smooth, and all things worked together for good.  The filling/frosting is very light, but has an intense flavor.  The orange comes through in the cake, which was made with a totally different technique from the previous orange almond one I made a few weeks ago.  I even did meringue mushrooms, although they were the weak link in the chain, and will need more practice.  Tomorrow before serving, George will take a picture.

December 26th –

As you can see, the Bûche turned out.  Why I ever doubt Julia, I will never know, but I’m going to stop.  This icing recipe was delightfully light, and did not overpower the cake.  My son-in-law even had two helpings, and took the leftover Bûche home.  My greatest compliment!

Julia in various forms was under the tree for me.  I got My Life in France, and the book about her television years, as well as The French Chef DVDs.  I’ve begun My Life in France, and it is absolutely charming.  I can’t recommend it too highly.  As well, my daughter gave me a perfectly gorgeous book of vegan French cooking.  Her birthday is in two days, and she’s choosing her birthday dinner from it for me to cook.

Merry Christmas, and Bon Appétit!

Julia’s Bûche de Noël, with Chocolate Italian Meringue Frosting

This recipe is a combination of various Bûche recipes from Julia’s books.  In The Way to Cook, she had left out some of the details that – for me – make the recipe easier to follow.  I did not include her instructions for the “caramel veil” since this doesn’t seem botanically correct, has the potential to make a major mess in the kitchen, and the Bûches I saw in France had none.  I also do not give directions for putting broken branches on the Bûche, as I never have found this an aesthetic addition.  The cake recipe has the orange flavour of her orange almond Bûche, but not the pulverized nuts, so is my combination of two of her recipes. To see the improved recipe please go to Julia’s Bûche de Noël Recipe with Improved Directions.

Sponge cake:  Pâté a Biscuit

An 11 by 17-inch jelly-roll sheet

The batter base:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Juice and grated zest of one orange

The egg whites:

  • 3 egg whites
  • A pinch of salt
  • A scant ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ Tbs additional sugar

Completing the batter:

  • ½ cup plus ¼ cup (9 Tbs total) plain bleached cake flour, scooped and leveled into a sifter set over wax paper
  • 3 Tbs tepid melted butter


A 3-quart mixing bowl; a wire whisk or portable mixer; a clean dry bowl and beater for the egg whites; a large rubber spatula


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack on lower middle level.
  2. Measure out all ingredients.
  3. Butter baking sheet, then cover with wax paper that is two inches longer at each end.
  4. Butter and flour wax paper (using approximately ½ cup flour, and knocking out excess after moving sheet so that all parts have been covered).

The egg yolks and sugar:

  1. Start beating the egg yolks in the mixing bowl, and gradually beat in the sugar by tablespoon; continue for several minutes, until the mixture is thick, pale yellow, and forms the ribbon.
  2. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. Beat in orange juice and grated zest.

Beating the egg whites:

  1. Beat the egg whites separately, starting at slow speed, until they foam throughout.
  2. Add the salt and cream of tartar, and continue until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle in the sugar and beat to stiff peaks.

Finishing the batter:

  1. At once stir a quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolks and sugar to lighten the mixture.
  2. Rapidly plop a third of the remaining whites on top, and sift on a quarter of the flour.
  3. Delicately and rapidly fold them together, and when almost blended repeat the sequence with a third of the remaining egg whites and a third of the remaining flour, then half of each, and when you have almost blended the last of each, add and fold in the tepid melted butter – do not over blend or you will deflate the batter.
  4. Proceed at once to the baking.

Baking the sponge sheet

About 7 – 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

  1. Immediately turn the batter into the prepared pan; bang once firmly but not roughly on your work surface to settle it, and place at once in preheated oven.

When it is done:

It is done when the top just feels springy.  It must just hold together; if overcooked and dried out it will crack when you roll it up.

Cooling and unmolding:

  1. Remove from the oven, and slice ¼ inch off the long sides of the sponge sheet – they may be brittle and will crack.
    (The following maneuvers are to prevent the cake from becoming dry and impossible to roll.)
  2. Sprinkle the top with 1/16-inch layer of confectioner’s sugar.
  3. Cover with a sheet of wax paper and a lightly dampened tea towel.
  4. Turn a tray or baking sheet upside down over the cake, and reverse the two.
  5. Unmold the cake by holding an end of the wax paper while you lift off the jell-roll pan.
  6. Neatly and carefully peel the wax paper off the cake.
  7. Sift another 1/16-layer of confectioner’s sugar over the cake and roll it up in the slightly dampened towel, and put on rack to cool – about 30 minutes.  (Julia says the roulade may be baked a day or two ahead and refrigerated having been wrapped in plastic wrap.  If it is frozen, it needs to thaw an hour or more or it will break.)

Making Italian Meringue and meringue mushrooms:

  • 2 cups Italian meringue (3 egg whites, ¾ cup sugar, a pinch of salt, ¼ tsp cream of tartar, and ¼ cup water boiled to the soft-ball stage – 238 degree F.)
  • 1 cup chilled whipping cream whipped and flavoured with ½ cup confectioner’s sugar and 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. Semisweet baking chocolate melted with 1/3 cup strong coffee
  • 1/3 cup, more or less, sifted unsweetened cocoa

For decoration:

  • 2 to 3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa in a tea strainer
  • Confectioner’s sugar in a fine-meshed sieve
  • Artificial sprigs of holly

Making the Italian meringue

The egg whites:

  1. Beat the egg whites (room temperature) at slow speed until they foam throughout; add the salt and cream of tartar.
  2. Gradually increase speed to fast, and beat to soft peaks.  Turn the machine to slow as you complete the sugar syrup.

The sugar syrup:

  1. Bring the sugar and water to the simmer, swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar completely, cover gently and boil to the soft-ball stage (238 degrees).

Sugar syrup into egg whites:

  1. Beating the egg whites at moderately slow speed, dribble into them the boiling syrup – trying to avoid the wires of the whip.
  2. Increase speed to moderately fast, and beat until cool and the egg whites form stiff, shining, upstanding peaks.  The meringue is now ready.

Meringue mushrooms:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Scoop a quarter of the plain Italian meringue into a pastry bag and using the ½ inch tip, squeeze out 8 to 10 ½-inch domes onto a buttered and floured pastry sheet. (having knocked off the excess flour) to serve as caps.
  3. Use the 1/8 inch tip to squeeze out 8 to 10 conical shapes ¼ inch high, for the stems.
  4. Bake about 1 hour in the middle level of the oven, until the meringues push easily off the pastry sheet.  They should remain very light colored.  They can be frozen, or stored air-tight until just before serving the Bûche.

Frosting and Filling:

  1. Beat smoothly melted chocolate into the Italian meringue.
  2. Then fold in whipped cream.
  3. Remove 2/3 of the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate; this is the frosting.

Filling the cake:

  1. Gently unroll the cooked cake, and spread the filling over the top.
  2. Roll it up from one of the short sides, and you have made a log.
  3. Neatly slice a narrow slanting piece from each end of the log.
  4. Using an offset spatula inserted under one end of the log, transfer it to the serving platter placing it seam side down.
  5. Slip double sheets of wax paper under the edge of each side and the two ends to catch spills.

Frosting the log:

  1. Beat 2 or more spoonfuls of sifted cocoa into the frosting mixture to make it of spreadable consistency.  (Reserve 2 tablespoons of frosting for assembling the mushrooms.)
  2. Leaving the two ends unfrosted, frost the cake using a flexible metal spatula, and then use a fork to give it a bark-like look.
  3. Remove wax paper.  Cake can be refrigerated at this point, covered.

Final decorations – just before serving.

The mushrooms:

  1. With a small knife, piece a hole in the bottom of each meringue mushroom cap, insert a bit of the frosting (or softened butter) into the hole, and then the pointed end of the meringue stem.
  2. Arrange the mushrooms in tasteful clusters on the log.
  3. Dust the log with a sparse coating of confectioner’s sugar to give a snowy effect.
  4. Dust the mushroom tops with cocoa powder tapped from a very fine sieve.
  5. Decorate with artificial holly.




  1. Excellent web site. Plenty of helpful info here. I am sending it to several buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you for your sweat!

  2. Hi, I browsed your blog while searching bing for espresso makers. Your blog is really cool and I like the theme. Just thought would let you know that I have bookmarked it. I think you may also like this website – coffeemakers. Also on a couple of pages I also encountered a 404 error and after refreshing a couple of times was able to view the pages. Thank you

    • So glad you liked it. I am not a coffee-drinker, but my son is, so I will have my son look at the site. I’ll tell my techie husband to look at your comment about the 404 error. Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: