By Jennifer Evans Gardner
Photos by Kellen Gardner
I’ve always loved Bûche de Noël, the traditional French cake that is rolled and decorated to look like a Yule log at Christmas. I’m particularly impressed that someone had the idea to create meringue “mushrooms” to make it even more log-esque. I have found that though the bûche looks intimidating, it isn’t difficult at all. In fact, I have even taught children as young as six to do it. The only downside to the bûche is that it’s not a nondenominational cake. Since Noël refers to the birth of Christ, this cake remains firmly in the Christmas camp.
Which led me to the creation of the Thanksgiving Bûche, or Bûche de Gratitude as I like to call it. In my humble opinion, a cake in the shape of a log makes more sense on a holiday that celebrates that first feast between the pilgrims and the Native Americans. One would imagine they ate outdoors in close proximity (or possibly sitting upon) real logs, after all.
For this bûche, a moist pumpkin sponge cake, or genoise, is baked, rolled, filled with cream cheese frosting, frosted with decadent chocolate buttercream, and then studded with – what else – cocoa-dusted meringue mushrooms. The Bûche de Thanksgiving. Just one more thing to be thankful for.
For a PDF of this recipe, visit the build page on Make: Projects!
9″×13″ jelly roll pan
Standing mixer with whisk attachment
Coupler and 1/2″ tip for piping mushrooms
Baker’s Joy or other flour/butter pan spray
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin puree (not canned pumpkin pie)
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 cup cake flour Swans Down can be found in major grocery stores
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or ground)
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Cream Cheese Filling:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
8oz cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 lb butter, softened
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
5-6 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Half and half, optional
2 large egg whites, room temperature (make sure there is no trace of yolk)
Pinch cream of tartar
1/2 cup superfine white sugar
Unsweetened cocoa, for dusting
Step 1: Make the meringue mushrooms. (You can prepare this a day or two ahead). Preheat the oven to 200° F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone liners. In the (very clean) bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Slowly add the sugar, beating on high until stiff, glossy peaks form.
Step 2: Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2″ plain round pastry tip (you can also use the open end of a coupler). Pipe 12 mushroom “caps” by piping 1 1/2″ smooth, round mounds, and then pipe 12 “stems,” or pointed cones. Bake the mushroom caps and stems for 90 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the meringues in the oven for one additional hour or more to dry out. Cool completely before carefully removing them from the cookie sheets.
Step 3: Make the cream cheese filling. In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla and beat until creamy. Set aside until ready to use.
Step 4: Make the chocolate buttercream. Carefully melt the chocolate in a microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) in brief 20-second bursts, being careful not to burn it. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla, then slowly add the powdered sugar. Add half and half as needed, for a smooth consistency. Set aside.
Step 5: Make the pumpkin bûche. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a jelly roll pan bottom and sides with Baker’s Joy. Line with parchment paper and spray again. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer (or in a standing mixer) until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat again for another 2 minutes until fluffy. Fold in the pumpkin and lemon juice.
Step 6: Mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and baking powder. Fold the mixture into the batter and then pour the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan – it will be a thin layer – and bake for about 18-20 minutes, until cake springs back to the touch.
Step 7: When the cake is cool enough to handle, remove from the pan and place on a parchment paper-lined cotton towel.
Step 8: Roll up the towel, rolling the cake at the same time. Leave it seam-side down to cool.
Step 9: When the cake is cool, unroll it and spread with the cream cheese filling.
Step 10: Roll up the cake again without the towel and parchment.
Step 11: Slice a piece of the rolled cake off the end. You will be putting this “stump” on top of your frosted log.
Step 12: Frost the entire cake with chocolate buttercream (warning: it’s rich, so don’t go too crazy), then place the “stump” on top toward one end. Drag the tines of a fork through the buttercream to give it the texture of tree bark.
Step 13: Finish assembling the mushrooms for the final garnish.
Dust the top of the mushrooms with cocoa powder.
Step 14: With the tip of a small, sharp knife, carefully poke a small hole in the center of the flat underside of each meringue mushroom cap. Pipe a small dab of frosting into each, then gently insert the pointed end of the stems.
Step 15: Place the mushrooms on top of and to the side of the bûche, then decorate with leaves or other fall decorations. It is now ready to serve!
About the Author:
Jennifer Evans Gardner is a food and travel writer, owner of Little Feet in the Kitchen cooking school, and co-author of an upcoming cookbook on the subject of meringue (Gibbs-Smith, Autumn 2012).
About the Photographer:
Kellen Gardner has been shooting food photos since the tender age of 12. He is now 13.