Buche de Noel
Traditions for a non-traditionalist
I love the idea of traditions. I think rituals and traditions help to cement family and create memories and bonds.
A few holiday traditions really work for me.
We start the New Year at my Japanese mother-in-law’s with sushi and seafood and chanting for peace. My sister does the polar bear swim.
A few weeks later we celebrate Chinese New Year with my Grandmother with dim sum or a meal at a Cantonese restaurant with the traditional 8 dishes, and red Ly Ci packets with crisp bills from the eldest family members giving to all those younger than they.
My mother loves Easter chocolate making and baking, and we have even dabbled at making the traditional Ukrainian pysanka, or decorative wax painted eggs.
My favourite fall tradition in my little family is to get dressed in costumes together at Halloween.
A tradition I do love from my mother’s family at Thanksgiving, is setting an extra plate at the table for anyone who was in need a a good meal and a spot by the fire for the evening.
Christmas is a little trickier.
My inclination at this point, for Christmastime, is to go non-secular, to celebrate the winter solstice, and the returning of the light, to celebrate family togetherness, and to include some kind of activity that will cement us in ritual.
Maybe it’s because in my family the holidays changed so much from my parent’s generation to mine, but I am not sure we had that many traditions that I want to carry on. Like, I’m just not going to go to midnight mass.
So, I’ve been looking for something that I’ll want to carry on for years to come. I continue to search for something eco-friendly, artsy or active, non-religious, something that reflects what I love – spending time showing people I care, getting creative, involved in a project.
Looking at lights, volunteering, and snowshoeing seemed good too, but not everyone always want to do it, and often we get soaked in the rain.
Christmas eve was always more special than Christmas day to my mother. That did not always work over the years with everyone’s schedule, and so the timing needs to be more open.
In my Ukrainian family, there is the tradition of the 12 dishes cooked by the eldest ladies. I don’t know the dishes, and that sounds like a lot of food for my tiny family, and a lot to make all by myself! I do like the Ukrainian tradition that the men wash the dishes after.
Christmas crafts don’t interest the guys, ice skating doesn’t work for my sister, going up the mountains leaves out the old ladies, visiting markets seemed more fun than it really was.
Seeing the Nutcracker ballet is a memory that my partner and I both had from childhood, and while that’s lovely, it’s pretty costly to do it every year.
Yule Log, French style
It’s log, it’s log…It’s a cake, it’s a craft, it’s good.
Having grown up going to French school, I love the Quebecois take on winter – maple syrup candy, snowball fights, and the Bonhomme de neige, or snowman, who wears a scarf like a belt.
Unfortunately, we don’t have enough snow for most of those things, but we can still enjoy the French tradition of the Reveillon, the tradition of eating all night into the morning hours.
This tradition comes from staying up, going to midnight mass, and returning to eat 13 dishes, including the most decadent shellfish, followed by turkey, and ending in 13 dessert, a yule log cake, and finally, champagne.
Like the traditional 12 Ukrainian dishes, that tradition is a little much for me.
Not to mention, our family has suffered from our share of fresh shellfish nightmare stories…I’ll spare the details… but I do love the Buche de Noel part.
Buche de Noel is the French name for a Christmas cake shaped like a yule log – a special log specially prepared to be burned slowly – traditionally over the shortest, darkest days of the year.
Since I love to mix influences, this cake takes the Buche de Noel and crosses it with the traditional German black forest cake, with its cherries and ganache. YUM.
This version is a mash up of all the things I wanted. Cream cheese frosting, light airy cake, ganache instead of frosting, and something celiac-friendly. Oh yeah and sour cherries, a source of melatonin, to make the kids fall asleep fast, lol.
It’s a delicious, flourless chocolate cake with a heavenly texture. It is moistened with vanilla and cherry juice, rolled with cherry-chocolate whipped cream, and topped with ganache.
It is naturally gluten free, and can be made dairy free fairly easily as well.
It seems like a no brainer that I would want to eat this every year. Making it was fun, people liked eating it, so that feels like a win to me.
I reduce the sugar substantially, using only confectioner’s sugar and subbing the rest. Feel free to use real sugar if you don’t care, I just don’t even keep any in my house!
Traditionally, Buche de Noel is decorated with its icing resembling bark, and confectioners’ sugar to resemble snow on a yule log. In addition, many people like to add mushrooms made of marzipan, a paste made of ground almonds.
Your log may have any of these embellishments – vines and leaves, toadstools, bark made of chocolate flakes.
Our bark was made to resemble a pine tree, hence it is lying amidst some pine cones.
It seems to be an enchanted forest, as there are some interesting marzipan characters – gnomes that bear some faint resemblance to Suzuki and Chomsky.
Maybe next time, I’ll give the gnomes a little conference area made of toadstools, where they can convene to solve the world’s problems, I’ll add a Stamets sitting on an amenita. And a troll of course, sitting behind them, doing what trolls do.
And with no further ado, here is the recipe. Have fun!
Yule Log Cake / Buche de Noel
Note – Ingredients are listed for each part, under each part.
Rolled chocolate cake with vanilla whipped cream – cream cheese filling:
- 1 cup organic 33% fat / whipping cream or coconut whipped cream
- 1 cup organic or vegan cream cheese
- 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 packet gelatin (optional)
Directions – whipped cream-cream cheese filling
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a 10×15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper, and grease and dust it with cocoa.
- In a large bowl, whip cream, cream cheese, 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until thick and stiff. Taste it of course! Refrigerate.
- 6 free range organic egg yolks
- 1/2 cup white sugar or similar weight/volume sugar substitute (Lokanto, erithrytol)
- 1/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 free range organic egg whites
- 1/4 cup white sugar or similar weight/volume sugar substitute (Lokanto, erithrytol)
- Organic confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Directions – chocolate roll cake
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale. Temper gelatine in the vanilla if using. Blend 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt into the yolks.
- In large bowl using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately, gently, fold the yolk mixture into the whites.
- Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
- Dust a clean dish towel that you can get very ‘dirty’ with cocoa.
- Run a knife around the edge of the pan if needed, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Remove parchment paper.
- Roll the cake up with the towel. Making a shorter wider cake from the short end is more popular, but I prefer rolling it long, from the long side, to get a thinner more elegant shape – suit yourself.
- Cool for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the cherry filling (see below).
- At this point you can freeze it or refrigerate it for a longer time – simply wrap the towel and all in parchment and plastic wrap to ensure no air gets to it.
- Unroll the cake, and brush cherry juice all on the inside, paying extra attention to the edges.
- Spread the whipped cream filling to within 1 inch of the edge.
- Add in rows of the cherry filling, or just mix it all together.
- Roll the cake up with the filling inside.
- Find a plate that will fit the cake. I started with some greenery made from fondant and cinnamon twigs, to set the forest scene.
- Place seam side down onto the serving plate, and refrigerate until serving. Wrap if this will be more than a half a day.
- Before serving, trim the very ends (eat those, of course) and then cut at least one larger piece from the end, on a diagonal, to be a branch of the log.
- Prepare the ganache, and attach the branch or branches to the main log with the ganache frosting. Use more ganache frosting to be sure everything is attached.
- Frost the top and sides, and use a knife or other tool to get the texture to resemble bark. If you make the ganache thin, you could pipe it. I spread it on and then used a pastry comb, but fork tines work for this as well.
- Dust with confectioners’ sugar to resemble snow.
- Before serving, add some cherries for decoration, to look like berries, or make a pinecone or mushroom or two if you like, you do you. Maybe add fluffy little clouds.
- ½ cup juice from the sour cherries
- 3 Tablespoons – ¼ cup vanilla extract, brandy, rum or Kirsch
Cherry mixture (filling part 2):
- 2 cups Sour cherries
- ¼ cup sour cherry juice
- 2 Tablespoons organic icing sugar
- 2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder
Heat the cherries and half the juice in a heavy bottomed pot. Mix the arrowroot into half of the juice, then stir into the mixture, and cook down.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons grass fed butter
- 2 cups semi-sweet stevia-sweetened chocolate chips
- 2 pinches salt
- Add heavy cream and butter to a small saucepan and heat on low heat until the butter has melted and the cream is warmed throughout.
- Add chocolate chips to a large glass or nonreactive bowl. Pour the warmed cream and butter mixture over the chocolate chips. Add the 2 pinches of salt. Allow to stand for about 3-5 minutes to soften the chocolate chips completely.
- Stir briskly to combine and until smooth.
- Once cooled, use an electric to whip ganache to incorporate air and increase the volume of the ganache. It will change from dark brown to a light brown. Spread as you would frosting.
- A few tablespoons 33% cream
- 4 oz semi sweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup sliced, skin-on almonds
Soften the chocolate in the microwave, mix in hot cream, and then quickly form in cones and shove the almond slices in there, in a way to resemble pinecones.
Well, that’s it.
Let me know how it goes!