(Guest blogger: Izzy's mom)
If you want to really ratchet up the holiday stress, try baking a Buche de Noel. The sponge cake roulade is liable to break if not rolled up just right, the cream tends to ooze out of the log, and the frosting hardens so fast that a phone call-- or even a brief daydream-- can cause disaster. Fortunately, though, the cake is meant to double for something dragged in from the forest, and so imperfections can be written off as a charming stab at naturalism. And the finished product is amazing.
We've made this for the past three years, and this Christmas's buche was clearly best.
The Orange Sponge Cake (adapted from Cuisine at Home)
1 cup of flour
3/4 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 eggs (separate eggs and yolks)
1 orange (1/3 cup of fresh orange juice and zest)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 12 x 17 inch jelly roll pan. Line with parchment and grease again.
Sift flour, 1/2 cup flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl; set aside.
Whisk 3 egg yolks, orange juice, oil, vanilla and zest together. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add wet ingredients; whisk until smooth.
Beat 5 egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed; when soft peaks form, gradually add 1/4 cup sugar. Beat until the egg whites are stiff.
Mix 1/3 of the whites into batter; then add the remaining whites. Fold in gently.
Bake 20-25 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched.
Cool cake five minutes. Dust a large sheet of parchment paper with confectioners' sugar. Run a knife around the cake and invert onto parchment paper. Peel off the parchment paper that the cake baked on, then dust the cake with confectioners' sugar.
Roll cake up in sugared parchment and let it cool this way before unrolling and assembling.
------------------------Whipped Cream Filling (adapted from The Cake Doctor)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons brandy (or less or none, if children are eating)
Beat the cream until soft peaks form; add the sugar and brandy and beat cream until stiff.
Unroll the cake and spread with whipped cream (leave an inch or so margin from the edge). Roll up into a jelly roll. Carve off one end of the cake at an angle and add this to the side of the cake to form a branch. (See photo from Izzy's post about meringue mushrooms.)
Chocolate Pan Frosting (adapted from The Cake Doctor)
1 stick of butter
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (we used Droste)
1/2 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of instant coffee or espresso
4 cups confectioners' sugar
Melt the butter in a pan over low heat for 2-3 minutes. Stir in cocoa powder, coffee, and milk. Let mixture come to a slow boil, and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the confectioners' sugar and whisk until smooth.
Pour the warm frosting over cake, spreading it with a spatula. The frosting hardens fast so work quickly.
With a fork, make lines in the frosting so it resembles tree bark.
Decorate the cake with meringue mushrooms (Izzy's previous post), cranberries, and either branches of your Christmas tree or sprigs of rosemary dipped in egg white and then in granulated sugar.
Refrigerate until time to serve.