Servings: 12 to 16
This twist on a traditional bûche de Noël is a glorious centerpiece dessert for a holiday party or meal. While the cake entails a bit of a time investment, it’s worth it for the wow factor when you reveal the gorgeous vertical layers. See the article for step-by-step assembly photos, and browse our ideas for garnishes, from sugared berries to meringue mushrooms.
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I have never tackled anything like this before but it looked irresistible. I read all the reviews to get feedback on this cake which were very helpful. I had some of the same trouble as Debm59. The flour didn’t mix as I thought it had and ending up mixing it the pan. I also thought a bit thin around the edges. Overall a great cake, worth the effort. Allow for a practice round and extra time. Loved it and will make it again Sam!
I made this for Christmas. My family uniformly said it was the best cake they ever had. I agree with some of the comments and not with others, so I will give a detailed review.
As background, I have made a traditional Bunche before, indeed a complex version from Jacquy Pfeiffer. That said, I don’t make a lot of cakes so this was pushing my skills a bit. Also, my local stores had a run on decent quality white chocolate, and I couldn’t find anything after visiting four stores that I would use, so I ended up using Amazon Prime for next day delivery of a 12 pack of Lindt bars, which proved to be lucky.
The reason it was lucky is that when I went to whip the white chocolate ganache the morning after I made it, it broke, meaning it crystallized and was unusable. I tried Pfeiffer’s trick for repairing a broken ganache, and it came back together, and then after 15 minutes in the fridge it broke again. I decided to remake it because it really tasted phenomenal before it broke, and fortunately I had a LOT of white chocolate on hand, but mentally I was working on plan B, which fortunately wasn’t needed. For the second batch, I cooled it in an ice bath, since it was now the day I needed to make it, and I barely whipped it with a whisk. It wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked, but didn’t taste bad, and since it was on the inside I was okay if it wasn’t shiny as long as it wasn’t grainy. I don’t see how you can whip a cold ganache with a whisk attachment of a home quality Kitchenaid mixer, it’s just too flimsy. After the fact I see other ganaches whipped with a hand mixer and I might try that.
I had no issues mixing the cake batter. I baked the cake one minute longer than the guidelines when it seemed to fit the description of when it was done, and did not use convection. I had no problem with the flipping and preliminary rolling; although my bevels weren’t very neat they didn’t need to be. I did have quite a battle getting the ganache to adhere without all the cake coming off, but I found modest dollops and a firm spread while holding the edge worked. After each layer was ganached and rolled I gave the cake a firm hug to be sure the layers adhered. I didn’t add a lot of the syrup (about 2/3) but it was fine - neither too dry nor too wet. Really the rolling went fine after I got the ganache on, and I was very pleased since I had a nice, tight cylinder which was even enough for me. Finally, I wanted to decorate it with white chocolate birch bark, so I skipped the buttercream and went instead for a thin layer of Pfeiffer’s chocolate ganache, which went on smoothly and beautifully complemented the other flavors. Really the cake needed little extra decoration after I grooved the ganache with a fork, I was just showing off. After decorating and a few hours in the fridge and about an hour out of it, I used a hot knife to cut it and it cut perfectly. The taste was amazing and the vertical layers were stunning.
The four stars are because of the heartbreak of the broken ganache, and how frustrating it was to put it on the layers. My guests would rate it beyond 5. So if you are adventurous, give it a try!
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