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Chocolate Bûche de Noël with Coffee Cream

Ingredients

Chocolate Jelly Roll

  • 1 cup sifted cake flour* or 1 cup minus 2 tbs all purpose flour + 2 tbs corn starch OR arrowroot flour sifted 5-7 times. [see note on cake flour, below]
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • icing sugar & a clean kitchen towel for rolling the cake

Easy Coffee Cream

  • 1 cup  whipping cream
  • 1-3 tbs espresso or strong coffee [made from ~2tsp instant crystals]
  • 1/2 cup sifted icing sugar

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 4 tbs butter
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups sifted icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp  vanilla

Additional Optional Decor 

  • icing sugar
  • diced pistachios or other nuts
  • fresh or toasted coconut shredded or flaked

Make-Ahead Meringue Mushrooms [Not pictured]

  • 3 egg whites room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 2 tsp cocoa for dusting [optional]

Instructions

Easy Chocolate Jelly Roll & Construction

  • Heat oven to 375.
  • Grease a 15x10x1 baking or jelly roll pan.
  • Line it with a waxed paper rectangle cut 1/2 inch smaller than the pan (14×9).
  • Grease the paper.
  • Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a bowl or onto another sheet of waxed paper.
  • Beat eggs until thick and creamy.
  • Beat in sugar, 1 tbsp a time until mixture is thick.
  • Stir in water and vanilla.
  • Fold in flour mixture.
  • Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
  • Bake 12-15 minutes until centre springs back when pressed lightly with a fingertip.
  • While the cake is baking, dust a large clean tea towel generously with icing sugar.
  • Remove baked cake from oven and immediately EITHER cut around the warm cake, 1/4-inch from the edges of the pan with a sharp knife, "discarding" scraps, OR loosen the edges of the cake from the sides of the pan with a knife.
  • Invert the pan onto the clean towel dusted generously with icing sugar.
  • Peel off waxed paper.
  • Gently roll the wider length of cake jelly roll style in towel. You want a long slim roll, not a short, thick one. 
  • Cool rolled and wrapped cake completely on a wire rack. [You can store the cake like this for up to one day or re-roll the cake in wax paper, wrap wax-paper rolled cake in foil and freeze for 2-3 weeks.]
  • While the cake is cooling, prepare the Coffee Cream and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. You may also prepare the Make-Ahead Mushrooms, if desired, if you haven't done so already.
  • Unroll cake.
  • Spread with Coffee Cream filling, below.
  • Reroll the cake.
  • Cut a 1/2in-or-thicker slice from the ends of the cake roll to use as knots on the cake. If you just want a festive jelly roll, move on to step 25.
  • Place the larger rolled cake on a serving plate.
  • Use Chocolate Butter Frosting [below] to attach the "knots" to the cake roll.
  • [Optional] Take a small bit of icing and “dirty ice” the cake with a thin layer of icing and let cake sit in the refrigerator for a while.
  • Frost cake roll with remaining Chocolate Butter Frosting.  You do not have to ice the open ends and open knots of the cake. This is a bit tricky, but can be done with a clean icing spreader.
  • If desired, use the tines of a fork or an icing spatula to make the icing look like realistic “bark.”
  • If desired, sprinkle the ends of the roll and/or the knots/limbs with chopped pistachios, or flaked or toasted coconut.
  • If desired, dust with icing sugar.
  • If desired, decorate with Meringue Mushrooms [below]
  • Chill until 10-20 minutes before serving time.

Easy Coffee Cream

  • Combine all ingredients in a cold mixing bowl and beat with cold beaters until stiff.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler and cool slightly.
  • Combine icing sugar, milk and vanilla in a separate bowl.
  • Slowly beat in chocolate mixture until frosting is smooth and spreadable.

Make-Ahead Meringue Mushrooms [Not pictured]

  • Heat oven to 200.
  • Line two large cookie sheets with parchment.
  • Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium speed until soft peaks form.
  • Increase speed and, one tablespoon at a time, sprinkle in the sugar until the sugar dissolves and the meringue forms stiff peaks. It will be thick and shiny, a cross between marshmallow fluff and taffy.
  • Attach a 1/2-inch round tip to a pastry bag or ziploc bag.
  • Fill the bag halfway with meringue and make an equal number of caps and stems, as described in the next two steps. 
  • For the mushroom caps, squeeze meringue into 1.5-in rounds, pulling off to the side to avoid pointy tips.
  • For the stems, hold pastry bag upright and squeeze out meringue, creating either an elongated cylinder or a "kiss" shape with a fairly pointy tip, about an inch tall.
  • Place the sheets in the oven and bake for approximately 2 hours, until firm but not brown. You'll want to rotate the sheets at the first and third half hour and swap them at the 1 hour point.  
  • Let the caps and tips stand for a few moments on the cookie sheets.
  • Then, remove the mushrooms on their parchment to wire racks to cool completely.
  • When the mushrooms are cool, you may store them in pieces in a spacious air-tight container or assemble right away.
  • To assemble, melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over boiling water or in slow bursts at half-power in the microwave.
  • OPTION A: Carefully make a small indentation in the centre underside of each mushroom cap with the back of a spoon or the tip of a knife. Working one at a time, fill the hollow in a cap with about a 1/4 teaspoon of melted chocolate. Then, press the top of a stem into the indentation. If possible, cool cap-side down on a tray until the seal is firm. 
  • OPTION B: Coat the undersides of the caps with a bit of chocolate. With snips or a sharp knife, cut off any of the pointy "tips" of the stems you might have made. Use additional chocolate to attach the stems to the caps. Cool completely until the seal is firm.
  • [Optional] Place the cocoa in a tea ball or fine mesh strainer and censor it over the meringue shapes.
  • Store in a dry, air-tight container until ready to use.

Notes

*By cake flour, I mean traditional super-fine cake flour, which is not always available in stores. Be aware that most "cake and pastry flour" I've seen at the grocery is not the old "boxed" cake flour of my childhood (and from which this recipe was born). This readily available mix very often contains benzoyl peroxide. A solid choice for good cake flour is Bob's Red Mill. The substitute flour and cornstarch or flour and arrowroot powder combo has become my preferred method of preparation. The general rule is 1 cup minus 2 tbs flour with 2 tbs of cornstarch or arrowroot powder added. Then, you sift this mixture 5-7 times.