Everything about this holiday dessert is just so pretty—from the perfect cake roll slathered with mocha buttercream frosting to the adorable meringue mushrooms. I love it all and thank great grandma for this perfectly timeless recipe.
Reader beware, if I was on a retro dessert kick before my trip to the Midwest, I’m really on one now. That’s what hanging out with Grandma will do, I’ll tell you. I’m just so thankful I got to spend some time with her recently and talk recipes, a favorite topic for both of us. She told me that every Sunday was deemed “baking day” in her house growing up, and on that day her mother (my great grandmother whom these recipes are from!) would tie on her apron and bake two dozen soft white rolls drizzled with powdered sugar icing as well as a chocolate layer cake for the week. And this was during the Great Depression! Can you even imagine? She had three small children to feed and who even knows how many neighborhood kids.
I like to think she also made this special dessert on Sundays as well during December.
If you’ve ever been intrigued by a bouche de noel (or yuel log), this is your day! Trust me, it’s not as difficult as it seems but it is time consuming. Plan to make this dessert on the weekend where you can afford to spend all day in the kitchen.
The first step is to make the sponge cake. These types of cakes are made without any baking powder or baking soda and rely purely on beating the heck out of the eggs for a rise.
This time around, I used a tip I read about on Smitten Kitchen to wrap my cake roll in a clean dishcloth to avoid any cracks. It totally worked! Just run a knife along the edges of the jelly roll pan to release the cake (gently!) then place on a large clean dishcloth and roll up the cake in the cloth. Let the cake cool like this then unroll—it’s like magic!
Great Grandma called for a chocolate whipped cream frosting for the inside of the cake roll and a DELICIOUS mocha buttercream for the outside.
And when I say “delicious” I mean this mocha buttercream was one of the best frostings I’ve ever tasted and it took every ounce of self control not to stick my face in the mixing bowl. Grams wasn’t joking when she made the note at the bottom of the recipe that “this frosting is also delicious on other cakes as well”. For reals.
Is frosting a food group?
I thought so.
The meringue mushrooms were not part of the original recipe but rather my own addition. Different bouche de noel recipes vary, but meringue mushrooms are usually a pretty standard decoration. Yes, I’ll have both my cake and cookies, please.
To sum it all up, this dessert is time consuming but so worth it!!! I love the finished presentation all dusted with cocoa powder or powdered sugar. You’re going to love it!
Buche de Noel (Mocha Log)
for the cake:
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
for chocolate whipped cream filling:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
teeny tiny pinch of salt
for mocha buttercream:
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp boiling water
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
for cute little meringue mushrooms:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350.
Beat the egg yolks until very pale and thick. Set aside. In another bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Fold egg yolks into egg whites and then gently fold in flour. Spread mixture onto a WELL GREASED and LINED (either with a Silpat or parchment paper) jelly roll pan, smoothing it out with a spoon or off-set spatula. Bake for 10-13 minutes, until just slightly starting to turn golden.
Once cake comes out of oven, run a knife along the sides of the jelly roll pan and turn cake out onto a clean dish towel. Do this slowly! Then, wrap up dishtowel and cake together. Let cake cool for 20 minutes wrapped up like this then unwrap cake and lay flat.
While the cake is cooling, whip the cream for the filling and add the cocoa, powdered sugar and salt. Spread whipped cream onto cooled cake, leaving an inch border around all sides. Roll cake up with filling.
Then, make the mocha buttercream. Beat the butter and buttered sugar until very light and fluffy. Add cocoa. Mix together the instant coffee and boiling water and add to frosting. Continue beating on high speed for another ten minutes until VERY VERY FLUFFY AND LIGHT (you can’t over-beat this…keep going).
Spread frosting all over the top and sides of the cake roll. Place in refrigerator while you make the mushrooms.
To make the mushrooms (these are optional but super cute and fun), whip the egg whites with the sugar and cream of tartar until stiff, glossy peaks form. Pipe out of a pastry bag or plastic bag into 10 little mounds on a lined baking sheet. Then, pipe 10 little “stems” to go with the mounds (just a thick short line of meringue). Save one tablespoon of meringue and place in fridge. Bake mushroom caps and stems at 200 degrees for 1.5 hours, until very light and perfectly crisp.
Remove from oven and “glue” mushroom caps and stems together with your leftover meringue. Carefully place mushrooms back on the baking sheet and resume baking for another 30-45 minutes until “glue” has baked. Let mushrooms cool before using.
To assemble and serve the buche de noel, cut a slice of the cake roll and place on a plate that you already sifted with cocoa powder. Sift cocoa powder on two meringue mushrooms and place mushrooms next to or on top of cake roll. Serve.
all day long
**Great Grandma says “the mocha butter frosting is a delicious icing that could be used on other cakes” <—–I concur
** buche de noel can be stored wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge for up to three days. Meringue mushrooms can be stored wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature