Ho, ho, ho! Joyeux Noel, everyone! That's what I would say if it were actually Christmastime, and if I were being corny. It felt like Christmas last night, thought, as we started our second cake unit, and even though it's the end of February, we made a traditional French Christmas cake, the buche de Noel, or Yule log. Along with that, we started two other cakes, a fraisier (essentially, a fancy strawberry shortcake) and a lemon chiffon cake (a very light lemon cake). I'll get to those next time, when I have pictures, but for now, I'll just talk about the buche.
The thing I kind of love about the buche de Noel, is that, unlike every other French pastry, this one kind of revels in its tackiness. Generally, the more crap you put on it, the more festive. Now, that's not to say that you can't make very elegant Yule logs, such as the gorgeous cakes made by pastry chefs like Francois Payard and Pierre Herme, but in general, there is a certain rusticity to them that I really enjoy.
We made this cake using a biscuit de roulade sponge cake, as a roulade is a cake that gets rolled up. We then filled it with a chestnut buttercream and a tiny bit of cranberry compote. After rolling it up, we covered the whole log in chocolate buttercream. Now, there's no traditional filling on this, but my chef figured chestnuts and cranberry are festive for Christmas. Personally, I think caramel butter cream would've been better, but that's probably because caramel buttercream makes everything better! But I digress. After masking the cake in the chocolate buttercream, we trimmed the cake and used the trimmings to make little branches and whatnot. We gave the frosting a wood-like texture using a fork, and then we decorated the cake with little meringue mushrooms and snowmen. Had we had more time, we could've also made little marzipan decorations, but I'm really happy with how this came out.