happy yule

when we lived in austin, and the tree was up in the living room, people were stopping to get their christmas trees, and gifts were on everyone’s mind, one of the catalogs that my parents inevitably got every christmas season was the swiss colony catalog

for a person entranced by food, such as myself, the swiss colony selection was a glorious thing to behold (or so i recall). thinking back, it probably wasn’t great food, but it looked enticing at the time: little summer sausages, rolls of cheese covered in almonds, candies tied up in bows, nuts, petit fours, mini cakes, fruitcakes, beefsticks, and gift boxes from four items to four hundred. it was mesmerizing. 

9eeef082a0bfefe8b71ca0b40012975fone of the most very interesting food stuffs in the christmas catalog, though, was the yule log advertised year after year on the front or back covers, little raccoons peeking out of a chocolate log. a little holly with berries stuck on the edge, and slices with the telltale swiss roll look. every year i looked at that thing, and every year i wanted to buy it. it must have been outrageously expensive, or shipping was, because i never sprang for one. come to think of it, i think my parents may have purchased one thing from there one time – i remember getting something from swiss colony at one point, but it wasn’t frequent. (knowing my dad, it was probably cashews.)

fascination with the yule log (or, as the french say, buche de noël) has stuck with me since. thanks, swiss colony.

however, every christmas, my makes a red cake, and why have two cakes? don’t need it. so i just never made a buche de noël because there was already christmas cake. but this year, i stayed home, and i spent ALL DAY today making and putting together a yule log cake. FINALLY.


so started off with martha stewart’s recipe, and then kind of migrated over to bon appetit because it didn’t require mixing cake batter over a double boiler -_-

(THAT right there should set the tone on how tedious these things are).


the cake itself was even an ordeal: you need to separate the eggs and beat a meringue and then beat the yolks til light and fluffy. on top of that, you melt your chocolate with sugar to make a chocolate syrup and then add it to the yolks slowly (so you don’t cook the eggs) then fold in the meringue, then finally add your half cup of sugar and half cup of cocoa. good grief. anyway, spread that out into a jellyroll pan and it bakes just like that – 12 minutes.


i really should have taken a pic of the rolled cake. right after it’s out of the over, you flip it onto a dishtowel that’s been dusted with powdered sugar, and then roll it up IN THE TOWEL and let it cool. 

meanwhile, make your mousse…. round one i failed and threw it out. round two went a lot better. mousse involves melting chocolate and beating more separated eggs. oh, and homemade whipped cream. 

at this point, if you need to go to the store to get more chocolate chips and eggs and cream because you’ve just thrown out your first attempt at chocolate mousse, now’s a GREAT time. 

time to unroll the cake from the towel!


oohh noo.

well, spread the mousse on and attempt to roll it back up…



at this point, i was kind of crying inside, but i knew that everything tasted good, so it would at least be delicious. ok, i knew the MOUSSE tasted good. at least that would be yummy.

i set that out in the garage for about 3 hours in hopes that it would harden up enough to frost. then i made frosting, which i feel like should not be a big deal, but ended up being a big deal

for future reference: always just go with a cream cheese/butter/powdered sugar/nutella chocolate frosting. it’s just so much easier.

martha said “make a ganache and whip til the consistency of butter.” ok, martha. after whipping for 20 minutes, it was still the consistency of unwhipped cream. so i added butter and some powdered sugar and sort of rescued my frosting.

after rescuing the frosting, it was time to make my bark chunks, which was probably the easiest part of this whole mess. melt chocolate chips and spread into a thin layer on wax paper, then cool til it’s hard. break it up! easy peasy. and i didn’t screw it up.

then came the part i knew i couldn’t fail! meringue mushrooms! most people would balk at making these little guys, but not me! after years of macaron work, i knew how to deal with making meringue for baking. whipped up egg whites, poured in some boiling sugar water, then mixed in a little cocoa and vanilla. poured it into a piping bag and got to work making little mushrooms on parchment, which are pretty much the same as making little macarons on parchment.

the fun part was also making the stems, and since the meringue was stiffer than macaron batter, they stood up! 


and of course, the mushies took 2 hours to bake *eyeroll*. when they were done, all i did was put a little frosting on the stems and stuck them to the caps.

time to frost, place the bark, and set the mushrooms.

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i did use real pine needles, so those weren’t edible, but they sure do look nice! final step was to dust with powdered sugar and a little cocoa.

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now, there are no little raccoons. and i think i spent a solid 5 hours of work on this thing. but this tastes pretty good. i would use a vanilla mousse or cake next time – it’s so rich that it needs something to cut it. overall though? swiss colony ain’t got nothin’ on my buche.

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