There are certain iconic foods that are forever linked with particular celebrations, and the bûche de noël, or yule log cake, is certainly one. Pastry cases all over the world will be showing off their versions of this delightful French creation in order to celebrate the winter solstice and Christmas.
And because of its pomp and circumstance, the yule log can be daunting to home bakers. I decided to tackle the recipe a few years ago and was surprised by how simple the cake was to roll and by how much I enjoyed the decorating, particularly the mushrooms.
For this year's attempt, the Bûche de Noël with Marzipan Mushrooms took me about three hours. Next year, I will make the filling the day before so I just have the cake and frosting, as well as the decorating to work on. Little hands love to shape the marzipan mushrooms, with the cocoa and powdered sugar adding a realistic touch.
If you want the same look but are short on time, there are shortcuts. First, you can use pudding, either instant or cooked, for the filling. Secondly, you could use store bought frosting.
The homemade version takes some effort, but the result is delicious. The creamy filling has subtle vanilla almond flavor, while the frosting is a thick, not-too-sweet chocolate that complements the simplicity of the yellow sponge cake.
Gingerbread is another dessert intertwined with Christmas and winter holidays. This cake is much less fussy than the yule log, with its humble appearance redeemed by its incredibly comforting and pungent flavor. Nigella's Fresh Gingerbread with Lemon Icing is made in as a basic sheet cake, but the acidic sweetness of the icing pairs well with the deep hearty flavor of the sticky gingerbread. This recipe is going in my book to be made over and over again.
Whether it's forming the mushrooms or spreading the icing, both of these recipes are kid friendly, in flavor and in preparation. And with the beautiful presentation of the yule log and the freshness of the gingerbread, you are sure to satisfy your guests.