Vegan Bûche de Noël

 

Preparation time: 30 minutesCooking time: 11 minutes
Serves: 10Difficulty: Moderate

A Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log, is a French chocolatey Christmas cake. It consists of a sponge, which is rolled up into a log, smeared with chocolate buttercream ‘bark’ and adorned with edible decorations, so it looks just like a real Yule Log!

Ingredients

For the sponge:

  • 135ml/1⅓ dl/¼ pt/9 tablespoons of aquafaba
  • A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 100g/3½ oz/½ cup of caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 80g/3 oz/⅔ cup of self raising flour
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

For the buttercream:

  • 200g/7 oz/just under a cup of dairy free butter or margarine, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
  • 400g/14 oz/just over 3 cups of icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 50g/2 oz/¼ cup of chestnut purée
  • 50g/2 oz/⅓ cup of vegan milk chocolate, melted

For decoration:

  • Some vegan marzipan (optional)
  • Some roughly ground pistachios (optional)

Special Equipment

  • A 20 x 30cm baking tray
  • Baking paper
  • A pastry brush
  • An electric whisk
  • A large glass or copper mixing bowl, plus a second mixing bowl
  • A sieve
  • A spatula
  • A serving plate or cake board
  • A knife and fork

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
  2. Line the baking tray with baking paper, and lightly grease the baking paper with butter using a pastry brush.
  3. Pour the aquafaba and vinegar into a large, very clean mixing bowl. Whisk them together with an electric whisk for ten minutes, or until the aquafaba becomes white, very thick, and stiff peaks form.
  4. Add the sugar to the aquafaba and whisk them together for a further five minutes.
  5. Carefully sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and use a spatula to fold them into the aquafaba mixture. Fold them in (gently) until they’re fully incorporated into the aquafaba, but use the minimum amount of sweeps possible. Do ensure you fold (from side to side) and don’t stir (round and round). This technique will ensure the batter doesn’t lose air, which it needs lots of to rise in the oven.
  6. Gently pour the batter onto the baking paper, and use the spatula to spread it out evenly.
  7. Bake the sponge in the oven for about 11 minutes, or until it’s lightly browned and springy. Remove the tray from the oven.
  8. Take a second sheet of baking paper, the same length as the first, and sprinkle it with caster sugar. Upturn the cooked sponge onto this, leave it for a few seconds, then very gently peel off the baking paper it was baked on. Roll the second sheet of baking paper and the sponge together lengthways into a Swiss Roll- you will unfold it and remove the baking paper later, but it needs to be rolled up while it’s still warm and pliable so that it keeps the right shape.
  9. While it’s cooling, make the buttercream. Use the electric whisk to whisk the butter and icing sugar together until well combined and lump free. Then add the chestnut purée and melted chocolate to the bowl and beat them into the buttercream.
  10. When the sponge is cool, unroll it and remove the baking paper. Spoon a third of the buttercream onto the sponge and use a knife to spread it out evenly before re-rolling it. If desired, use the knife to trim the ends of the log to neaten it up.
  11. Transfer the log to a serving plate or cake board. Use a large knife to smear the remaining buttercream over it, ensuring the top and sides are completely covered.
  12. Cut a section off the end of the log and attach this section to the side, so it looks like a little nub of wood. Then use a fork to drag rough lines through the buttercream to give it a bark-like appearance. If desired, you can also make some DIY mushrooms and/or moss to decorate the log with (see tips).
  13. Use a sieve to sprinkle the log with a little icing sugar, so it looks like it’s been dusted with snow.
  14. Bon appetit!

Tips

  • It’s essential that you whisk the aquafaba for ten minutes, and then for a further five minutes after you’ve added the sugar. You also need to gently fold (don’t stir) in the flour. This is because the batter needs to incorporate lots of air so it will rise in the oven, and you don’t want to lose this by stirring it out.
  • If desired, you can fashion some little mushrooms out of marzipan and stick them onto the log.
  • You can also create quite realistic looking ‘moss’ by sprinkling the log with roughly ground pistachios.

Background

Home: France, Switzerland, Belgium

Pronunciation:  ​(boosh de now-ell) [byʃ də nɔɛl]

Relatives: Swiss Roll, Roulade (International), Bisquitrolle (Germany), Génoise  (Italy)

History

The Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log, is named after- and fashioned to look like- the Yule Log once commonly burnt on the hearth at Christmastime. This Northern European tradition can be traced back millennia, to when pre-Christian peoples in Scandinavia, Germania and the British Isles followed Norse and Pagan religions. These peoples celebrated the Winter Solstice, or Yule, at the end of December. Since this time of year was often dark, wet, freezing and miserable, people needed a little light and warmth to get by until after the solstice, when days would slowly begin to get longer and warmer and food would become more bountiful. As such, they celebrated by burning the Yule Log, which provided them with light and warmth: initially they may have burnt entire trees, but it eventually became customary to choose a special log.

Over the centuries, as Christianity spread through the region, the pagan ceremonies associated with the Yule Log were forgotten. But the log itself was still brought in every year and lit on the hearth, and it became a symbol of good luck.

The Bûche de Noël cake is of unknown origin. The first known recipe appeared, alongside several other cake recipes, in Gervaise Markham’s 1615 book, ‘The English Huswife’. By the late 19th century it had been modernized and popularised thanks to the collective efforts of French cooks including Antione Caradot (a Parisian chef), Pierre Lacan (the prince of Monaco’s pastry chef), Alfred Suzanne (a chef and author) and Félix Bonnat (a chocolatier). It was introduced to modern audiences by the American chef Julia Child in 1965, during an episode of The French Chef.

Bûche de Noël is still very popular today, particularly in France and Francophone countries. The French cookery site, Marmiton, has dozens of Bûche de Noël recipes, including logs flavoured with Nutella, chocolate orange, tiramisu, forest fruits, and citrus.

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