There won’t be a need to put much in the way of recipes up this week, since the main components of the cake are already on the blog. You’ll need:
– One recipe génoise, prepared jelly roll style (but no jelly)
– About half a recipe of Swiss meringe buttercream, flavored with a shot of espresso
– 16 ounces ganache (8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 8 ounces heavy cream)
– Meringue mushrooms
– A few ounces marzipan
The nice thing about this ingredient list is that all of it can be made in advance, and most of it should be. If you’re a normal working person, you’ll want to start on the components of your bûche well in advance of your event. A week ahead or more isn’t too early for the marzipan since it will keep for months, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator. Kept in an airtight container, the meringue mushrooms will keep for several days. Likewise with the buttercream (though maybe you have half a recipe or so of plain buttercream hanging around the freezer already…maybe?). The ganache must be made the day before, since it needs to sit on the counter all night. As for the génoise, it will keep overnight wrapped up in a towel if you wish.
The main thing to avoid is trying to prepare all the components for a multi-component pastry like this on the same day. The vast majority of home-made yule logs fail because the baker was trying to do too much at once, got tired or rushed and then got sloppy. I mean let’s face it, how many home-made yule logs have you seen that were consistently good from the cake to the filling to the garnishes? Probably very few, if any. That’s because time pressure forces a home baker to cut corners. Maybe the cake is good, but the ganache is runny. Or the mushrooms are perfect but the shape of the roll is poor. Start a week ahead and you’ll have plenty of time to get everything right.
A bûche de Noël is a pretty mundane thing, ultimately. Spongecake, chocolate and buttercream, no big deal. It’s the presentation that sets this pastry apart. So give yourself the time. You need not do a perfect job on everything (God knows, I don’t). However if you do an adequate job on all the pieces, they’ll add up to a truly sparkling bûche.