Saturday, December 22, 2007

Daring Bakers challenge: Buche de noël

This month’s Daring Bakers challenge, is, appropriately, a bûche de noël (a yule log: cake wrapped rolled and decorated to resemble the log of a tree). The recipe was developed from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and features a plain genoise cake (which I elected to flavor with chocolate) with buttercream frosting. The additional twist: the log had to be decorated with either marzipan or meringue mushrooms. I was up for the challenge, and, as usual, left the baking to the very last moment. Next month I swear I’ll get a head start on whatever is thrown our way! Looking at the recipe, all seemed straightforward except for the mushrooms (the recipe, btw, called for 48 mushrooms, I’m still not sure why!). I am no stranger to buttercream so that seemed like a snap. I’ve never attempted genoise cake, but the Bostoni cream pie of two challenges ago called for a chiffon cake that is not that dissimilar from a genoise cake, and that turned out beautifully so I figured if I broke down the components and made the recipe over a three day period, leaving the most time and room for error for the mushrooms, the recipe would be easy enough to accomplish.

I was dreading the mushrooms, but surprisingly they turned out to be to be fairly easy and not terribly time-consuming (I went with meringue). They were even, well, pretty cute. I figured I’d licked the worst part. I made the buttercream on day two and loved the coffee / rum flavoring. I could have eaten the frosting alone but I held back and pushed on. Then it was on to the cake. Overconfident at this point, I decided to make two cakes. I certainly had enough mushrooms to decorate a small army of cakes. This morning, I embarked on the cakes. I whipped, flavored, folded, poured, leveled and baked. I followed all the instructions to a T. Everything looked ok. At least, there was no obvious sign of impending doom. I read and re-read the cautionary note that warned that over-baking would result in a dry cake that would be difficult to roll. I was committed to not over-baking.

And that, my friends, is where the happy story ends. My cake never quite reached that perfect balance of spongy-most but not over baked. It sagged in the middle. It crisped on the edges. I was never able to resuscitate one of the cakes. The other, I coaxed. I cajoled. Gosh darned I was going to get that baby to roll. R stepped in to talk me down: “Just get it to a state you can photograph,” he offered. I frosted. I decorated. It was a dry, sad, decidedly un-springy cake. I stepped back and looked at my creation objectively. It really didn’t LOOK that bad. I photographed. I was bummed. There was no time and no energy left to try it again. Maybe it was the fact that I doubled the batter. Maybe it was the fact that I baked the two cakes simultaneously. Maybe it was the fact that my oven is well, really cheap, and never held a constant temperature in its life.

As every good Daring Baker should say, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Joyeux Noël, everyone. I look forward to many new cooking and baking adventures in the new year.

For the recipe and more details, please see the hosts' (and the Daring Bakers founders) websites, Lis (La Mia Cucina) and Ivonne (Cream Puffs in Venice). Thank you for hosting and for the challenge!

34 comments:

marias23 said...

You got that right about the "nothing ventured, nothing gained" motto :) Great job on the log. Thanks to this challenge, I've uncovered my new addiction to meringue! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Claire said...

Looks great! Gotta at least try, right? I loved doing the meringue mushrooms and my friends liked those the best, too!

Gigi said...

Great job with your yule log! The meringue mushrooms were fantastic.

glamah16 said...

Stop beating yourself up. It looks great and your challenged yourself and learn so much.

Brilynn said...

Despite the difficulties, your log looks very nice!

Peabody said...

Hang in there...like you said, nothing ventured nothing gained.

Tartelette said...

Looks fantastic but again you would make Quasimodo look like Heidi Klum :)
Sorry to hear about your Buche issues...Great motto to come up with!

Lis said...

Awww I'm sorry you had a bad experience with one of the cakes, but this one turned out beautifully in my humble opinion!

xoxo

Kate / Kajal said...

these mushrooms look real ! i'm telling you, very very neat presentation. Job well done. Rather perfectly done.

Merry Christmas :D

amy said...

Fantastic yule blog! The log and the mushrooms presented beautifully. I had to scroll quickly down your post at first to see if the photo was yours or from a book. Seriously, it looked ridiculously good. I know you were disappointed with the cakes, but did you taste the finished product?

larryb said...

I'd really like to have a taste of this - the beautiful cake and cute mushrooms look delicious - and, of course, your photo is superb. Halleluah!!

eatme_delicious said...

Sorry to hear the cake didn't turn out well! The cake and photo are beautiful though.

Beth G. said...

You still got a good photo out of it!! Mine got totally stuck to the parchment and was the crackiest roll ever- your mushrooms are awesome!!

:O)

Mandy said...

sorry to hear that the cake didn't turn out well. But your yule log is really beautiful.Hope the buttercream didn't give you a hard time...

Julius said...

Skrockodile ~

Sorry this one wasn't a happy story all throughout. :(

Here's to greater (successful) challenges in the coming year!

Julius from Occasional Baker

Quellia said...

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger? :-)
Good work, nice log!

vegeyum said...

Oh great work on the log. Well done. It is Xmas Eve here, and time for me to wish all of my blog friends a wonderful time with family and friends tomorrow. May it be a peaceful and blessed day where we can give a lot of joy to those around us. Have a great day.

skrockodile said...

Thanks so much guys for all of your support. Just to be clear, yes, I did taste it and yes, it was inedible - gummy and gross! But it did look deceptively harmless : )

Lunch Buckets said...

Well, it photographed well anyway!

Cheryl said...

Your cake looks great to me. Good job.

Andrea said...

I think you were quite daring to tackle two cakes at once! The cake looks great, in spite of the difficulties, and the mushrooms are just adorable.

specialK said...

Failure once in a while is the tue path to success.
celise navida

rkrocodilesuperiore

Catchall fan in Brooklyn said...

What sweet looking mushrooms. Hard to imagine didn't taste great. Maybe the log isn't for everyone.

Katy said...

oh, it looks lovely!!! i love the "bark" look!

Dolores said...

The *pictures* are gorgeous... I'm sorry the cake didn't turn out better. I love the whimsical look of your mushrooms.

I hope that your holiday was a joyous one, and that 2008 brings you and your family health and happiness, laughter and love!

Hilda said...

If you hadn't told us about the cake, there would be no way to tell the difference, and honestly, I think these are touchy beasts, the one I made for the challenge luckily came out ok but I made it again for Christmas eve dinner and no dice, it was burned here, not cooked there, and I just covered that sucker up with buttercream... ;) Great job and Happy Holidays!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

And so we will move on to January!
Your guy sounds just about like mine.
I think this is why they call them challenges. I also was really dreading the mushrooms and then found them to be fun and they looked right. Yours are lovely.

Half Baked said...

Well no one would ever know you had a problem by the look of your cake. The mushrooms are so cute! I also didn't want to make them but then had fun with it!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a wonderful log! I love your pretty mushrooms!

Cheers,

Rosa

Deborah said...

From looking at the photo, I would have never guessed that anything went wrong!!

Jen Yu said...

No, no, no, I refuse to believe your yule log was anything but perfect. It looks wonderful. The mushrooms are lovely and the frosting appears silky smooth and I am guessing the cake on the inside is delicious. The important thing is that you did it! Happy new year and here is to more DB challenges!

jen at use real butter

skrockodile said...

Thanks so much everyone for all of your nice comments. I have so enjoyed being part of the group - both the challenges and the camaraderie and I really appreciate your comments. It's so fun hearing from you - I love getting my email alerts with your new comments. I look forward to a new year full of baking and fun. Thanks again for everything!

wmpe said...

Genoise can be dry. Sometimes a simple syrup helps. Your log looks lovely. Wendy

linda said...

I'm sorry your genoise didn't turn out as perfect as you imagined. Your log looks wonderful!
Loved the buttercream too...yum!

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