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I come from a Francophile home with French-Belgian grandparents.  This was most noticeable around the holidays with a heavy influence on food. The menu was French cuisine, and the holidays were a celebration of our heritage along with scrumptious French cooking.

My grandparents went to bakeries around NYC, including DuMais Bakery in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, now long departed. They would lug croissants and a Bûche de Noël to our house in Vermont. There was a lot of excitement and presentation for this rarified treat. Growing up in a rural area made these fancy French butter croissants and elegant desserts so special to me on Christmas. It reinforced that beauty and tradition were important, and food did not have to be mundane. I still carry this with me today. 

The Bûche reminds me of former grandeur and my childhood vision of New York. My grandmother would sweep into our home – bringing an air of elegance for all of us – in a luxurious coat with beautiful jewelry. 

Although less sweet, French desserts do have a larger butter content than American desserts. As a kid, I didn’t understand why it was so delicious, but as I got older I started to appreciate the artistry and difficulty of creating such a special treat. 

After I moved to Maryland, I would venture to Patisserie Poupon in Georgetown in honor of my grandparents, seeking the perfect Bûche de Noël. After many holidays buying this dessert, I decided to make my own last Christmas. My favorite recipe from, Pardon Your French, is easy, authentic and includes the mocha flavor I grew up with. 

French Mocha Buche De Noel

Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Makes: 8 servings

Cake Genoise

  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 5 egg whites
  • ½ cup cocoa powder sifted
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder

Frosting

  • 6 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate chips 
  • 1.5 tbsp softened unsalted butter
  • ½ tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

For Garnish

  • Chocolate covered coffee beans
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Cocoa powder

Directions

For the Cocoa Genoise Cake:

Preheat oven to 375° F and line a 9×13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease the paper.

For the mocha ganache:

  1. Add chocolate chips, instant coffee powder, and butter to a medium bowl.
  2. Heat the heavy cream over medium-low heat until hot to the touch (but not simmering yet). Pour it over the chocolate mix and stir with a spoon until completely melted and smooth.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes until it thickens to a ganache/thick frosting consistency.

The espresso filling

  1. Step 1. (while the frosting chills) Whip up your heavy cream (high speed) until the folds of the whisk start appearing in the cream.
  2. Step 2. Add in the instant espresso powder and the powdered sugar and continue to whisk on high until the cream is thick like frosting.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Gently unroll the genoise cake/towel. Gently spread the espresso filling over the top (with a spatula) and roll the cake back into a tight cylinder.
  2. Cut off the end pieces of the logs (so you have a clean-cut) and gently move the cake to a parchment-lined baking sheet (or a serving platter). Using a spreading knife or spatula, slather the ganache on the whole log (on the ends as well). Be generous with the amount of ganache you spread, and try to reach an uneven look (similar to wood bark texture) rather than a smooth look. Finish up your buche with a dusting of powdered sugar, a dust of cocoa powder, and decorate it with chocolate-covered cocoa beans and greenery.

PRO TIPS

  • Avoiding cracks: Speaking of cracks, the trick to preventing cracks in a Bûche de Nöel (or any swiss roll cake) is to roll the genoise right out of the oven, while it’s still warm, in a clean kitchen cloth, dusted with powdered sugar. When the cake layer is cool, gently unroll the cake and immediately spread the filling into it and roll it back up (to not lose any moisture).
  • “Barky” looking ganache: The Bûche de Nöel is covered with a generous layer of mocha ganache. Ganache, in French pastry, is a classic glaze or frosting made by heating cream, then pouring it over chopped chocolate of any kind. I added instant espresso powder into the mix to give it a delightful mocha flavor. The ganache needs some chilling time in the fridge to set. Do not chill it too long (maximum 30 minutes) or it will thicken too much and be hard to spread on the buche. After covering the bûche entirely, use a knife to create uneven strokes on the ganache to resemble wood bark. The bûche is then dusted with powdered sugar and cocoa, to resemble dirt and snow.
  • Decoration: The Bûche de Nöel is traditionally decorated with meringue mushrooms and small gnome figures, to match the woodsy theme. I decorated mine with chocolate-covered cocoa beans (and some greenery) to match with the mocha theme.
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