Baked Sunday Mornings: Stump de Noël

I am a bit embarrassed to say that I have never made a bûche de noël before, so I was a little nervous about trying the Stump de Noël recipe from Baked Explorations. The recipe looked a bit involved, and I decided to make the cake for our holiday party. I take a couple days off from work to do all of the party prep work, so that provided me with some extra time to devote to the project.

First, I made the buttercream frostings, since they must be chilled before the cake is assembled. To make the base buttercream, you whisk egg whites and sugar in a bowl set over simmering water until the sugar dissolves. Then you whip the mixture along with vanilla until glossy, and slowly incorporate room temperature butter. You mix a portion of the buttercream with some melted chocolate to make chocolate buttercream, and incorporate malt powder and crushed malt balls into the remainder to make malt buttercream.

The chocolate cake is made from egg yolks, sugar, melted chocolate, espresso powder dissolved in hot water, vanilla, egg whites beaten with cream of tartar, melted butter, flour, cocoa, and salt. You divide the cake batter between two large jelly roll pans and bake. Once the cakes are baked and cooled, you turn them out of the pans, frost each cake with malt buttercream, and then cut each cake in half lengthwise. You take one of the long strips of cake and roll it up, and continue adding on the additional strips of cake and rolling until you have a quite sizable 6-inch-tall roll (if you use the prescribed 12-inch by 17-inch cake pans, you will have 68 total inches of cake wrapped up in your finished cake roll!). I wish that I had trimmed the edges off of the cake, as they were a bit dry and cracked during rolling. During the rolling process, long vertical cracks appeared on the cake's surface, such that the outside of the cake roll bore a striking resemblance to the rough and furrowed texture of tree bark even before I frosted it. I frosted around the outside of the entire roll with the chocolate buttercream (but not the top, so the spiral would still be visible); there was just enough frosting to get the job done.

I meant to make the meringue mushrooms to go along with my stump, I really did... But I just got bogged down with all the other baking and cooking I had to do in advance of our holiday party and I ran out of time. I thought that the stump looked a little naked on the cake stand without any sort of adornment, so I sprinkled some extra walnut toffee crunch I had on hand around the base of the stump (I made the crunch for this frozen pumpkin mousse recipe). I thought it would more or less resemble dirt, and I was happy with the way the stump looked when I served it.

Party guests oohed and aahed over how pretty the cake was. I love the fact that the stump continues to look like a tree after it is sliced (the vertical stripes of frosting between the layers look like tree rings), and the slices of cake are absolutely beautiful -- neat layers of chocolate cake interspersed by thin lines of the malt buttercream frosting. (Okay, the picture above is not particularly neat, but I let my party guests serve themselves and they were not as concerned with cutting perfect slices to produce the ideal photo for my blog.) The best part is that the cake tasted as good as it looked! The chocolate cake was very moist and tender, with a rich chocolate flavor strongly accented with espresso. I thought that the chocolate and malt buttercreams were also very good, although I was a little surprised that it was difficult to detect the malt flavor -- perhaps this was because the layer of malt buttercream was so thin.

I liked this cake so much that I am planning to make it throughout the year, and not just at Christmastime. The stump is something truly special, and people who tasted it (or even just saw it) at our holiday party were still talking to me about it days afterwards. If you're looking for a showstopper holiday dessert, look no further!

Recipe: "Stump de Noël" from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.


Bourbonnatrix said…
your cake looks beautiful! love how you didn't frost the top so that the rings would show. my tasters also picked up the coffee flavor but not the malt :-) wishing you a happy new year!
Rebecca said…
Yours looks so great! I didn't make it but it sounds like something I should put on my list.
mike509 said…
Fantastic! I echo the non-frosted top, ingenious. Looks like a real tree stump!!! I didn't think the malt was strong enough personally but am anxious to try the stump next go around!
Sheri said…
I had lots of problems with the rings on mine looking clean - yours turned out perfect.
Chelly said…
Really nice! I also like that you kept the top unfrosted!
Louise said…
It looks great. I'm glad you said you'd make this any time of the year as I didn't get to make it for Christmas. There were just way too many cookies here to even think of making a dessert. I've made Buche de Noel and meringue mushrooms many times but this just looks so much more appealing. It also would have taken attention away from my heritage turkey. :-)
Susan said…
You did a superb job! I really wanted to make this, too, but the time just got away from me!

Happy New Year!