What better time than the holidays to go all out and make an elaborate, decadent dessert that will impress all the relatives? Not missing a beat, the Daring Bakers rolled in early and announced the theme that made my eyes open wide in glee: The traditional yet exquisite work of art known as a Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log. For years this precise confection would appear on my holiday “to-do” list, but as time is notorious for flying out the window every Hannukah and Christmas, it remained uncharted territory for me, and I was thrilled to have this extra push to tackle it this time, once and for all.
The only problem was the cake recipe itself, as it was composed almost entirely of eggs, a handful of flour, and a pinch of sugar, and did not lend itself easily to veganizing. How much torment could have been saved if a different recipe was allowed! Jealously eying those beautifully simple recipes for vegan roll cakes that were tried and true, it took a great deal of self-control to turn them away, and face the challenge just like any other Daring Baker. In any other situation, I would have absolutely gone a different route for the cake, but wanting to adhere to the strict rules that came along with the prestigious group, I decided that the best way to convert the recipe without completely changing it was to just replace the eggs with tofu. Hoping to cover up the beany flavor, cocoa was the only route to go given my limited choices, and so a chocolate cake it was. Of course, all of this begat a cake with absolutely no leavening, since the original did not include any friendly baking powder or soda, so out of the oven came a very flat, rectangular pancake.
At the very least, thankfully, my pancake was very flexible and quite agreeable to rolling around my chosen filling of a peanut creme. This was made from equal parts peanut butter and margarine, vanilla, some soymilk, and a good bit of powdered sugar all whipped full of air until light and fluffy, and what a heavenly creme it was. The downside of mixing up such a delicate filling, unknown to me at the time, was that the last thing it wanted was to stick around inside a rolled up sheet of cake! Watching in horror as it squished further and further out the open ends while my hands were still full of the half-rolled “genoise,” I hurriedly rounded out the roll as best I could and instantly set to work on damage control, cleaning up the lovely creme pooling on the counter. Eventually the flow stopped as the pressure evened out, but then I just had to go back in and stir the pot again, spreading on a thick layer of frosting that effectively rung out the insides of the cake like a wet towel…
It was painful to watch. Gently smoothing the frosting in to place, just so all the bald spots were covered, my yule log was in such poor shape; it looked like it had been rotting in a rain forest for eight weeks. Lumpy and bumpy, not even the most careful touch would console this sad piece of tinder, so eventually I gave up the effort and went back to cleaning the poor thing up, again. By the time this second wave of filling had been washed away, my frosting had started to set, and didn’t want to cooperate with my poking and prodding for all the world. Of course, I had to use my secret meringue method to make this “buttercream,” as the original calls for a large number of egg whites, and so the consistency wasn’t exactly to my liking. No use crying over spilled soymilk though, so my bark ended up with just a slightly different texture than I had envisioned.
So disheartened by the results of what had started as one brilliant dream dessert, I couldn’t care less about “going all out” anymore, and so I made simple marzipan mushrooms instead of meringue. Parsley played the role of greenery, as sculpting more marzipan really didn’t sound like much fun after 3 straight hours of pastry work, and my mint has sadly perished in the snow. Adding on a few colored dragees to act as berries for the final touch, my rotted stump- I mean, yule log- was finally complete.
While it wasn’t exactly ideal, I didn’t completely loathe my resulting Bûche… The experience I gained was absolutely invaluable. I just know that if I were to embark on a similar project again, I would definitely create an entirely different recipe!