Kindling for the Baker’s Oven

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!

47 thoughts on “Kindling for the Baker’s Oven

  1. LOL You poor thing! hehe It doesn’t look to bad for all my husband says it looks like a squashed cake lol. They need to take into account Vegans and other dietary lifestyles when picking recipes and such ^_^

    Great Attempt and congrats on getting if completed ^^

    Hugs and Kisses


  2. Oh Hannah,
    It’s just beautiful. Even with all the trials and tribulations… I think it’s amazing. I hope it was delicious. Like you said, valuable experience. Someday you’ll have a perfect Buche de Noel cake, but in the meantime, I’m just amazed!

    you rule!

  3. I applaud you for sticking to the recipe as best you could. You did a fantastic job. I am always amazed when you veganize something. At least we didn’t do cream brulee :)

  4. How did it taste in the end? I agree that it would be hard to veganise this recipe. I made a traditional one the other year, which required 6 eggs, 300g butter and a whole slab of dairy chocolate! In all honesty it was too rich and sickly, so you’re really not ‘missing out’ on anything by not eating the ‘real’ version.

    I know it’s not your main celebration, but I just wanted to wish you an Happy Christmas – have a great holiday and a wonderful New Year too. I look forward to reading more of your blog in 2008 xxx

  5. Your first picture of the limp yule log is quite charming! I never would have suspected that someone could save a dessert as well as you did – by the final picture in the sequence, it’s looking like a snazzy log! I’ve never heard of a yule log, so thanks for the dessert/history lesson. :)

  6. Hannah,
    I think only you could manage to make a pancake with mass of filling oozing out look good! That first photo IS very charming, I agree. And the rest actually looks quite delicious to me (fan of anything chocolate and creamy that I am). Is your “meringue” recipe in your cookbook? Sounds very intriguing.

  7. After just trying to get through the recipe without any modifications, I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to veganize it. A big congratulations on persevering!

  8. Hannah, I commend you for even taking on this DBC in the first place!!! Bûche de Noël is definitely NOT a vegan-friendly recipe, let alone easy to make – you put all your effort into this challenge, and persevered through to the end. The Bûche de Noël looks great to me!! Kudos to you for yet another incredible DBC!! You have way more courage than I do (which is why I turned down an invite a while ago, to join the Daring Bakers, haha).

  9. Even with the mishaps your yule log looks incredible. The peanut butter filling sounds soooo good and mixed with the chocolate cake it had to taste delicious….. and I applaud you for attempting to veganize this one. your gorgeous photos don’t reflect your experience at all. good job !

  10. Yikes! That was quite a challenge. I’m not sure of what the strict rules are but I would think if you are going to veganize a recipe like this and add tofu and chocolate that you should also have been able to add some baking powder or soda to allow your cake to be more like the non-vegan version. I think your filling might have held on to the cake better if the cake had had some rising agent in it. I don’t know. I’m no baker and that is just my opinion. ;) However, I think you did a wonderful job and your creativity saved the day. It may be slightly flatter than the non-vegan yule logs but it still looks scrumptious enough to eat and I bet it tastes heavenly!

  11. I didn’t mean to giggle when I ready, “it looked like it had been rotting in a rain forest for eight weeks. Lumpy and bumpy”…really I didn’t! I am sorry your Bûche did not turn out the way you’d hoped. But, you did it and that’s what counts. And, it photographs well! :) Happy Holidays.

  12. Wow, that is amazing, I’d never have the courage to tackle such an egg-abundant recipe. I know it probably gave you a lot of grief but the end result looks fantastic.

  13. You’re awfully courageous to veganize a sponge cake! I think it looks wonderful. While not one for a vegan diet I’d be more than happy to devour a slice.

  14. Awww…I couldn’t help but giggle at the up-close picture of the roll. HOWEVER, I think it turned out to be a lovely cake in the end and the peanut filling looks absolutely delicious!

  15. Hmmm, the idea of the peanut creme sounds awesome! I’m a peanut fanatic myself. Your log doesn’t look bad at all! And I love how dark your buttercream turned out :) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  16. Aww Hannah, I am so sorry it didn’t work out as you envisioned. :(

    I have to say, though, that the peanut cream with the dark chocolate “pan”cake sounds divine.

    You trudged thought this as a true Daring Baker and I am very impressed!


  17. Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog.

    My goodness Hannah, you are so deserving to be called a daring baker! You did such a fantastic job adapting it.

    Merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year. “See” you at the next challenge!

  18. WOW! I’m so impressed that you were able to modify the recipe like you did–whenever I try to do something like that it does not end up nearly so well! I think your log is beautiful!

  19. but look how pretty it turned out! is this vegan?

    we have a yule log every year. it’s a french tradition, so we eat it at Nana’s. I think i will buy one this year for Bobby to try – I doubt he’s ever had one.

  20. I’m sorry that the Buche de Noel didn’t meet your expectations, but with that peanut flavoured filling it most likely tasted delicious!! I ate mine last night with my Black Forest Cake version. It was my first DB challenge!!!

  21. I think your cake looks great! I actually like how the icing looks being squished out of the cake. Not very log like but I like it. I was wondering how you would do this challenge since every single part of it is completely egg based! You did a truly amazing job.

  22. Hannah, your cake looks awesome! I love that oozing cream and the texture of your buttercream – it suits the concept of the Yule Log perfectly.. And your marzipan mushrooms are adorable!

  23. Ohhh my! Your log looks yummmy! I admit I’m a bit wary of all the cream and stuff, but who cares?? It’s Christmas! It’s the holidays! What’s fun without food and calories? =P

  24. What a daring baker you were this month! Your cake and peanut butter cream did put you through the ringer, but you put it together and finished. In the process though you learned something valuable about the combination of ingredients that you used. Parsley and the dragees make a lovely festive touch to your yule log.

    I can’t wait to see how you adapt January’s challenge.

    Happy Holidays!

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  25. Hannah, you are amazing. I looked at the picture first and thought, wow – that looks good. Then I read your entry and felt so bad about the troubles, but then I remembered how good it looked! I think all of you who make these recipes vegan or gluten free deserve special praise for your brilliance. You rock! Happy new year.

  26. Your yule log looks wonderful! I had to make one for French class one year and it was very hard, not to mention ugly! You did a great job :)

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