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Thanksgiving "Buche de Noel" ... need ideas.

So, I have it in my head to make "Buche de Noel", but for Thanksgiving dinner. I've made one a couple of times in the past for Christmas and, while it's a complete PITA, I love the result. I've used the JC recipe from The Way to Cook. While it's always beautiful, I've not been completely thrilled with the taste, and I would love to not make the Italian meringue icing, which makes it even more of a PITA.

Her recipe calls for:

Orange almond sponge cake batter
Rum imbibing syrup (sprinkled on the cake)
Italian meringue (for the mushrooms, and then combined w/ whipped cream, melted chocoate, etc. for the filling and the frosting)

I think I'd like to use a different cake batter - and have time to test some out before the holiday. Any thoughts for a frosting that might not be so much trouble? (I make a huge mess when I make it.)

And, perhaps more importantly - how to decorate it? With the Christmas one, I put the buche on a silver oval tray, then sprinkle cocoa through a sieve all over the tray. I put the little meringue mushrooms here and there. I dip rosemary sprigs and cranberries in either sugar syrup or egg white, and then dip in sugar, so they look frosted, and make an oval "ring" around the perimeter of the tray. At the last minue I sprinkle on icing sugar through a sieve to mimick snow.

I just bought these cookie cutters:


Some thoughts on making leaves:

Dyed white chocolate
Tuile like cookies drapped over a dowel - maybe "painted" like we did with stained glass cookies when I was a child?

Any and all suggestions welcome to make this Thanksgiving appropriate. FWIW, I'll be making a Tarte Tatin as well.

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  1. For Christmas baking, I swear by Delia Smith and I've heard good reports of her Buche de Noel, which uses chestnuts.


    For decoration, I have no idea, having never been to a Thanksgiving in my life!

    8 Replies
    1. re: greedygirl

      Thanks - I'll read through that link. It's really just an autumnal theme that I am after - turning leaves, etc.

      1. re: MMRuth

        Oh - I was thinking more along the lines of giant turkeys or Puritans in boats. ;-) Can you buy gold leaf somewhere and make, er, gold leaves?

        1. re: greedygirl

          Ooh - that would be pretty. No turkeys, no puritans - at least not for me!

          1. re: MMRuth

            I think I am confused about Thanksgiving. It's basically a harvest festival, right?

            1. re: greedygirl

              Yes, it basically is, but the general story is that it was a giving of thanks by the Puritans who were grateful to the Indians for their crops during their first year. Or something like that. But I'm not into having little puritans and turkeys loitering around my buche!

              1. re: MMRuth

                You're no fun. Little men in black hats would be cool.

                1. re: greedygirl

                  Tell you what - if you make and send me little men in black hats (who resemble pilgrims), I will add them!

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    You're so ungrateful for my great ideas. :-(

    2. Could you fashion the marzipan into little squash/pumpkins?
      Could you somehow dye the meringue batter so that it is red and instead of forming little musrhooms form apples ( more autumn like?)

      4 Replies
      1. re: cassoulady

        That might work for the apples - just use a piping bag and then maybe poke down on the top and put some kind of little green stems in.

        Edit - and I do like the marzipan idea - I've never worked with it, but seem to recall some Martha Stewart articles about dying it, etc. I also bet that, in a pinch, I might find some seasonally shaped marzipan at Dean & Deluca.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Marzipan is pretty easy to work with once you get the hang of it. A friend of mine decorates birthday cakes and makes tiny people out of it. Martha had a page or two about it in one of her cookbooks, but I can't remember which!

          1. re: cheesecake17

            You can also make leaves and stuff out of royal icing, I think.

          2. re: MMRuth

            Fortunato Brothers in Greenpoint has all the marzipan shapes you could possibly want, and they're tasty too.


        2. Would you consider the log made from a pumpkin roll? I've eaten them several times but never made one, so I can't offer you a recipe. They're not frosted, so that might present a problem with recreating the bark. Those WS cutters are quite nifty. Maybe you could make a marzipan squirrel and a cluster of acorns to go along with the leaves for your fall theme.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nemo

            Neither my husband nor I like pumpkin ... but thanks for the idea. W-S had this great pan that makes little acorn muffins, but I decided they were too big to use with the buche.

          2. Pastry Chef John Caluda of New Orleans was on an old episode of Great Chefs, Great Cities (youtube url below for the episode). He did a sinful tiramisu buche that is really easy to make. I have remembered the recipe and make it every year at some point during the holidays.


            1 Reply
            1. re: DallasDude

              wow, that looks easy and great, and wow! I didn't know Great Chefs was on youtube!

            2. I've always used ganache for frosting a buche.

              1. I was just perusing some cookie recipes - and then it dawn on me - leaf shaped ginger snaps! So, I'm going to test out those, and tuiles, today.

                9 Replies
                1. re: MMRuth

                  Well, I've spent a rediculous amount of time today testing cookies. Here are the results:

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    Those look great! I really like the effect of the curved tuile leaves. I like the acorn with the chopped nuts (?) for contrast, too, though what you ultimately use will depend on what cake/frosting you do and how busy/what color, etc. I imagine.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      Yes, it's finely ground pistachios. And, yes, I still have a lot of planning and testing to do! I don't want to go over board. I am thinking about finding a smaller acorn cookie cutter.

                    2. re: MMRuth

                      good work! as I have been thinking of this, I keep thinking of candied violets.... maybe there is a more autumnal version?

                      1. re: cassoulady

                        I'm thinking that cute little marzipan pumpkins would be nice. I love marzipan and, well, if no one else wants to eat them, that's fine with me.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          you could also fashion pumpkins out of meringue and make them in pretty colors, like fancy macarons.

                          1. re: cassoulady

                            Ooh - that is a nice idea. I never thought about dying meringue.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              not sure what they dye them with , but if you look at the fancy shops like Laudree and Pierre Herme, they have tons of flavors in different colors, so I am sure there would be a recipe for some orange colored ones.

                  2. Could you make it in the shape of a cornucopia, by using a long triangular-ish (I'm thinking right triangle w/ a long side and one short side) cake and rolling up one side only to make the cone shape? Put it on the side and curve. You could use the basket weave design to frost (chocolate frosting? White? Or just frost w/ your favorite frosting and make a basket weave design w/ a fork). Use marzipan fruit coming out of it w/ the gingersnap leaves. It would work well w/ an almond cake and go w/ a tarte tatin.

                    1. I clipped a recipe for a Maple Buche de Noel from Gourmet several years ago. I haven't made it--not enough of my family and friends enjoy maple, but it still sounds good to me. The cake has nuts, cinnamon, and whiskey, plus a maple meringue buttercream (looks like the same PITA) and walnut brittle. It may not be any easier, but the flavors might be more Thanksgiving-ish.


                      1. Pepin has a step by step recipe with pictures in his Art of Cooking book. We have found it easy to follow and it came out great.

                        1. Here are the photos:

                          1 Reply
                          1. If you have marzipan, go to town with it. Make little acorns, and mice or hedgehogs, or even ants/bugs. Also, the Buche usually looks nice if you cut the two ends at an angle.