I used to love craft projects when I was a kid. Clay, beading, those beads that fuse together when you iron them to make coasters, loop looms, painting various terra cotta vessels, you name it. I went through phases of knitting and crocheting, macrame, friendship bracelets, embroidery, bedazzeling...you get the picture.
Making a cake like this Bûche de Noël is half craft project, half science experiment, and half culinary exploration. Except unlike that scarf that refuses to be long enough to wrap even once about your neck, it's done in less than a day. People eat it, it's gone, and there's room for another project to be made!
This was a fun project:
Getting messy? Check, you'll separate 7 eggs.
Decorating? Check, do as much or as little as you want to the outside of the cake.
Science? Check, cooking the meringue syrup for the frosting (it's not hard, don't worry, and there's no chance to mess it up) and weighing ingredients.
And besides, it tastes amazing! Bûche de Noël is often made with a vanilla Génoise or sponge cake, rolled with chocolate frosting, but this one has a chocolate sponge cake and espresso Swiss meringue buttercream filling. My family swooned over it. The rich, creamy frosting, the light, deeply chocolaty cake, and soon it was gone.
To half of the espresso buttercream you add some melted chocolate to make a mocha frosting for the outside. There is definitely more frosting than cake in this situation.
The buttercream has 3 sticks of butter. But it also has 4 egg whites--protein, right? Hmmm, nevermind. Just enjoy and luxuriate.
This recipe comes from Portuguese Girl Cooks, a wonderful blog. It's a bit tricky, and you basically need a dozen eggs, but once you get going, it's not too hard. Make it a project, experiment, have fun, get messy. Go forth with confidence into the world of meringue and chocolate and holiday tradition!