So, my family (my in-laws, technically) have this really neat tradition of doing a family bake-off a la Great British Baking Show every holiday season.
We’re either all together at Thanksgiving or Christmas, so a month or so before that my mother-in-law (the brains of the whole operation) sends out an invite with the theme of the year. Each couple is a team, and last year’s winners are this year’s judges and don’t have to compete.
The first year it was tarts. The next year it was pies. And this year it was the famed French dessert: Buche de Noel. If you haven’t heard of it, a Buche is a sort of Swiss roll cake decorated to look like a Yule log.
I was so excited when I got the email with the theme, since this past Christmas was the first time I competed (having somehow slid by as the judge for the previous two times). My mind started racing with flavor combinations, decorative ideas and strategies.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one who is serious about baking. Each couple enjoys baking together, so it made it extra fun.
Making the Buche
For our Buche, I found a nice Real Simple recipe to use as the base with a chocolate sponge cake, whipped cream center and beautiful chocolate ganache to look like bark. I decided to jazz it up by adding almond extract to the whipped cream, as well as toasted almonds, gold powder and meringue mushrooms to the top.
Photos by my super talented brother-in-law Andrew.
I knew since day one I wanted to make those little shrooms!
I practiced once at home, but on the day of everything went really well. We did get some cracks in our cake rolling it up, but ganache covers a multitude of sins. Other teams avoided that by rolling in a powdered sugared tea towel right after coming out of the oven. I’ll have to try that trick next time.
The other teams made a yummy raspberry cream Buche and a devil’s food cake Buche with elaborate decorations. But in the end, ours took the cake (and trophy) and won first place!
If you’re a family who loves to cook or bake together, consider doing a competition or tradition like this. It can be a lot of fun, and you’re left with desserts for days!
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