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The traditional rich fruit cake seems to be a love it or loathe it affair - personally I wouldn’t be without it, not so much for Christmas itself when there is so much other food around, but to brighten the dark days of January when the recent indulgence is but a distant dream.
On a gloomy afternoon, a cup of tea and a slice of darkly juicy fruit cake is just heaven, such a lovely cosy feeling. Bûche de Noel makes a delicious Christmas alternative for those who don’t like rich fruit cake and, although it doesn’t keep like the cake, it makes a great dessert so it could also be offered instead of the plum pudding.
From Julie Duff’s book, Cakes From Around the World (Grub Street, paperback stg£14.99) (see book reviews), this chocolate roulade is traditional to France and Quebec, to serve on Christmas Day. “Chestnut purée and fresh cream are blended together to fill and ice this delectable cake. It can then be decorated with a sprig of fresh holly and sprinkled with icing sugar 'snow'.”
6 large eggs, separated
150g/5oz caster sugar
25g/1 oz self-raising flour
Chestnut Cream Filling
275ml/10fl oz double cream
175g/6oz sweetened chestnut purée (available tinned)
I tablespoon rum (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and line a Swiss roll Tin. 33x23cm/13x9in,with non-stick paper.
1. Put the yolks into a bowl with the caster sugar and using a hand-held electric whisk, whisk until they become pale and increase in volume, so that a little trailed over the mixture should keep its shape.
2. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff
3. Sift the cocoa and flour onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and tip it gently into the egg yolk mixture and using a figure of eight action fold it in with a metal spoon.
4. Add the egg whites very gently, using the same figure of eight, so that you do not lose the air you have so carefully whisked in.
5. Pour the sponge evenly into the lined tin, ensuring the mixture goes right into the corners and bake it for about 20 minutes in the centre of the oven until well risen and springy to touch.
6. Lightly sprinkle icing sugar onto a sheet of greaseproof paper larger than the tin size, ready for when you bring the cake out of the oven.
7. Gently turn the roulade upside down onto the prepared greaseproof paper
8. paper and carefully peel the baking paper away.
9. Finally, using the baking paper to help you roll up the roulade gently and after covering it with a tea towel, leave to become cold. Incidentally if the cake cracks a little, it really does not matter, it will add to its charm.
To make the chestnut cream filling:
1. Whip the double cream until it stands in soft peaks. Measure the chestnut purée into a bowl and stir in the rum and a little cream to soften it, before folding in the remaining whipped cream.
2. Gently unroll the roulade and spread with half the filling, gently rolling it back up before cutting a 5cm/2in section and attaching it to the side of the cake to act as a branch.
3. Finally, spread the remaining chestnut and cream mixture over the top of the cake making a pattern to resemble bark, this is easiest if you use a fork. Decorate as liked.