It was so much fun to make this cake and learn some new baking techniques! The directions are so well-written that even the novice baker (me!) could follow them. It was a challenge, but what a feeling of accomplishment. I did not make anything ahead and tackled each step in order. There were enough pauses at the end of each step to work on the next step. The whole project had beautiful pacing built right in. I credit the genius of Dorie for that. It took me four hours to finish, but I felt amazing as I completed each step!
So, I started off making the pralines. I was slightly anxious as the flame on my burners are all uneven and the sugar was turning amber in some places and not others. It worked out fine and I took it off the stove when I got that strong caramel smell. This was based on a tip from another TWD baker.
Next I prepared the baking pan and tackled the batter. This step and making the icing were the two components of the cake that I approached with much foreboding. What a nice surprise when the batter was much easier than I expected and was so fluffy and beautiful in the mixer bowl.
While the cake baked, I set out my rack, laid out the cotton dishtowel and liberally sprinkled the whole thing with powdered sugar. After the cake had cooled for five minutes, I mustered my courage and flipped it out onto the dishtowel. Perfect!
I used the towel to roll it and got a nice even roll. Again, I was so surprised that I was able to do this! I was really expecting disaster at every turn. (It did come eventually, in step 4 with the icing, but I’ll elaborate later).
While the cake came to room temperature I made the filling, then spread it on the cake. There was just enough filling. I would have liked a little bit more. Rolled it up and got a nice even, tight roll.
While the cake was setting in the fridge, I made the icing. Technique wise, everything went well. BUT, I used a pure, vanilla extract that was supposed to have a richer flavor. Perhaps I was supposed to use less than the recipe called for, but this vile vanilla ruined the icing! It had such a strong, bitter chemical taste and it completely overwhelmed the icing. Ahhh, I thought, here’s the disaster I’ve been expecting all along. I was soooo close to knocking it out of the ballpark! I didn’t have any eggs left to make another batch of icing, so I used the yuck batch. I knew it would look good in the pictures and that I could scrape it off before I ate the cake! (UPDATE: I’m revisiting the icing issue. I obsessed over why the icing was so disgusting and was craving the sweet, marshmallow flavor the other TWD posters were raving about. I made a batch of the icing again tonight, using a different vanilla and only 2 tsp instead of a whole tbsp. I made sure the syrup was the right temperature before I added it to the egg whites and immediately added the vanilla in case the alcohol needed to cook out. The icing was still bitter and inedible. Maybe I just don’t like this icing. Or maybe I have a genetic aversion to vanilla when mixed with sugar, cream of tartar and egg whites? You know, like the unfortunate people who taste cilantro as soapy because of a genetic predisposition? Whatever the case, I’m sticking with buttercream frosting!)
But even the icing disaster couldn’t really get me down, or the fact that I didn’t center the cake properly on the platter. I was just happy to have made my first fancy pants Buche de Noel! See how excited the snowman is? Victory!
How did it taste? Delicious. The cake is so fragrant and flavorful. The filling, both sweet and tangy, paired perfectly with the spiced cake. I scraped off as much icing as possible, but in small quantities, mixed with delicious cake, it wasn’t too bad. The pralines made the whole thing extra special. I know with the sweet, marshmallow frosting it would have been heaven on a plate!