LEMON ALMOND SPONGECAKE
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
Zest and juice of one lemon, organic preferred
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
3/4 cup ground almonds
2/3 cup cake flour, sifted
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously spray a 10" x 15" sheet cake pan with vegetable oil. Line it with parchment paper. Spray oil and flour the paper and sides of the pan. Set aside.
Beat the egg yolks with a hand-held or stand mixer. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar continuing to beat until the yolks ribbon thickly and turn light yellow, 5 minutes. Beat in lemon zest, lemon juice, and both extracts. Turn the mixture out into a large mixing bowl and alternate folding in the ground almonds and sifted flour in three installments
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt in the workbowl of an electric mixer; add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon sugar. Beat the whites to soft peaks. Add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and beat to stiffen them further. Fold the whites carefully into the yolk mixture in three installments.
Gently pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth it evenly over the surface and bake for 10 - 12 minutes until golden and firm. Remove to a rack to cool for 5 minutes.
Loosen the edges of the cake from the pan with a paring knife. Sprinkle the cake surface generously with confectioners' sugar and cover with another sheet of wax paper and a towel. Unmold the cake onto the wax paper and carefully peel off the wax paper. Sprinkle the surface with confectioners' sugar. Cover the cake with a fresh sheet of wax paper, roll carefully and store in plastic wrap. Allow to cool 15 minutes before filling.
Ingredients for filling and frosting:
4 egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of salt
Sugar Syrup: 1 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Begin beating the egg whites at a slow speed adding salt and a 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar if using a stainless steel bowl. Gradually bring up the speed as the sugar syrup cooks so that the whites are at the soft peak stage with the syrup is at the soft ball temperature (234-240 degrees).
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, swirling to dissolve the sugar. Cover and boil for one minute. Uncover and cook until the syrup registers the temperature of 234-240 degrees.
Slowly pour the syrup into the whites with the mixer running taking care not to catch the hot syrup on the beaters. Continue beating at a high speed until the meringue is completely cool, about 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Spray a bake sheet and line with parchment or wax paper. Spray the paper and flour.
Transfer 2 cups of Italian Meringue to a pastry bag with a plain 3/8" tube. Squeeze out 8-10 mushroom cap domes about 1 1/2" in diameter on the prepared surface. Squeeze out the same number of 3/4" high stems. With a wet finger, flatten the tips of the stems and any mushroom caps with points.
Bake the mushrooms until they begin to color, about 1 hour. They will slip off the pan easily. Return the unused meringue to the main mixture.
1 cup whipped cream
1 1/2 cups Italian Meringue
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons instant espresso dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
3 tablespoons dark rum
Fold the whipped cream into remaining Italian meringue. Melt the chocolate in a microwave on full power for 1 minute with the water and espresso. Stir until smooth then add the rum. Fold this flavoring mixture into the cream mixture.
CHOCOLATE MOCHA FROSTING
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup strong coffee
1 cup whipped cream
1 cup Italian Meringue
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, divided
Break up the chocolate into 1/2" pieces in a mixing bowl. Pour in the coffee and melt in the microwave on full power for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the chocolate to lighten it. Pour the chocolate mixture over the whipped cream and fold it in. Work in the Italian meringue one cup at a time to avoid lumping. Sprinkle on the cocoa as needed to darken the chocolate frosting. Refrigerate until assembly.
BÛCHE DE NOËL ASSEMBLY
If the Lemon Almond Spongecake has been refrigerated for some time, trim off the edges along the long sides that have become crusty. Spread the filling over the surface of the cake and roll it up using the wax paper and towel as a support. Place the roll on a serving platter with the seam side down. Protect the platter by slipping pieces of wax paper around the log to catch the drips and smudges.
(Optional: Cut a 1 1/2" piece diagonally from one end to place on the log as cut branch.) Cover the log with the Chocolate Frosting, including the optional cut branch piece. Making tree bark striations in the soft mixture with a fork
Meringue Mushrooms: Cut a hole in the underside of each cap. Place a stem in this hole secured with a bit of chocolate frosting. Place the mushrooms in attractive arrangements around the yule log. Dust with remaining cocoa powder.
Decorate with fresh holly if desired. Your masterpiece is ready to serve.