For the “stump cake” (which I began to fondly call it), it’s all in the pan — specifically a good Nordic Ware® pan made in Minnesota. This particular pan was made by the company specially for Williams-Sonoma. The label on the pan said, “Bake a classic holiday cake in an enchanting woodland shape.”
The stump cake is a takeoff of the legendary Bûche de Noël. The French version is a sponge cake baked in a jelly roll pan and filled with butter cream. The cake and cream is then rolled into a “log” and decorated to look like it is hanging out in the forest (except it’s on your table).
The recipe for this cake came with the pan, so I won’t share it because it is particular to this pan and I’m not sure it will translate into another type of pan. However, if you feel you have the nerve, there are many Bûche de Noël recipes on the Internet like this one from the Food Network. There is also a YouTube video that makes yule-log making look like child’s play. The woman who gives the lesson (we never see her face, only her chocolate-covered hands), acts like she whips these logs up at the drop of a hat.
I made the stump cake for the office holiday party. I have to admit, I had a lot of fun making it, especially the decorating part. When it came out of the oven, my son, looking mesmerized, commented, “It really does look like a stump!”I baked the meringue mushrooms (which people fought over), garnished it with rosemary sprigs and cranberries (click here for the how-to on garnish), cut fresh holly and magnolia leaves from my yard, and used moss as a backdrop. One person thought the woodland scene was a centerpiece and was shocked when I cut into it. The accolades made it all worth it.
So, Margaret, get up the nerve, it’s not that complicated to make a Bûche de Noël, especially after you watch the YouTube lady do it.