It feels like we’re hurtling toward the holidays at breakneck speed. Taking a few moments out of a busy mouse-clicking online-gift-buying dinner party-planning day for me means focusing on preparing the perfectly brewed cup of tea from a favorite tea estate. But focusing on the flavors and nuances of that tea leads me to a session that I call “baking in my mind,” a way of tasting the tea mindfully and deeply and tease out its pairing potential with other foods. How, I ask myself, can I capitalize on the flavor of that particular tea and include it in a dessert that pays many dividends of shared pleasure when I serve it at the end of a holiday meal? My mind turns easily to chocolate (whose doesn’t?), particularly if I have been enjoying a Keemun or chocolatey Assam. I am thinking of something decadent like a Buche de Noel (Yule log), those festive chic chocolatey logs of sponge cake filled with a creamy mousse and iced with a shiny chocolate glaze. Now, here is where the tea comes in. How about a tea flavored mousse filling or a tea-scented chocolate glaze for the roll? Or both? Nothing succeeds like excess, particularly at the holiday times. Here’s a quick primer on how to do it.

Sponge Cake

Yields: 1 half sheet pan of cake

6 whole large eggs (approximately 10 ozs.), at room temperature for best volume
5 ozs. (about ¾ c.) Granulated sugar
4 ozs.  (about 1 cup) Cake flour, sifted with ¼ t. of baking powder
2 ozs. (4 T.) butter, melted and warm, but not hot, plus more to coat the baking pan
1 t. real vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar for sifting onto the cake before rolling it, as needed

Brush a half sheet pan with melted butter. Line the pan with baking parchment and then butter the parchment. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer outfitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together until tripled in volume. Gently fold the sifted flour and baking powder mixture into the eggs and sugar base, scraping with a flexible spatula deeply into the bowl to be sure that you have thoroughly incorporated the flour. Don’t overmix or the cake will be tough and rubbery. Fold in the melted butter mixed with the vanilla and immediately pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Bake in a preheated 350° F. oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until cake springs back but is not overly browned.  Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven, sift an even layer of confectioners’ sugar over the cake. Invert it onto a parchment paper-lined surface.  Inver the cake onto the parchment and peel away the parchment paper that is attached to the cake. Using the parchment paper to facilitate the shaping of the cake, roll tightly (the parchment will be inside of the roll—you will remove it later when your unroll the cake.  Allow the now rolled-up cake to cool thoroughly on a cooling rack, about 30-40 minutes, and now make the Tea Ganache which will be lightened with whipped cream to become a Tea Mousse as a filling for the roll.

Tea Ganache Turned Tea Mousse

Yield: Enough to fill the cake roll generously
16 ozs. Heavy cream
1 ounce Tea leaves of your choice
10 ozs. Dark chocolate
10 ozs heavy cream, softly whipped

Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan with the tea leaves. Allow to steep for about 15 minutes. Sieve the cream, discarding the tea leaves. Reheat that cream until boiling. Pour it over the chocolate and stir until fully melted and smooth. Allow to cool.  Fold the softly whipped cream into the ganache.

Unroll the now cooled cake. Spread tea mousse evenly over the roll within 1 inch of all of the edges. Roll tightly and chill, using the parchment paper to help you compact and compress the roll. Chill 2 hours.

Now make the following glaze to pour over the roll.

Tea Glaze

Yield: Enough to coat the finished rolled cake

12 ozs. Heavy Cream
1 oz. Tea leaves
10 ozs. Dark chocolate of your choice, finely chopped
Optional Garnishes: supremes of citrus and softly whipped cream (sweetened a bit or not, as you wish)

Heat the cream with the tea leaves. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Sieve out the leaves, pressing hard on them to extract as much of the tea infused cream as possible. Reheat this cream and then pour it over the chocolate in the bowl. Stir in melt completely. Place the chilled cake roll onto a metal cooling rack set over a sheet pan. Pour the glaze evenly over the roll, using a metal spatula to smooth things out as desired. You can coat the cake again with the glaze that has dripped down through the cooling rack if you have areas that need more covering. Chill to set the glaze and then serve in 1 inch thick slices with a steaming cup of your favorite brew.  

Garnish the dessert plates with supremes of seasonal citrus (tangerine, blood orange, pomelo, whatever is best and available in your market) as desired. Dollops of softly whipped cream will send you and your guests onto clouds of contentment.

Photo “Bûche de Noël (Yule Log Cake)” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Eric Sonstroem and is being posted unaltered (source)