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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

The Mann Men's Birthday Treats: Bûche De Noël, Baked Alaska, and Tiramisù #SundayFunday

My boys are definitely creatures of habit when it comes to their birthday treats. So, every year, I make Bûche De Noël, Baked Alaska, and Tiramisù. If you don't know to whom those requests belong: my younger son, my older son, and my Love! No one in my household gets a regular birthday cake.

Stacy of Food Lust People Love, Sue of Palatable Pastime, Rebekah of Making Miracles, and Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm coordinate this low-stress group; we only participate when we are inspired. This week Stacy is hosting and picked a theme of favorite birthday meal recipes! Here's the line-up...

My boys make requests down to the snacks on their birthdays. R's requests are always the same. He gets Crêpes for breakfast, sushi for lunch, and a Baked Alaska for dessert. D changes it up, but insists on his birthday Bûche De Noël. Other friends get to make requests, too, and the most requested is my lasagna. I always complain that I will make anything and they just want lasagna. "It's good lasagna, Mom," I am reminded. Fine. During the pandemic, we couldn't gather for our annual joint lasagna party for Pia and Mike, so I made three pans and delivered along with baking instructions. You can read that in my Socially-Responsible Birthday Lasagna + 2015 Shale Canyon Cabernet Franc post. But, today, I'm here to share my three Mann men's birthday sweets.

His Seventeenth Bûche De Noël

This year, D turned nineteen which equates to seventeen years of a birthday bûche because I didn't make his first one till his second birthday. You can see the parade of previous cakes - including the very first bûche - in my recent post Mod Yule Log (Modern Bûche De Noël). I considered remaking the modern version for this year's celebration, when D came home for the holidays, but I opted for a more traditional bûche. I baked a chocolate sponge with chocolate ermine frosting, chocolate bark, and meringue mushrooms. The latter two elements can be found in the Mod Yule post.

I started making ermine frosting last year after my boys consistently complained that my buttercream was "too buttery." After the switch, they happily indulge in seconds on my cakes. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but they love it. I have seen this called 'flour buttercream' as well.

Chocolate Sponge Cake


  • 4 large eggs, separated

  • 2/3 cup organic granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup cake flour

  • 3 Tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder, plus 2 Tablespoons for rolling

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and grease the paper to make sure that your cake does not stick!

  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and 1/3 cup granulated sugar together until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks, remaining sugar, and vanilla extract together until pale and creamy.

  3. Whisk together flour, 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl bowl. Pour in the melted butter, coffee, and egg yolk mixture and beat on medium speed until completely combined. Using a wooden spoon, gently fold in the egg whites until completely combined. Try not to over-mix and deflate; you want the batter to be very light.

  4. Spoon batter into a thin layer on prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until the top of the cake gently springs back when touched with your finger. Do NOT over-bake.

  5. When the cake is baked, invert it onto a clean piece of parchment paper dusted with cocoa powder and, carefully, peel off the parchment paper on which it was baked. Place a piece of clean parchment paper on top and, starting at the narrow end, roll the cake as tightly as you can into a roll. You want it to cool in the shape of the roll. Let it cool at room temperature completely.

Chocolate Ermine Frosting

  • 6 Tablespoons flour

  • 1 cup organic granulated sugar

  • ½ cup cocoa powder

  • 1 cup milk (I have used whole milk and I have also tried it with oat milk in a pinch, both worked)

  • pinch of salt

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (when I do a vanilla ermine, I use vanilla paste because you can see the flecks of the vanilla seeds)


  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Pour in the milk and whisk until dry ingredients are completely dissolved.

  2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-low heat while whisking constantly so the bottom doesn't scorch. Once it starts to simmer, cook until it thickens into a thick pudding consistency, approximately two minutes. Remove from heat and add in vanilla extract. Whisk for another minute.

  3. Transfer pudding to a bowl and cover with a plastic wrap. Press the plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding so a skin won't form.

  4. Once the pudding has cooled, beat the softened butter at medium-high speed until it's lightened in color and fluffy, approximately 6 to 8 minutes or until it is pale and fluffy.

  5. Add in the pudding, one scoop at a time, beating after each addition. Once all of the chocolate pudding has been added, mix for another few minutes. The frosting should be thick, smooth and creamy.

  6. Use immediately.

The Baked Alaska Radius

Unlike D's bûche tradition that I know started on his second birthday, I don't really remember when R discovered Baked Alaskas. But I have made more than a dozen of them for sure. In fact, the 'Baked Alaska Radius' played a major role in his college decisions. I am not even joking!

R: Mom, how far will a Baked Alaska last in the car?

C: What?

R: You know, how far can you drive a Baked Alaska to me for my birthday? Because I will likely still be in school at the beginning of June every year.

I told him two hours. And he ended up at UC Santa Cruz which is less than an hour if I time it correctly with traffic. I guess when your mother is a food writer, you have birthday standards.

The cake at the bottom can be whatever you like. The ice cream, again, can be whatever you like. But the most important thing is the meringue. After all these years, I finally found the perfect meringue that doesn't weep, that holds its dramatic peaks, and it is fittingly referred to in my house as 'the actual good meringue.'

The Actual Good Meringue

  • 4 egg whites

  • 1 cup organic granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • Also needed: saucepan, hand-blender, kitchen torch


Place water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Swirl to dissolve the sugar completely. Keep at a low simmer while you work with the egg whites.

Separate the yolks and the whites, placing the whites in a clean mixing bowl and reserving the yolks for a different purpose. With a hand-blender, beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Bring the syrup to a rolling boil, then carefully pour the syrup into the whites. Beat to incorporate, then sprinkle in the cream of tartar. Beat until stiff peaks form.


I don't know when this started being Jake's birthday request. But when I looked back through photos, I see it on several of his birthday tables. So, I'm running with it. I learned to make this when I lived in Rome, but this version is slightly less potent than my usual because I used decaf espresso and Frangelico instead of brandy. Then, when I served it, I offered a shot of Frangelico and a shot of espresso that Jake and I could pour on our servings. The boys' pieces were not so boozy that way! This made a large trifle bowl full and four mason jar servings that are dispersed between lunches and lucky friends.

  • 2 packages of lady finger cookies (I only used 1-1/2 packages)

  • 1 cup espresso or strongly brewed coffee

  • 1/3 cup liqueur (I like Frangelico)

  • 4 eggs, separated into yolks and whites

  • 4 Tablespoons organic granulated sugar

  • three 8-ounce tubs mascarpone cheese

  • 2 cups organic heavy whipping cream

  • unsweetened cocoa powder


  1. Combine 2/3 cup espresso and 1/3 cup liqueur.

  2. Make a zabaglione. Place egg yolks and granulated sugar over a double-boiler (or a mixing bowl over a pot is fine). Heat and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is frothy. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the yolk and whites together. Set aside.

  3. Beat mascarpone cream with 1/3 C espresso. Set aside.

  4. Beat heavy whipping cream into stiff peaks. Set aside.

  5. Now it's time to assemble! Layer one: arrange lady fingers in a single layer in your serving bowl. You can break the cookies as needed to cover as much of the base as you can. Moisten each cookie with a wash of the espresso-liqueur mixture. Layer two: add a couple of dollops zabaglione and spread across the cookies as much as you can. Layer three: spread 1 to 2 Tablespoons mascarpone mixture over the zabaglione. Layer four: add a couple of dollops whipped cream and create a layer. Sprinkle with 1 to 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder.

  6. Repeat until your dish is full or you run out of ingredients. As I mentioned, this ingredient list gave me a full trifle dish an four mason jars that I put in lunchboxes.

  7. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve, but it's best to let all of the flavors meld together for at least an hour before serving.

The Last Mann (That's Me!)

As for me, my favorite treat is having all of my boys with me for my birthday. Last year was the first year that R was at school. So, D called him and they all sang to me over a dessert that I made. It was perfect. This year, they will both be at school at the beginning of May, though I might be able to entice them home to celebrate my half century. Gosh, that sounds old!

That's a wrap for this week's Birthday Treat #SundayFunday. Next week I am hosting the group as we celebrate National Corn Chip Day. Stay tuned!

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sneha datar
sneha datar
Jan 24, 2023

These are well made and fantastic birthday treats, amazing!

Camilla M. Mann
Camilla M. Mann
Jan 24, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for stopping by, Sneha. Yes, these are favorites for a reason!


Wendy Klik
Wendy Klik
Jan 23, 2023

I love the Santa Cruz/Baked Alaska story. It started my morning with a laugh which is always a good thing.

Camilla M. Mann
Camilla M. Mann
Jan 24, 2023
Replying to

Right? My kid cracks me up.


Stacy Rushton
Stacy Rushton
Jan 22, 2023

What a wonderful post, Camilla! I had to laugh over the university conversation because these things ARE IMPORTANT. 🤣 I've actually considered making a baked Alaska a few time but always chickened out. You have inspired me! That meringue does look ideal.

Camilla M. Mann
Camilla M. Mann
Jan 22, 2023
Replying to

This meringue is pretty much no-fail. Can't wait to hear if you try this.

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