Bûche de Noël is a traditional French Christmas dessert. Also known as a Christmas Yule log, it’s a chocolate cake roll with a chocolate filling and whipped chocolate ganache frosting. Sold yet?
This Christmas Bûche de Noël recipe will be the star of your holiday menu! Make it a Christmas tradition! This post from December, 2014, was updated with new photos and text.
Bûche de Noël or Yule Log
Literally translated, Bûche de Noël means “log of Christmas” in French. A simple chocolate genoise cake is rolled around a chocolate filling, then iced to resemble a large tree limb. Replete with striated bark and mushrooms, it’s both a memorable and delicious holiday dessert.
The original yule logs were real logs decorated with holly, pine cones or ivy to welcome the winter solstice and cleanse the air. This tradition began centuries ago in the Iron age. Fast forward to the 1600’s when the tradition may have continued with logs being burned in smaller hearths, ones which were also used for baking. The genoise, or sponge cake, dates back to this time as well. According to History.com, this may be when the first Bûche de Noël was created.
What’s in a Bûche de Noël?
There are three chocolate components in a yule log cake roll:
- chocolate genoise cake
- chocolate buttercream frosting or chocolate mousse or chocolate whipped cream filling
- whipped chocolate ganache
How Do You Make a Yule Log AKA Bûche de Noël ?
A thin genoise cake is rolled around a chocolate filling and iced with a whipped chocolate ganache to form a Bûche de Noël. Totally irresistible! This yule log is really just a fancified jelly roll cake.
You can go whole hog and cut off a few wedges on an angle and place them artfully against the “trunk” to resemble branches extending from the log’s trunk. Obviously, I took the easy route and I think it looks just fine.
Tips for Making a Bûche de Noël
A Bûche de Noël is a fun, festive cake, but it does take some planning with cooling times and numerous steps. For the first go around, I had some friends over to help me bake, so we took a few shortcuts. But I still couldn’t finish it in the time we had allotted. So if you’re planning to make a yule log for the holidays, clear your calendar. Plan to make the meringue mushrooms ahead of time and set aside a good 3-4 hours for baking the cake and assembly.
With my first attempt, I made my yule log with a chocolate mousse filling. It was certainly light and tasty, but highly aerated so I had to smooth out many of the resulting “holes” in the mousse. My family had absolutely no complaints, I just wasn’t thrilled with its appearance. Bill ate slice after slice, and Katie made short work of the meringue mushrooms. Tom took a slab back to his house, where I’m certain it disappeared in a matter of minutes. Nick missed round one since he was away at collegeThank goodness he’s too busy with Organic Chem to read my blog or check Facebook. He would been very disappointed to have missed this ultra-chocolaty treat!
I love the concept of this festive dessert recipe and tried another version for a holiday party this year. Other Bûches de Noël are filled with thick custard or chocolate buttercream frosting. So this time, I filled my cake with chocolate buttercream! It was a thing of beauty when I cut my first slice. Whew. Everyone gave it rave reviews!
A Few More Tips for Making Your Yule Log
- Use superfine sugar to make your meringues. If you can’t find a box in the market, just whiz regular sugar in a food processor for about a minute.
- Make sure you beat your sugar and egg white mixture until the sugar is dissolved. I like to rub some meringue between my thumb and pointer finger to feel for sugar granules. If the meringue feels gritty, beat longer.
- Ina Garten recommends heating your sugar on a sheet pan before adding to the egg whites to make the sugar dissolves more easily. I have not attempted this, but it might be worth a try if you’ve had trouble with meringues in the past!
- The cake in this recipe is a chocolate genoise. Most times the eggs are separated and the whipped whites are folded into the batter to lighten the mixture. In this case, the eggs and sugar and heated in a double boiler before beating. PRO-Tip: This mixture must be beaten until tripled in volume which takes about 5 minutes. Under-beating will make for a shorter, not as tender cake. Be patient.
- After the cake is baked, and it’s cooled enough so you can handle it, roll it up in a slightly damp tea towel along with the parchment to finish cooling. This allows the cake to take the shape of a log and that helps when you unroll then reroll the cake after it’s filled. The towel helps the cake from drying out.
- I rolled my cake from short end to short end. The recipe I used called for rolling from long end to long end, making a narrower cake. I wouldn’t cut the ends off for branches unless making the longer cake.
- I used a 3 Sided Decorating Comb to make striations along the top and sides of the yule log to resemble tree bark.
Here are a few photos showing how to make a Bûche de Noël from 2010.
Making meringue for the Bûche de Noël mushrooms – Pouring cake batter into the jelly roll pan
Rolling warm cake into a towel to make a cake roll – Using a cake icing blade to create grooves in the frosting on the Bûche de Noël
More festive desserts from my Holiday Food Party friends:
- Chocolate Peppermint Bark from Cravings of a Lunatic
- Buche de Noel from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Cranberry Moscow Mule from The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
- Chocolate Gingerbread Crumb Cake from Hungry Couple
- Gingerbread Cupcakes with Chai Spiced Frosting from Jen’s Favorite Cookies
- Apres Ski Boozy Tea from Pineapple and Coconut
- Raspberry Almond Torte from Magnolia Days
- Fruit and Nut Bars from What Smells So Good
Bûche de Noël
A traditional French Christmas dessert that is perfect for chocolate lovers!
- Prep Time: 1 hour 20 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour 20 mins
- Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
- Yield: 12 servings
- Category: Dessert, Cake, Holiday
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: French, French-American
- 1/2 cup egg whites at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- dash of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup superfine sugar (whiz regular sugar in food processor for one minute)
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
For chocolate buttercream filling (mousse alternative in notes below):
- 1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 5 tablespoons butter, plus more to butter pan
- 2/3 cup cake flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus more for dusting cake
- Pinch of baking soda
- 6 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Make meringue mushrooms up to 3 days ahead. Preheat the oven to 225º. Line baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
- Use an electric mixer to whip egg whites till foamy. Add cream of tartar, salt and vanilla. Continue whipping till egg whites form soft peaks (if you make a peak with the meringue, the tip will not stay upright).
- Slowly add the sugar while continuing to whip on high…a tablespoon or so at a time…till the whites form stiff peaks (the peaks will stay upright).
- Place the meringue in a pastry bag fit with a large plain tip. Or do what I do and use a ziplock bag fit with a large plain tip. For stems, press out a bit of meringue onto the baking sheet and lift the tip straight up. For caps, squeeze out round mounds of meringue. I just used a teaspoon dough scoop to form my rounds. You can use a wet finger to gently pat down any major imperfections.
- Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool completely.
- To make mushrooms, melt semi-sweet chocolate in microwave…stopping and stirring at 30 second increments till melted. Add vegetable oil and stir. Use a tooth pick to make a hole in the bottom of the cap…just large enough to insert one of the stems. Spread a small amount of chocolate on the underside of the cap and connect stem to cap. It may take a bit of fiddling to make the holes the correct size and to get the mushrooms to stand alone. You should have plenty of caps and stems with which to practice. Dust mushrooms with cocoa powder to finish.
- Make chocolate buttercream. Melt chocolates in the microwave, stopping and stirring at 30 second increments till smooth. Let cool slightly.
- Beat the butter in a medium bowl until creamy. Add the chocolate, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk and vanilla. Beat until it reaches a spreading consistency. Cover with plastic until ready to use.
- To make cake: Preheat oven to 350º. Butter 10½ x 15½ x 1 inch jelly roll pan. Line with parchment paper then butter and flour paper. Tap out excess flour.
- Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda twice into a medium bowl. Set aside while you clarify the butter. Over low heat, melt butter. Skim off white foam and then pour butter into a bowl, leaving any white solids which remain in the pan. Set aside and don’t forget to add this to the cake batter (I nearly did).
- In a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs. Place over a pot of simmering water and heat and whisk till mixture is warm and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and beat on high till tripled in volume, this will take about 5 minutes. Be patient. Reduce speed to medium and add vanilla. Beat another few minutes.
- Sift about a third of the dry ingredients into egg mixture. Fold in with spatula. Repeat two more times, adding in the butter with the last addition.
- Spread batter evenly in prepared jelly roll pan. Bake 15-20 minutes, till cake pops back up when lightly tapped. Do not over bake. Place on rack till cool enough to handle.
- Dust top of cake with cocoa powder. Cut around perimeter of cake to loosen. Place a piece of waxed paper over top of cake, followed by a damp dish towel. Invert cake onto a work surface, peel off parchment and sprinkle with cocoa. Starting with one short end, carefully roll up cake in the towel. Wrap in plastic if desired and refrigerate till needed.
- Make ganache: Microwave cream in large measuring cup till hot. Add chocolate and whisk till smooth. Refrigerated till cold.
- Whip cold ganache at medium speed till it has the consistency of soft butter. Start assembling the cake.
- To assemble: Carefully unroll cake onto the backside of a baking pan. Discard the wax paper and any plastic wrap. Spread mousse on cake leaving a one inch margin on each long edge. Reroll cake starting with the other end…using towel to help roll. Cover with plastic and chill one hour.
- Ice with the ganache. Make lines or ridges on cake to resemble tree bark if desired. Garnish with meringue mushrooms.
If you’d rather fill with chocolate mousse, here is that recipe:
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 4 eggs separated
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Make mousse. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave, stopping and stirring at 30 second increments till smooth. Let cool slightly. Whisk in egg yolks. Let cool to room temperature.
- In large bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar till stiff peaks form. Whisk a third of the whites into the chocolate, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites.
- Whip the heavy cream till soft peaks form, and fold into the chocolate mixture. Chill till set, about an hour.