Bûche de Noël (also known as a Yule Log) is a traditional French holiday dessert and decorated to resemble a log. This version of the classic Christmas cake features a chocolate sponge cake that has an espresso-mascarpone filling and is topped with chocolate ganache icing. A dusting of powdered sugar makes it look snow-covered, and you can add some meringue mushrooms and sugared cranberries for a truly spectacular Christmas dessert!
Welcome to the December BEB Bake-Along!
This month we’re tackling one of the most iconic holiday desserts that is both a showstopper and absolutely delicious!
When I first started spending a lot of time baking, I would always look forward to holiday cooking magazines. Especially exciting were the glossy photos of Bûche de Noël, also known as Yule Logs, which tempted me every single time. Decorated with edible snow and a huge variety of fillings and icings, I never get bored imagining all the possibilities. Mascarpone berries, twigs made of cake, and tiny meringue mushrooms are common extras; though they occasionally look too beautiful to eat, I dig in every time.
While they look elaborate, they are absolutely, 100% doable at home!
I am insanely excited for you to try this combination of rich chocolate, smooth espresso, and tangy mascarpone!
What is a Bûche de Noël?
Starting in the early 19th century, recipes for these cakes began showing up in recipe books across France. An homage to the custom of burning a specially-chosen log each Christmas, the original flavor combination was a simple yellow sponge cake and chocolate buttercream frosting. Over the 20th century, Bûche de Noëls grew in popularity, and are now traditional in Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, and some other French-speaking regions.
The standard serving style is to cut the “log” and arrange it to look like the real thing, which leads to those exciting, woodsy, decoration possibilities.
Ingredients and kitchen tools
There are three separate components of this dessert: The espresso mascarpone filling, the chocolate ganache frosting, and the chocolate cake itself. Each component has some items worth noting.
Dutch-processed cocoa: This is going to be used in the cake itself. This is an important distinction from a natural cocoa powder, it has a different taste and different chemical properties; so make sure to check your packaging. I use Rodelle cocoa (Costco sells it in a larger bag!).
Espresso powder: If you don’t keep espresso powder on hand for brewing, this baking espresso is a great option to keep on hand for baking (dissolves easily!). If you’d like to make an espresso-free dessert, you can eliminate the espresso powder and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract instead.
Chopped chocolate: Either bittersweet or semisweet chocolate is featured in the ganache and cake. Since the chocolate flavor shines, it is important to make sure you pick high-quality chocolate that you love. I prefer the Ghiradelli or Guittard baking bars (both can be found in the baking aisle at most grocery stores).
Kitchen tools: This calls for standard baking items including a stand mixer, food processor, rimmed baking sheet, parchment paper, and some fresh kitchen towels! This does call for a few different mixing bowls, so making sure you have those ready to go beforehand is ideal.
How to make a Bûche de Noël
Step 1: Make the ganache
Melt cream and butter in the microwave on high for 90 seconds
Add six ounces of chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate to a food processor. With the machine running, slowly pour the cream and butter mixture in and let it run until smooth and thickened. This usually takes about three minutes.
Transfer the ganache to a medium bowl and let sit at room temperature for one hour.
It will be ready when its consistency is like soft icing
Step 2: Make the espresso-mascarpone filling
Bring cream to a simmer over high heat in a small saucepan
Remove from heat and whisk in espresso and powdered sugar until totally dissolved. Cool slightly.
Using a rubber spatula, beat the mascarpone until soft.
Once soft, add the cream mixture and mix.
Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator until it’s time to create our yule log!
Step 3: Make the chocolate cake
Move oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F
Spray a 12×18 rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray, and lay parchment paper over that. Add more cooking spray on top of the parchment, and dust sheet with flour. Tap off excess and set pan aside.
Bring two inches of water to simmer in a saucepan. Combine the chopped chocolate, butter, and some water in a small heatproof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl over the saucepan and reduce the heat to medium-low until the butter is mostly liquid and the chocolate has melted at all of its edges. Remove from heat and stir until glossy. Note: Make sure the water in the sauce pan does not boil – or the mixture will cook.
Mix cocoa powder, flour, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Beat egg yolks in stand mixer until combined. With machine running, add half of the sugar and scrape down sides as needed. Continue this until yolks are a pale yellow and the mixture falls in a thick ribbon. Add the vanilla and beat again.
In a clean bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium speed until fluffy. Add sugar and continue beating until whites are glossy and holding stiff peaks.
Add chocolate to the egg yolk mixture, and mix until smooth. Slowly fold in egg white mixture until no white streaks remain.
Sprinkle dry ingredients over egg mixture, moving quickly to keep the batter smooth.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth surface.
Bake until center of the cake springs back when touched, rotating the pan half way through. Once done, let cake cool on a wire rack while you prepare to roll it (about five minutes)
How to roll up a Yule Log
This part has to happen relatively quickly to be sure the cake doesn’t become inflexible, leaving you unable to roll.
Lay a kitchen towel down over a work surface and sprinkle with cocoa powder.
Run a paring, or other small, knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert it onto the towel coated in cocoa, and then peel off the parchment paper.
Starting on a long side, roll the cake and towel together in a jelly-roll shape. Once the shape holds, leave in this position to cool for 15 minutes.
After cooled, unroll the cake and towel. Immediately spread the mascarpone filling over the surface of the cake, almost out to the edges.
Roll the cake back up with just the mascarpone and prepare to serve.
Serving and storing
Once the roll is set, trim both ends of the cake and set aside.
Set the roll seam-side down on a serving plate.
Spread the ganache over the cake using a small icing spatula.
Arrange the trimmed edges to create a “stump” look, connecting them to the cake using ganache as a glue. Fill in any gaps, or mend any broken cake, using this – you can’t have too much ganache on this yule log!
Use a fork or other texturizer to make bark-like streaks up and down the yule log before the icing has set
Refrigerate for about 20 minutes, before removing and sprinkling with powdered sugar. This is also the time to add any fun woodland or decorations you put together.
Though it is best served the day it is made, this cake can be covered in plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Bûche de Noël flavor variations
There are plenty of combinations out there, and if you love this fantastic cake as I do, you may find some of these exciting!
Make the Dark Chocolate Ganache: Microwave the heavy cream and butter in measuring cup on high for 1½ minutes. Place the chopped chocolate in the bowl of food processor. With the machine running, gradually add the hot cream mixture through the feed tube and process until smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes. Transfer the ganache to medium bowl and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, or until spreadable (the ganache should have the consistency of soft icing).
Make the Espresso-Mascarpone Cream Filling: Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over high heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the espresso and powdered sugar until dissolved; cool slightly. With a rubber spatula, beat the mascarpone in a medium bowl until softened. Gently whisk in the cooled cream mixture until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the Cake: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 12x18-inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, cover pan bottom with parchment paper and spray parchment with nonstick cooking spray; dust baking sheet with flour, tapping out excess.
Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Combine the chocolate, butter, and water in a small heatproof bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set the bowl over the pan of simmering water, reduce the heat to medium-low, and heat until the butter is almost completely melted and chocolate pieces are glossy, have lost definition, and are fully melted around edges, about 15 minutes. (Do not stir or let the water in the saucepan come to boil.) Remove the bowl from heat, unwrap, and stir until smooth and glossy. While the chocolate is melting, sift the cocoa powder, flour, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the egg yolks at medium-high speed until combined, about 15 seconds. With mixer running, add half of the sugar. Continue to beat, scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary until the yolks are pale yellow and the mixture falls in a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted, about 8 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine, scraping down the bowl once, about 30 seconds.
In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar at medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running, add about 1 teaspoon of the remaining sugar; continue beating until soft peaks form, about 40 seconds. Gradually add remaining sugar and beat until whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks, about 1 minute longer. Do not overbeat. While the egg whites are beating, stir the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture. With a rubber spatula, stir a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until almost no streaks remain. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the egg and chocolate mixture and fold in quickly but gently.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan; using an offset spatula and working quickly, smooth the surface and spread batter into pan corners. Bake until center of cake springs back when touched with finger, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Cool the cake in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
While cake is cooling, lay a clean kitchen towel over a work surface and sift 1 tablespoon cocoa powder all over towel. Run a paring knife around the edges of the baking sheet to loosen the cake. Invert the cake onto the prepared towel and peel off the parchment.
Assemble the Yule Log: Starting at a long side, roll the cake and towel together into a jelly roll shape. Cool for 15 minutes, then unroll the cake and towel. Using an offset spatula, immediately spread mascarpone cream filling evenly over surface of cake, almost to edges. Reroll the cake gently but snugly around filling. Trim both ends of cake on diagonal and reserve.
Set the cake seam-side down on on a serving platter. Spread the ganache over roulade with a small icing spatula. Attach the reserved "stump" ends to the yule log using the ganache and spread ganache over them, as well. Use a fork to make wood-grain marks on the surface of the ganache before it has set. Refrigerate cake, uncovered, to slightly set the icing, about 20 minutes. Sift yule log with powdered sugar. The cake is best served the day it is made, but can be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
Dutch-Processed Cocoa: I do not recommend substituting natural cocoa powder. I use Rodelle Dutch cocoa (Costco sells it in a larger bag!).
Espresso powder: If you don't keep espresso powder on hand for brewing, this baking espresso is a great option to keep on hand for baking (dissolves easily!). If you'd like to make an espresso-free dessert, you can eliminate the espresso powder and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract instead.
Chopped chocolate: You can use either bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. I recommend Ghiradelli or Guittard baking bars (both can be found in the baking aisle at most grocery stores).
Storage: The cake can be kept, covered in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I don't recommend freezing this cake with the mascarpone filling, as it could be runny when thawed.