It’s officially Christmas when Buche de Noel appears, thickly frosted in chocolate ganache bark and dotted with tiny meringue mushrooms. If making a Yule Log cake seems too elaborate, don’t worry; all the steps are broken down into one easy-to-manage project.

A Buche de Noel (yule log cake) on a platter.

Yule logs are a Nordic tradition: A carefully chosen tree would be pulled into the house and burned, bit by bit, during the winter solstice. Any part of the log that remained was saved to help light next year’s tree.

Serving a log-shaped cake is the modern way to honor that ancient Christmastime tradition. All the steps are here, from the super-moist, rum syrup-soaked vanilla genoise cake rolled around chocolate ganache, to the little edible mushrooms, which are actually fun to make.

Some of the steps you can knock out ahead of time, so there’s no reason to get overwhelmed. And unlike the wooden Yule log, chances are there won’t be a single bite left for next year.

Recipe ingredients: 

Ingredient shot for Buche de Noel (yule log cake).

Ingredient notes:

  • Dark rum: A small amount for flavoring the simple syrup, which moistens the cake. You can use a coffee liqueur instead.
  • Bittersweet chocolate: Invest in quality chocolate for the most delicious cake ever. It really matters with the delicate flavor of the cake.
  • Cream of tartar: An important ingredient that helps stabilize the meringue, making it billowy and light as air. Found in the baking aisle.
  • Chocolate bar: Again, quality matters. Feel free to mix up the cacao percentage or make chocolate shavings with a couple of bars of varying colors for added texture on your bûche.

Step-by-step instructions:

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the jelly roll pan so the cake doesn’t stick. Here’s how: butter the pan first, then place a piece of parchment inside the pan. Then butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Dust the inner surface and sides with flour and tap out the excess. These extra steps are important to keep the cake from sticking.
    A baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer and a paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium speed for 3 minutes until they’re pale and thick. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat for several minutes until the mixture triples in size. Sift the flour mixture over the eggs and sugar and gently fold it into the batter using a rubber spatula. Then pour the batter into the jelly roll pan and smooth it evenly from edge to edge.
    Cake batter being poured onto a jelly roll pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes. The cake is done when it springs back a bit when lightly touched with a finger, but be careful not to over bake. While the cake is baking, unfold a clean kitchen towel on a work surface and sift a generous layer of powdered sugar over the towel. Take the cake out of the oven and immediately run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake from the pan. Carefully invert the cake onto the sugar-dusted towel, then remove the pan and peel off the parchment paper.
    A baked roll cake lying flat on a kitchen towel before being rolled.
  4. Then gently roll up the cake and the towel, starting at the long edge of the cake. Let the cake cool on a wire rack.
    A roll cake rolled up in a towel.

To make the syrup, frosting, and chocolate curls:

  1. You can tackle this step ahead of time or while the cake is in the oven. Mix together the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring the syrup to a boil, then take it off the heat and stir in the rum. Let cool to room temperature.
    Simple syrup in a pan.
  2. For the frosting, make a double boiler by placing the bowl of your mixer inside a pan with barely simmering water. Melt the chocolate and cream together in the bowl, whisking until smooth. Take the bowl off the heat and refrigerate to cool for about 2 hours. Stir it occasionally while it chills.
    Chocolate ganache in a saucepan.
  3. Once cooled, add the salt and vanilla, and return to the mixer, beating on medium-high speed until firm. If the frosting can hold the shape of a soft dollop, it’s ready. It will firm up as it sits.
    Whipped chocolate ganache in a mixing bowl.
  4. You can make the chocolate shavings ahead of time and refrigerate them, or keep them in a cool dry place until you’re ready to decorate the cake. With a vegetable peeler, shave the edge of the chocolate bar to make thin curls. To make wider pieces, shave the top of the bar.
    A pile of chocolate curls.

To make the meringue mushrooms:

  1. If you live in a low-humidity environment, you can make these the day before and store them in an airtight container so you’re one step ahead of the game. Otherwise, you can make them as the cake and chocolate ganache cools. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and fit a pastry bag with a #6 plain tip. Using an electric mixer and a very clean, dry bowl (even residual fat and oil keep egg whites from beating properly) beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.
    Egg whites beaten until foamy.
  2. Start adding the granulated sugar in small amounts, beating continuously. Once the sugar is added, increase the speed to high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and form soft yet stiff peaks. Don’t rush; it may take some time. Then sift the powdered sugar over the egg whites and fold in, using a rubber spatula.
    Raw meringue in a mixing bowl.
  3. Spoon the meringue into the pastry bag and get ready to pipe. Your goal is to make roughly 4 dozen mushrooms, depending on how large you want them. Slightly varying sizes are absolutely fine. On one baking sheet, make the mushroom stems. Pipe the meringue into stem shapes that are slightly narrower at one end than the other, spacing them 1/2-inch apart on the sheet.
    Meringue mushrooms piped on a baking sheet.
  4. On the second baking sheet, pipe an equal number of mushroom cap shapes about 3/4-inch tall. Space them apart about 1/2-inch, so you have enough room. Any pointy tips can be softened with a wet fingertip before baking. It’s okay to make extra in case you break a few, but hold on to the extra meringue; it will act as the glue to put the mushrooms together.
    Meringue mushrooms piped on a baking sheet.
  5. Lightly dust the mushroom caps with cocoa powder. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake until firm enough to handle, 50 to 55 minutes. Pull the baking sheets out of the oven.
    Meringue mushrooms piped on a baking sheet.
  6. Carefully flip the mushroom caps over and with the tip of a paring knife, carve a small indentation in the center of each flat side. This will be where the mushroom stem will fit. Pipe a tiny bit of the extra meringue into the hole and insert the stem into the mushroom, placing it back onto the baking sheet. Repeat until finished, then bake for another 15 minutes or until the mushrooms are completely dry. Allow the meringue to cool completely on the sheets.
    Meringue mushrooms piped on a baking sheet.

To assemble and decorate the cake:

  1. Very carefully, unroll the cake. Brush the surface generously with the rum syrup.
    Rum syrup being brushed over a roll cake.
  2. Using an offset spatula, spread about one-third of the frosting evenly over the cake from edge to edge.
    Chocolate frosting being spread over a roll cake.
  3. Then roll the cake back up—this time without the towel—into a log shape, positioning the roll seam side down on a cutting board. With the rest of the frosting, slather the cake’s top and sides using long, rough strokes to mimic the bark of a tree.
    Chocolate frosting being spread over a roll cake.
  4. With a serrated knife, trim the ends off the roll at an angle.
    A Buche de Noel (yule log cake) on a platter.
  5. The fun part is finally here. Move the yule log onto the serving platter and decorate with the curls of chocolate, a dusting of powdered sugar, and clusters of mushrooms.
    A Buche de Noel (yule log cake) on a platter.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Process: In the test kitchen, we started by making the genoise cake. While the cake baked, we made the syrup and frosting. While the cake was cooling, we made the meringue mushrooms. While the meringue was baking, we shaved the chocolate curls. Then we assembled the cake and decorated it.
  • Ice bath: Speed up the process of cooling the chocolate frosting and use an ice bath. Place the bowl in a slightly larger bowl of ice water to chill the ganache quicker.  
  • Room temperature eggs: Make sure the eggs are at room temperature before starting the recipe. It will make all the difference. If you forgot to do this, place the cold eggs in a bowl of warm water for several minutes.
  • Kitchen towel: Make sure you have one that is a few inches larger than the jelly roll pan. This will make your life easier when you invert the genoise cake onto the towel. Also, use a woven (not terrycloth) towel so it doesn’t stick to the cake.
  • Other decorations: Sugared cranberries, a sprig or two of holly or rosemary, crackly, caramelized sugar shards, anything you can think of to make the log look real. I’ve seen darling marzipan woodland creatures in fancy bakeries; you can definitely forgo the meringue and go that route if you’re pressed for time. If you mess up, just give the cake a dusting of snow (powdered sugar.)
  • Use a fork: The tines of a fork are useful for making marks in the frosting, to resemble the outside of a log.
  • Cutting and slicing: All your hard work will pay off when you cut into the Buche de Noel, but only if you use the right knife. Use a serrated knife which will make a clean slice, revealing the perfect swirl inside.
  • Storage: Since genoise is a dryer type of cake, store cake in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If storing cut cake, place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the cut edge.

3 slices of Buche de Noel (yule log cake) on plates.

More delicious cakes:

Bûche de Noël (Yule Log Cake)

It's officially Christmas when Buche de Noel appears, thickly frosted in chocolate ganache bark and dotted with tiny meringue mushrooms. If making a Yule Log cake seems too elaborate, don't worry; all the steps are broken down into one easy-to-manage project.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Chill Time 2 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 45 mins
Servings 12 servings
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 483

Ingredients 

For the cake:

  • butter for greasing pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar for dusting

For the syrup:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons dark rum or coffee-flavored liqueur (see note 1)

For the frosting:

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped (see note 2)
  • 2 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt

For the meringue mushrooms:

  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (see note 3)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

For the chocolate curls:

  • 1 chocolate bar room temperature (see note 4)

Instructions 

For the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 10 1/2-inch by 15 ½ inch rimmed baking sheet (jelly roll pan) by greasing with butter and lining with parchment paper, then grease and flour the parchment paper and the sides of the pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
  • Using a standing mixer or a hand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until mixture has tripled in size. Gently sprinkle the flour mixture over the eggs and fold gently until blended using a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake until cake is done, springing back gently when lightly touched, about 13 to 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, on the counter, lay a clean kitchen towel down and sift powdered sugar evenly and generously over the towel. Remove the cake from the oven and loosen the cake by running a knife immediately edges of the pan. Place the cake on the prepared kitchen towel by holding the cake in place and inverting the pan onto the towel. Lift off the pan while gently peeling off the parchment paper. Roll up the cake by beginning on the long edge of the cake and roll up with the towel. Set on a wire rack to cool.

To make the syrup:

  • While the cake is baking, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water and stir until the sugar dissolved. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Stir in rum or liqueur, and set aside to allow to cool to room temperature.

To make the frosting:

  • Using a double boiler, combine the chocolate and cream in the top bowl. Set bowl with mixture over barely simmering water. Melt the chocolate and whisk mixture until blended. Remove the bowl from heat and place in refrigerator to cool, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours (see notes).
  • When the mixture has cooled, add the vanilla and salt. Mix in the bowl of a standing mixer or by hand on medium-high speed until mixture is firm enough to hold a soft dollop. As the frosting sits, it will continue to firm up.

For the meringue mushrooms:

  • Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a small number 6 plain tip.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a hand mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Continue to beat, slowly adding granulated sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until soft peaks form and the mixture holds stiff shiny peaks. Sift powdered sugar over the egg white mixture and fold in until well blended, using a rubber spatula.
  • Scoop the mixture into the prepared pastry bag. On the first baking sheet, pipe 48 mushroom stems by piping them from about ½ inch at the base of the stem to about ¾ inch at the tip, spacing them ½ inch apart. Pipe the tops of the mushrooms on the other baking sheet by piping 48 mounds about 1 ¼ inch wide and about ¾ inch tall, spacing them also ½ inch apart. Remove any pointy tips by gently rubbing with a slightly damp finger. Dust mushrooms with cocoa.
  • Place baking sheets in the oven and bake until firm enough to be removed from sheet, about 50 to 55 minutes. Place sheets on counter (make sure to protect counter by placing on a trivet) and flip mounds so the flat sides are up. With the tip of a knife, gently make a small hole in the bottom of the mound. Pipe a small amount of reserved meringue into the hole and insert the stems tip first. Repeat with remaining mounds. Place sheets in oven and bake until completely dry, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely on baking sheets.

To make chocolate curls:

  • Using a vegetable peeler, shave the edge of the chocolate bar for narrow curls, or the side of the chocolate bar for wide curls. Curls can be refrigerated or kept at room temperature for a short amount of time.

To assemble the cake:

  • Carefully unroll the cake, and brush liberally with cooled prepared syrup. With an offset spatula, spread one-third of icing evenly over the cake. Gently re-roll cake (without kitchen towel) and place roll seam-side down on cutting board. Using the remaining frosting, frost the tops and sides of the roll with long, rough strokes. Trim each end of the roll with a serrated knife, cutting on a sharp angle.
  • Transfer the roll to a serving plate and garnish with chocolate curls and meringue mushrooms and dust with powdered sugar.

Notes

  1. Dark rum: A small amount for flavoring the simple syrup, which moistens the cake. You can use a coffee liqueur instead.
  2. Bittersweet chocolate: Invest in quality chocolate for the most delicious cake ever. It really matters with the delicate flavor of the cake.
  3. Cream of tartar: An important ingredient that helps stabilize the meringue, making it billowy and light as air. Found in the baking aisle.
  4. Chocolate bar: Again, quality matters. Feel free to mix up the cacao percentage or make chocolate shavings with a couple of bars of varying colors for added texture on your bûche.
  5. Process: In the test kitchen, we started by making the genoise cake. While the cake baked, we made the syrup and frosting. While the cake was cooling, we made the meringue mushrooms. While the meringue was baking, we shaved the chocolate curls. Then we assembled the cake and decorated it.
  6. Ice bath: Speed up the process of cooling the chocolate frosting and use an ice bath. Place the bowl in a slightly larger bowl of ice water to chill the ganache quicker.  
  7. Room temperature eggs: Make sure the eggs are at room temperature before starting the recipe. It will make all the difference. If you forgot to do this, place the cold eggs in a bowl of warm water for several minutes.
  8. Kitchen towel: Make sure you have one that is a few inches larger than the jelly roll pan. This will make your life easier when you invert the genoise cake onto the towel. Also, use a woven (not terrycloth) towel so it doesn't stick to the cake.
  9. Other decorations: Sugared cranberries, a sprig or two of holly or rosemary, crackly, caramelized sugar shards, anything you can think of to make the log look real. I've seen darling marzipan woodland creatures in fancy bakeries; you can definitely forgo the meringue and go that route if you're pressed for time. If you mess up, just give the cake a dusting of snow (powdered sugar.)
  10. Use a fork: The tines of a fork are useful for making marks in the frosting, to resemble the outside of a log.
  11. Cutting and slicing: All your hard work will pay off when you cut into the Buche de Noel, but only if you use the right knife. Use a serrated knife which will make a clean slice, revealing the perfect swirl inside.
  12. Storage: Since genoise is a dryer type of cake, store cake in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If storing cut cake, place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the cut edge.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 483kcalCarbohydrates: 50gProtein: 7gFat: 28gSaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 125mgSodium: 136mgPotassium: 242mgFiber: 2gSugar: 36gVitamin A: 758IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 71mgIron: 3mg
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Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Comments

  1. I made this for Christmas. I never left a comment because I forgot until I was here to find a chicken recipe (I’m going to try that Outback chicken.)

    Anyways, back to the cake, it was delicious and a big hit. I think I’m going to make it every year going forward.5 stars