Bûche de Noël Recipe (Yule Log Cake)

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This post is sponsored by Nestlé® Toll House but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

One of my favorite cakes to make during the holiday season is this traditional buche de noel cake. This buche de noel recipe is a lovely holiday classic for the French, made during Christmas time.

In America, we know a buche de noel cake as a yule log cake. In France, the cake is also referred to as a gateau de noel or gataeu roulé. I love this easy buche de noel recipe so much because it’s a foolproof way to make an impressive, festive cake without any fancy cake decorating skills.

The cake stuns and impresses everyone who sees it, but when I say you can be a beginner baker and make this, I mean it!

Trust me, I’ve seen tutorials for painted cakes with marzipan-crafted toppings that are beautiful but incredibly time-consuming and require extensive skill to actually execute.

buche de noel cake side view of stump

I get the fear that goes into any cake that looks the slightest bit decorative, but when I you not this cake, I mean it!

This buche chocolat will make you look like a total cake boss in front of your family and friends without requiring you to actually be on.

Not only that, but a buche de noel isn’t made with the kind of icky artificial ingredients that often look pretty on fancy cakes but taste awful.

A whipped cream filling and coffee-infused chocolate frosting make this cake 100% scrumptious.

It’s not really known how yule log cakes came to be, but theoretically, they’re supposed to represent a log that’s specially selected to be burned during Christmas.

melted chocolate

Regardless of the buche de noel history, I think the cake is particularly adored in French culture because the basis of the cake is a sponge cake, which is just the kind of light and airy type of cake that the French love.

A bûche de noel cake is typically a chocolate cake filled with chocolate cream, but I decided to balance the chocolate out with simple, sweetened whipped cream (I’ve blogged the recipe for this basic sort of chocolate roulade cake before over here).

The cake itself is rich with chocolate flavor so having a vanilla whipped cream really helps keep things from being too sweet or over-the-top.

Instead of doing a plain chocolate ganache on the top, I utilized my favorite recipe for mocha frosting, using Nestlé Toll House’s dark chocolate chips to make it.

Nestle Toll House Dark Chocolate Chips

Nestlé’s dark chocolate chips always melt really well and are already in morsel form, so there’s no need for me to be chopping up any chocolate bars beforehand or using a double boiler to melt my chocolate first.

I also knew that using mocha frosting for my buche de noel decoration would be easier (and yummier) than plain ganache because the frosting sets up sooner (no drippy glaze here!) and would display the log “ridges” very clearly.

While a classic buttercream could be manipulated to look like a tree log, I find that this mocha frosting is more apt to whatever decorative marks you want to make with it. Not only that, the frosting is so much lighter than buttercream, which works well with the delicate nature of the cake itself.

When you’re making this mocha frosting, it might feel like it won’t whip up into a frosting consistency, but it will. Be patient with your electric mixer (or stand mixer) and give it the time it needs to really whip up enough air and turn into the thick frosting consistency.

buche de noel cake front facing view of swirled filling

The sponge cake itself is baked with a minimal amount of flour (cake flour) and softly whipped egg whites, which is what gives the cake its spongy texture. It’s then baked in a half sheet baking pan/jelly roll pan (like this one) before it’s flipped out and rolled into a cylinder.

The trick to preventing cracks in a buche de noel cake is to roll the cake while it’s still slightly warm. Then when the buche de noel is completely cool, you unravel it, spread the whipped cream on top, then roll it back up.

A piece of cake is then sliced off right from the front and attached to the side of the buche de noel to mimic the look of a branch.

The cake is then covered in the mocha frosting using a rubber spatula rather than an offset spatula. Usually, cakes are frosted with offset spatulas to give the frosting that perfectly smooth appearance, but in this case, we want the buche de noel to look the opposite; slight ridges and bumps are welcome!

Then a final run down the cake with a fork gives the log its distinct ridges, and the garnishing of cranberries and rosemary give the cake its final dose of festivity.

If you don’t want to use real herbs or cranberries, you can always adorn the cake with a sprig of faux greenery.

buche de noel cake overhead shot of entire yule log cake

Buche de Noel

Yield: 10
Prep Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 16 minutes

A chocolate swiss-roll style cake, filled with whipped cream and covered in mocha chocolate frosting. 

Ingredients

for the cake

  • 4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

for the filling

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

for the frosting

  • 6 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate chips, 3/4 cup
  • 1.5 tbsp softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tbsp Kahlua
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • cranberries and rosemary for garnishing

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut a slit in the parchment paper in each of the four corners of the pan so that the parchment paper lies completely flat against the edges of the pan. Use office binder clips to clip the parchment paper to the edges of the pan. Set aside.
  2. Drop the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk on high speed for about 2 to 3 minutes, until wet, soft peaks form. You want the whites to stay hanging on your whisk when they're held upside down, but you don't want them so stiff and dry like you would for a merengue (aim for softly curled tips). Temporarily set the whites aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they're pale yellow. In a separate, smaller bowl, sift the cocoa powder, cake flour, coffee granules, baking powder, and salt together. Add these dry ingredients to the bowl containing the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk to combine - batter will be VERY thick and hard to mix, but this is normal, so just try your best to mix everything together.
  4. Add in half of the egg whites and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the whites into the batter. You don't have to be extra gentle at this point since you are merely trying to loosen up the batter with the egg whites. Now, add the remaining half of egg whites and, this time, be VERY gentle when folding the whites into the batter with your spatula; make light, long folds.
  5. Pour the batter into you're prepared pan and use your spatula to gently smooth out the batter. Don't tap the pan or move the pan side to side - you don't want to ruin the air bubbles you created with the whipped egg whites. Bake the cake for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the cake springs back when gently pressed by the tip of your finger (for me, it's always about 6 1/2 minutes in the oven). Let the cake slightly cool in the pan for 2 minutes - no longer.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare a light kitchen/tea towel by sprinkling powdered sugar all over it. Flip the cake out onto the towel and very gently peel the parchment paper off inch by inch. Grab one of the short sides of the cake and roll it towards the other short side, rolling the towel with it as you go. Let the cake remain in this rolled shape until it's completely cool. (Note: It’s important to do this while the cake is still warm as the cake is still flexible at this point and this prevents the cake from cracking or tearing as you roll it).
  7. Meanwhile, create the frosting by adding the chocolate chips, coffee granules, kahlua, unsalted butter, and vanilla extract to a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream over medium-low heat until it’s hot but not boiling (the edges should begin to simmer and steam should rise from the cream). Pour this hot cream over the chocolate and contents in the bowl, then use a spoon to stir the mixture together until it’s completely smooth. Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes - no longer.
  8. While the frosting chills, whip up your heavy cream in your stand mixer on high speed for one minute, or until the folds of the whisk start appearing in the cream. Add in the vanilla extract and the powdered sugar and continue to whisk on high until the cream is thick like frosting.
  9. Once your cake is cool, unroll your cake and use an offset spatula to spread the whipped cream all over the surface, leaving a very small border around the edges of the cake unfrosted. Gently roll the cake back up just like you did before (minus the towel), with the seam side facing down.
  10. Take a sharp knife and cut off a 2 inch slice from one end of the cake, cutting at an angle so that one end of the slice is 2 inches and the other end is closer to 1 inch. Take this slice and place the side of it that isn’t cut/exposed and attach it to the main cake log somewhere near the middle of the log.
  11. Use a hand mixer to whisk the chilled frosting for 15 to 25 seconds, or until you can see the whisk leaving indentations in the frosting. Don’t whisk any longer than that as it’ll ruin the frosting. Use a rubber spatula to smooth the frosting all over the cake log and it’s side stump. It’s preferred that you don’t use an offset spatula as the rubber spatula leaves nice streaks that make the cake look more like a log. Take a fork and run it down the length of the cake log several times. Adorn the cake with cranberries and rosemary for a more festive look.

Notes

If you don't have kahlua, you can either leave it out or equally substitute with brewed coffee. 

 

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 10 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 293
buche de noel

118 thoughts on “Bûche de Noël Recipe (Yule Log Cake)”

  1. What a fantastic recipe!! I just made this for our Christmas in July Celebration and the recipe could not have been easier! You offer just the right amount of detail and explanation to ensure there are no questions for each step! I am so proud to have finally made a buche de Noel! Thank you for this recipe and for a new tradition in my house! ❤️🎄

    Reply
    • That makes me so happy to hear, Anaise! Thanks so much for sharing your feedback. I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe and that this has become a new tradition in your home! <3

      Reply
  2. So I’ve made this cake two times, and they’ve been delicious both times! This is my favorite yule log recipe I’ve tried, and when I made it for my French Class for our Mardi Gras party, it was gone within ten minutes of everybody getting up to get food! The second time I made it was today, and the filling was delicious, much better than the first time I made it, and my family loves it! I’m glad that I tried this recipe, But instead of Kahlua, I use coffee because i’m underage and not able to buy alcohol and I’m a bit hesitant to use it in cooking, and I’ve used the double-boiler method to help melt the chocolate because I can’t get the cream to get hot enough to melt it.

    Reply
  3. This is a lovely recipe. I’ve always been intimidated to make a Bouche du Noel but just when I was thinking about it again this year, my daughter sent me this recipe. So I thought I must try it. It was most certainly the star of our Christmas dinner. Much easier than anticipated and soooo pretty. I made merengue mushrooms to decorate it! Thank you for posting it, we all loved it.

    Reply
    • I’m so happy to hear that, Nancy! Thank you for giving my recipe a try. I’m so glad it turned out well for you and you enjoyed it! Happy holidays!

      Reply
  4. I just made this for Christmas this year and it was fantastic! I added some kahlua to the cake mix too. I think next time I would try some vanilla in the filling. I decorated with rosemary sprigs/cranberries. I also made meringue mushrooms and pinecones.

    Reply
  5. I just made this. The recipe was so detailed and everything went as planned. The only problems I had were my own mistakes. I didn’t roll is tight enough and I whipped the frosting a little too long because it seemed to runny ( still less than 1 minute). I was able to decorate it but it set up fast and now seems like more of a truffle texture than frosting. But it tastes great and I’m still pleased with it!!!

    Reply
  6. Hii Beeta! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, it’s incredible! I am making FOUR this year! How far in advance can I bake the cake portion? Planning to make the filling and frosting the day of.

    Reply
    • Hi RJ! How awesome! So for the cake, I would refrigerate it no longer than 2 days in advance (in its rolled up form). You can also freeze the cake by rolling it up and then wrapping in plastic wrap. Then thaw it out in the fridge overnight. 🙂

      Reply
  7. This was such a great recipe! I have always wanted to make a Buche De Noel, but was always intimidated. This recipe was so easy the cake was perfect. I did make some slight changes with eliminating the coffee and adding cherries onto the whipped cream before rolling. Everyone loved it and it is going to be perfect for a delicious Christmas treat.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Stephanie! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe! I hope you have a lovely Christmas with your loved ones <3

      Reply

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