An Easy Recipe for Bûche de Noël

Log with Figurines

Although meringue mushrooms are classic on a Bûche de Nöel, I admit to skipping that step and simply decorating it with little figurines. Photo by shok via Flickr.

This post covers: How to make a simple Büche de Noël. Easy Buche de Noel Recipe. Simple decorations for Buche de Noel. Recipe for French Yule Log Cake. Easy French Yule Log Cake Recipe.

I’m a huge fan of Bûche de Noël; in fact, I make it every year at Christmas. However, try as I might, I can’t get my nieces and nephews to call it Bûche de Noël. They won’t even call it a Christmas Yule Log.

Instead, they call it “Aunt Wini’s Giant Ho-Ho Cake.”

Sigh. But they do love it–and I love cooking it for them. It’s nice to have a specialty that they’ll look forward to year after year.

Why not try your hand at one this year? Those at your table will love you for it—and it might even become your own house specialty. I have an easy recipe, below.

But first, the answers to a few FAQs.

Q. What is Bûche de Noël?

This French cake roll is generally decorated to look like a log that’s just been pulled in from the forest. It’s meant to symbolize the warmth of the yule log that traditionally burned throughout the season.

Q. How do I make a Bûche de Noël?

For all its beauty and festive nature, it’s not that difficult to one pull off. Just be sure you keep these key tips in mind.

• Use the Right Pan: Don’t even try to do this in anything but the pan called for (a 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan, what used to be called a jelly-roll pan). If you use a 13×9-inch pan, you’ll be sunk: the cake will be too thick to roll. Really—don’t even try it.

• Grease and Flour the Pan Well.

• Roll the Cake While Warm: The minute the cake is done, get it out of the pan and roll it up. Let cool completely, then proceed with filling and decorating. Below is a reliable recipe, which I’ve adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens book that I worked on a few years back.
Q. Are there any simple ways to decorate a Bûche de Noël?

Meringue mushrooms are classic; a good recipe for these appear on about.com. However, I’ve discovered a few other ways to decorate a yule log that are much, much easier. A few ideas:

• Strawberry Santa Clauses. Check out the photo. Simply split a strawberry in half, fill with whipped cream, and decorate with little candies for the face. Photo by masatsu via Flickr.

Pretty darn cute! And easy, too. If you don't feel like making a chocolate ganache, just frost the thing with stiffly beaten whipped cream.

Pretty darn cute! And easy, too. If you don’t feel like making a chocolate ganache, just frost the thing with stiffly beaten whipped cream, but be sure to serve it very soon thereafter. Whipped cream won’t stay stiff forever! Photo by masatsu via Flickr.

• Small Ornaments. Simply add a few ornaments to the finished log. (Just be sure the kids at your table don’t try to put them in their mouths!).

This is obviously from a fancy pastry shop, and no, my homemade ganache doesn't look like this. But I still like the macaron idea as stand-ins for the meringue mushrooms.

This is obviously from a fancy pastry shop, and no, my homemade ganache doesn’t look like this. But I still like the macaron idea as stand-ins for the meringue mushrooms. Photo by yuichi.sakuraba via flickr.

 

• Macarons! This is almost too easy: Simply stick a few purchased macaroons on top of the log for a whimsical way to simulate mushrooms. PS: I’ve found the macaroons at Trader Joe’s to be quite good for the price (Ladurée, please don’t hate me). (PS: See other French finds I love at Trader Joe’s.)

Easy Recipe for Bûche de Noël—You Can't Go Wrong!
Serves: 10 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Whipped Cream Filling (recipe follows)
  • Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)
  • Meringue Mushrooms or other decorating ideas (see story, above)
Instructions
  1. Separate the eggs and allow them to come to room temperature (20 minutes). Grease and flour a 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan extremely well; set aside. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat egg yolks and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed or until thick, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the ⅓ cup granulated sugar, beating on high speed until sugar is almost dissolved.
  3. With thoroughly washed and dried beaters, beat the egg whites in a large bowl on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the ½ cup granulated sugar, tablespoon by tablespoon, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the egg yolk mixture. Sift the flour mixture over all, folding gently just until combined. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for until cake springs back when lightly touched, 12 to 15 minutes. Immediately loosen edges of cake from pan and turn cake out onto a kitchen towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Roll up towel and cake into a spiral, starting from one of the cakes short sides. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. When cake is cool, unroll; remove the towel and spread with Whipped Cream Filling. Re-roll cake; refrigerate up to 1 hour.
  6. About 30 minutes before serving, frost the cake with the Chocolate Glaze; refrigerate 30 minutes to allow glaze to set; if desired, use a serrated bread knife to make patterns in the glaze to resemble a tree log. Decorate with Meringue mushrooms and/or Christmas decorations, if you like.
  7. Whipped Cream Filling: Beat 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a chilled mixing bowl until soft peaks form.
  8. Chocolate Glaze: Melt 2 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate and 1½ tablespoons butter over low heat. Remove from heat; beat in ¾ cup sifted powdered sugar and 1½ tablespoons hot water until smooth. If needed, add additional hot water, teaspoon by teaspoon, to reach drizzling consistency

 

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6 comments to An Easy Recipe for Bûche de Noël

  • I have always used a cake mix because my homemade cakes always turn out horrible. This year I’m hunting for a no-fail from scratch recipe and am surprised to see such little flour in the recipes for Buche. I don’t remember the ones I had in France having a different texture than “regular cake”, but they must? Call me clueless. Enlighten me?

  • Wini

    They’re essentially a sponge cake–very light and airy. Also, the cocoa powder makes up for some of the flour. If you were making a vanilla cake, there would be more flour.

    Truth is, the cake itself is good–but it’s really a vehicle for the fudgy glaze and the luscious whipped cream in side–the contrasts are great.

    Enjoy!

  • Wini, May I use regular cocoa? I am lecithin-sensitive (soy). I think Dutched has soy.

    Madonna

    • Wini

      Yes you may! I’ve used regular cocoa in this before, no problem at all. Though I prefer richness of Dutch Process, it will still be really good!

  • Rose

    In the first two photos, the cakes have a broken branch coming out of them. Is that made of sponge cake as well? I have always wanted to make a Bûche de Noël but rolling a sponge cake seems difficult. That being said, I’m going to try making your cake instead of buying one.

    Rose

    • Wini

      I believe that the first two cakes are sponge cakes (I didn’t take the photos–rather, I used them to illustrate decorating possibilities). My fudgy frosting sets up pretty thickly, so you should be able to stick a little greenery in the frosting and have it hold well enough to present the cake. Enjoy!

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