This festive yule log cake is chocolate cake filled with whipped cream, rolled into the shape of a log, and coated with a chocolate ganache – a classic European holiday tradition! Serve with a White Hot Chocolate or Cranberry Mimosa for an extra festive celebration.
After Thanksgiving is over, I head into full Christmas mode. I’m assuming I have some sort of invisible switch that flips on at midnight after Thanksgiving that apparently indicates that Christmas mode is now activated.
- The tree and other Christmas decorations (however minimal they may be) went up the morning after Thanksgiving.
- I’m playing Christmas music in the house, almost exclusively.
- All baking involves Christmas cookies, peppermint, gingerbread, eggnog, and snowflake sprinkles.
Please tell me I’m not the only one.
I figured now is as good a time as any to put a Christmas log cake out there into the internet ether. Do you recall the most classic Christmas cake of aaaaaaaaaaaall?
(yes, that was sung to the tune of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”, shut up)
A Bûche de Noël!
What’s a Bûche de Noël?
If you’re not familiar, a Bûche de Noël (or “yule log”) is a traditional European dessert that’s served during the holidays, and it’s intentionally created to look like an actual yule log. It’s typically chocolate cake with a whipped cream filling.
Although not the same size as a real yule log, because sweetbabyjesus that would be a really big cake. That would be a yuleOMGCAKE.
Okay, now I kinda wanna make one. Can you imagine showing up to your family’s house with this log-shaped cake that’s the size of their Australian Shepard? Although, that would make a good story for future Christmases.
“Hey, remember that time that Leslie showed up to Christmas Eve with that giant cake that ended up all over the front door? And Snoopy’s face? And your niece?”
… good times.
What’s the difference between a yule log cake and a cake roll?
Cake rolls have no holiday affiliation, and a yule log is a cake roll that’s all dressed up for Christmas.
Just look at it, all fancy.
How to make yule log cake
I like my yule log cake to be simple: a light, spongey chocolate cake, lightly sweet whipped cream filling, and coated in a dark chocolate ganache. No crazy flavors or ingredients, and just the addition of some espresso powder to the cake to enhance the chocolate flavor.
For garnish, I like to top mine with a handful of fresh cranberries, a couple springs of rosemary, and a dusting of powdered sugar.
And for the ganache, I require a thick layer of ganache on the outside. I like to make enough that while I’m icing the cake, I’m thinking to myself, “Yikes, this is too much. OH GOD this is too much”, and then by the time I’m finished I remember that it’s exactly the right amount.
It’s kinda like when you’re making spaghetti and you keep adding more pasta to the pot, and then at the end you go, “OH GOD this is too much”, except this is the opposite of that.
Of which – why is spaghetti such a surprisingly difficult thing to measure the right amount of, even though you’re using the hole in the middle of the spaghetti spoon and it looks like it’s not enough so you add more than then remember that you’re an idiot and you should have trusted the spoon? WHY.
Okay, spaghetti rant over. And don’t make spaghetti – make this, and impress your family and friends with the presentation. I put very little effort into my design on the outside: I just drag a fork lengthwise across the top and down the sides.
You can do that, or use a toothpick or skewer to draw wavy lines lengthwise across the top, and in spirals on the ends. Or you can just use a small spatula to give it some wavy texture (I never seem to get this right, but it looks beautiful when it’s done right).
My top 2 tips for making yule log cake
#1: Don’t overbake it!
I repeat: do not overbake the chocolate cake.
Because we’re making this in the form of a very thin sheet, if it’s overbaked it will be too dry and it will crack when you try to roll it. It will also just taste less awesome because it won’t have enough moisture.
#2: Roll it as soon as you can
Similarly to the above, you want to avoid it getting too dry before you roll it because it will be too difficult to roll, won’t hold it’s shape, and could crack.
So only let the cake cool on the pan for a minute before you turn it out onto a kitchen towel and roll it into shape.
How to cut yule log cake
I know a lot of people like to slice off one end at an angle, and then attach it to one side so it really looks like a log, but I like to keep it simple. Easier to make, easier to plate, easier to serve. Easy.
Make it, slice it, serve it, and enjoy it. And then forget about the calories because it’s the holidays and spending precious time with loved ones is what matters… right? [shrug]
How to store yule log cake
Loosely cover the cake with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. I like to stick toothpicks into a few places on the cake so that the plastic wrap isn’t clinging directly to the cake itself.
Freezing a yule log
It’s better to store the yule log cake because it’s been frosted and decorated, but if you need to store it in the freezer after you’ve already covered it in the chocolate icing… it can be done.
Make sure you have enough space in your freezer to let the uncovered cake (on a baking sheet) set for at least an hour. At this point, the frosting should be hardened and you can wrap it in plastic wrap and store inside an airtight container or large bag for up to 3 months.
I recommend not fully decorating it until after you’ve thawed it and you’re getting ready to slice and serve.
Thawing a yule log
Keeping it covered, transfer the cake from the freezer to the fridge and let it thaw slowly for at least a day. Then you can place it on a counter (still covered) and let it come to room temperature.
If you uncover it before it’s come to room temperature, the frosting will form condensation. While it will still taste good, it wouldn’t be pretty!
After you’ve made this recipe, please consider coming back to share your experience with others by leaving a comment below with a star rating!
Yule Log Cake (Bûche de Noël)
- 4 eggs, separated and room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup cake flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon espresso powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Chocolate ganache frosting:
- 8 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- ¾ cup heavy cream
Whipped cream filling:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup powdered sugar, more or less, to taste
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 10x15 baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In the large bowl of a stand mixer, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well combined and a pale yellow color. Add vanilla and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt.
- Add the dry mixture to the bowl of egg yolk mixture and stir to combine - it will be very thick!
- Add half of the egg whites to the mixture and stir vigorously to combine completely.
- Gently fold in the other half of the egg whites. Take your time and, again, be gentle - you don't want to eliminate all the air you whipped into them.
- Pour batter onto the prepared pan, gently using a spatula to evenly distribute the batter.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cake is spongey and bounces back when touched.
- While it's baking, lay out a flour sack or kitchen towel on the counter and sprinkle it with a layer of powdered sugar.Tip: I like to use my flour sifter so that it's a relatively even layer and I don't miss any spots!
- Let the cake cool for a minute on the baking sheet, then carefully turn it out onto the towel and remove the parchment paper from the bottom.
- Starting from one of the short ends, roll the cake up (rolling the towel with it as you go). Lay the wrapped cake seam side down and let cool completely.
Chocolate ganache frosting:
- While the cake is baking, make the ganache. In a small heatproof bowl, combine chocolate, butter, vanilla and salt.
- In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream over low heat until you see the edges start to bubble. Remove from heat and pour over the bowl of chocolate mixture. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir until completely combined and smooth. Set aside to cool (or place in the fridge until you're ready to use it - you'll just need to give it a stir once you take it out before you can frost the cake).
Whipped cream filling:
- In the large bowl of a stand mixer, whip heavy cream until soft peaks form.
- Add powdered sugar (to taste) and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Assemble the cake roll:
- Once the cake is completely cooled, carefully unroll it. Using a spatula, add an even layer of the whipped cream filling to the top of the cake, leaving about ½" of space on the edges.
- Gently re-roll the cake and then move it, seam side down, to a serving platter.
- Use a spatula to coat the outside of the roll with the chocolate ganache frosting, on all sides.
- Time to make it look like a log! Here are a few suggestions:- Use a fork to drag lines down the ends and across the top, lengthwise.- Use a toothpick or skewer to draw lines lengthwise across the top, and in spirals on the ends.- Use a small spatula to give it some wavy texture.
- Let set, then garnish! My personal favorite is to top it with fresh cranberries and rosemary sprigs, then a coating of powdered sugar. Slice, serve and enjoy!