Every year for Christmas my Frenchie mother makes this yule log cake to bring some old-world tradition to the table. A Bûche de Noël is a roll cake shaped to look like a tree branch-supposedly to resemble a log to be used in the ancient fire festival of the winter solstice.
Even though I was little and could never figure out why, of all things, the cake had to look like tree bark, the presentation was always beautiful, and the taste even better 😉 The sponge is very light and airy, and the buttercream silky and not too sweet.
Many bûches typically have a yellow sponge with chocolate buttercream, but hey, if you’re going to go chocolate, why not go all the way? Therefore, in this bûche you have a chocolate sponge filled with chocolate, then covered in chocolate. I’m sure any young sapling would be quite proud of this representation.
What’s also nice about this recipe is that once you have the base, you can pretty much use any decorations you think would befit a tree.
- 15 1/2 x 10 1/2, 1-inch jelly roll pan
- Electric beaters
- Stand mixer (optional)
- Clean, large kitchen towel
For the cake:
- 6 egg whites, rm. temp. (leave whites in a bowl for 1 hour)
- 6 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Dash salt
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
For the filling:
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 2 tsp. instant coffee
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the buttercream:
- 3 oz. chocolate (1 semisweet and 2 bittersweet)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 sticks (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, rm. temp.
- Green gel paste food coloring
Filling: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until thick and then refrigerate until ready to use.
Cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease the bottom of your roll pan, line with wax paper and then lightly grease again.
In a large bowl, at high speed, beat egg whites just until soft peaks form when the beater is slowly raised. Add 1/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbl. at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Put aside.
Beat yolks at high speed, adding remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbl. at a time. Beat until mixture is very thick, about 4 min. At low speed, beat in cocoa, vanilla, and salt, just until smooth. With a whisk, gently fold the cocoa mix into the egg whites, just until blended (no white should show).
Spread evenly in the pan and bake 15 min., just until the surface springs back when gently pressed with fingers. Sift confectioner’s sugar in a 15 x 10 rectangle on a clean linen kitchen towel. Turn the cake on the sugar; lift off the pan and peel back the paper off the cake. *Note: Pull the paper back slowly, instead of up, so as not to break the cake. If some of the sides stick to the paper, it’s okay, since it will be covered by buttercream. Roll up the cake, jelly roll style, starting with the short end, towel and all.
Cool completely on a rack, seam side-down, at least 1/2 an hour (Do not wait more than 2 hours or it becomes difficult to unroll without breaking). Unroll the cake and spread with filling, leaving an inch around the edges. Re-roll, placing seam side-down on a plate or serving platter. Refrigerate, covering loosely with foil until ready to frost.
Buttercream: Melt the chocolate in a small bowl (I do it in a microwave, carefully, to make sure it doesn’t burn, but you can also use a double boiler). In a small saucepan, mix the sugar and water.
Bring sugar and water to a boil and boil 2 min. over medium heat. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Pour the boiling sugar mix/syrup on top of the yolks, mixing at medium speed. Put on high speed and keep beating for 5 min. until the mix is thick and pale yellow. Add the butter, bit-by-bit, mixing at medium to low speed until the cream is smooth.
Take 1-2 Tbl. of the buttercream, put in small dish and mix in green food coloring. Set aside.
Take 2 Tbl. buttercream and set aside.
To the buttercream still in the mixer, add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth. Set aside.
Take the bûche, trim one end off the cake at an angle, and with that trimming, form a little stump on top of the log. With a spatula, spread the chocolate buttercream all over the log, sides of stump included. Spread the reserved white buttercream over the cut end of the log and on top of the stump. Using the tines of a fork, gently scrape indentations along the buttercream coating the log to simulate bark.
You can use the bit of chocolate buttercream left over to decorate the stump and the cut end of the cake to imitate veins in the wood by using a piping bag. Place the reserved green buttercream in another piping bag and make a long strip to simulate an ivy vine with small leaves.
Decorate with meringue mushrooms, little plastic decorations, sugar lights, chocolate shards, etc. The recipe for the meringue mushrooms you see in the photos can be found here. *Note: Sometimes Martha gets too stuffy-you don’t have to use melted chocolate to secure your mushrooms, chocolate icing from a jar will also do the trick.
Cake will keep in the fridge about one week, covered. Be sure to refrigerate your cake if you’re not eating it immediately!