Yule Log Recipe
This chocolate yule log recipe will make your whole holiday! Chocolate cake spiraled around a fluffy chocolate filling & frosted with whipped ganache.
I promised you a showstopping dessert before the holidays, and boy, here it is!
Yule log, aka: Buche de Noel.
Have you ever made this before? I have wanted to do one of these forever. I remember looking at pictures when I was a little girl, and it was like I had been cast under a spell!
Not only is it chocolate on chocolate on chocolate (YUM!) but the look of it is just so enchanting. Don’t you think?
This yule log cake is a fun baking project that will knock everyone’s socks off! It’s gorgeous to look at, so luscious, and truly unforgettable!
WHAT IS A YULE LOG?
Burning the yule (aka: Christmas) log is a tradition that goes all the way back to pagan medieval times. There are all kinds of superstitions and ceremony around this custom; you can read more about that here: Yule Log Traditions.
I suppose over time some clever person was inspired to create a cake that looked like an actual yule log. It’s typically a soft, spongy cake rolled around a filling and decorated to look like a snow-blanketed log that might be found on the forest floor. When you look at the ends of the cake, you see a spiral pattern that resembles the rings of the tree, and there are pretty garnishes such as meringue mushrooms that make it look even more realistic.
This yule log recipe is made in that same tradition. The cake is airy and moist, with a mild chocolate flavor and a soft, springy texture. The filling is fluffy as can be, with a satin-y smooth mouthfeel you just can’t get enough of. And the whole thing is topped with a rich whipped chocolate ganache that really punches up the flavor. If you like chocolate desserts, you will love this cake!
It’s a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas. If you’re hosting a holiday party, this yule log will the highlight of your dessert table! It’s so impressive, both in the way it looks and tastes. Your guests will be amazed!
HOW TO MAKE A YULE LOG CAKE
To make it a little more manageable, I’m breaking this recipe down into 4 main components:
Let’s start with the cake, since that will need time to bake and cool.
MAKING THE CHOCOLATE SPONGE CAKE
For a cake roll like this one, you need a recipe that bakes up very springy and flexible. A chocolate sponge cake is perfect!
Start by whipping eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt together until tripled in volume and super-airy. Give it at least a full 5 minutes on high speed to get lots of air into it.
As you can see here, the color should be very pale and almost white, and it is very foamy, with lots of air bubbles coming to the surface.
Next, fold in the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, and baking powder. I prefer to use natural cocoa because to me it tastes more chocolate-y, but you could substitute the same amount of dark (aka: Dutch process) cocoa powder if that’s your preference.
Next, whisk sour cream, melted butter, and milk together, and fold that mixture into the batter as well.
Be sure to fold gently, so you don’t knock out all that air you worked so hard to incorporate!
Please take note of the size of the pan! It is 10-inches by 15-inches. This is important. The first few times I tried to make this, I used a baker’s half sheet because that’s always my go-to. But it does not work! The cake bakes up too thin and it will crack when you try to roll it.
I like to leave a little “tab” of parchment paper overhanging on the one side. This is easy to grab onto when you go to roll the cake!
HOW TO ROLL THE YULE LOG CAKE
Bake the chocolate sponge cake until it’s set in the center and springy to the touch. But be careful not to overbake it, or again, cracking.
When it comes out of the oven, immediately dust it (generously) with powdered sugar. This will keep it from sticking to the towel as it’s rolled.
Next just lay a clean kitchen towel on top, grab that little tab of parchment, and start rolling. You are going to start at one of the shorter sides of the rectangle, and work your way across the length of the cake.
Lay the cake with the seam side down and allow it to cool completely, while you get going on the filling and frosting.
This filling is based on my whipped cream frosting, which is one of the most popular recipes on this site. I love it because it’s so light and not overly sweet, and it holds its shape well enough to be made ahead.
There is a whole step-by-step picture tutorial for making this; it can be found here: Whipped Cream Frosting.
The only difference here is we’re adding a little cocoa powder to make it chocolate-y.
Once the chocolate sponge is completely cool, unroll it carefully and spread on an even layer of the chocolate whipped cream.
Then just roll it back into shape.
At this point, it’s a good idea to cover the cake roll lightly with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge so it stays firm and holds its pretty shape.
The frosting is one of my favorites: whipped ganache. It’s so simple to make with just 2 ingredients, and the chocolate flavor is off the charts. Again, a full step-by-step tutorial with pics can be found here: Whipped Chocolate Ganache.
Carefully trim off the ends of the cake roll with a serrated knife, then cut off a small piece on a 45-degree angle, butting it right up to the side of the main part of the log. This will give your yule log cake a really realistic look!
Then just cover the whole thing with the whipped ganache. A small offset spatula is a perfect tool for this job!
Don’t worry if the frosting doesn’t look perfectly smooth. A rougher application is actually better in this case!
Garnishes are totally optional, but I really love the added charm they give to this cake!
A dusting of powdered sugar all over the top of the cake looks just like freshly fallen snow on craggy bark, and few sprigs of fresh rosemary and a handful of sugared cranberries give a festive red & green adornment.
Sugared cranberries are so pretty and they’re as easy as tossing fresh cranberries in simple syrup, then drying them on a wire rack until they become sticky, and rolling them in granulated sugar for a frosty look. You can learn more about how to make them here: Cranberry White Chocolate Cupcakes.
They taste really good too! Sort of like an all-natural sour patch kid.
But to me, it’s all about the meringue mushrooms.
Again, completely optional, but I just think they are the cutest. And they totally take this yule log recipe to the next level! Definitely worth the extra effort, in my opinion.
I’ve got tons of info on how to bake meringues here: Meringue Cookies. These adorable meringue mushrooms are just a scaled-down version of that recipe.
Once the meringue is whipped nice and stiff, transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a jumbo round tip.
Pipe half of the meringue into small, low dome-shapes, and the other half into tall stems/
Bake them off until crisp, and once they’re cool, trim off the points of the stems with a paring knife so they’re flat on top.
Then, dip the undersides of the mushroom caps in a little melted chocolate.
And adhere the stems to the caps while the chocolate is still wet.
Once the chocolate has set, the meringue mushrooms can be gently pressed into the frosting and dusted with a little cocoa powder for garnish.
CAN YOU MAKE BUCHE DE NOEL IN ADVANCE?
As you can see, there are several components to this recipe, and most of them can be made ahead.
- The cake can be baked a day or two in advance, rolled, and wrapped with plastic wrap until you’re ready for the assembly.
- The filling can be made the day before, spread on the cake, and rolled, and then the cake roll can be wrapped and refrigerated (or even frozen) for another 24 hours or so.
- The meringue mushrooms can be made a few days ahead of time. Just keep them in a dry place at room temperature.
- The whipped ganache can be made the night before. If it becomes too stiff to spread, just give it 10 seconds in the microwave and then re-whip till smooth and fluffy.
CAN YULE LOG BE FROZEN?
As noted above, you can freeze this buche de noel cake before frosting and garnishing it. This really helps to keep it from flattening out and losing its pretty round shape.
It also makes it easier to frost, so you won’t get a lot of crumbs in your frosting.
Just be sure to wrap it up really well so it doesn’t dry out or pick up any off freezer odors.
I’m thinking you could probably freeze it after it’s frosted and garnished as well. However, the meringue mushrooms would most likely need to be added after thawing, otherwise they could become sticky.
HOW LONG WILL A YULE LOG CAKE LAST?
This cake will be fine left out at room temperature for a few hours. But any longer than that, and it should probably go into the fridge.
Cover the cut ends with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out.
The meringue mushrooms will become sticky in the refrigerator, so if you’re making this ahead, it’s best to keep them at room temp until just before serving.
In the fridge, this cake should last around 5 days, and in the freezer it will probably keep for a few weeks at least.
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For the Chocolate Sponge Cake
- 4 eggs, (large)
- 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2/3 cup (83.33 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (43 g) unsweetened cocoa powder, (I prefer natural, not Dutched)
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup (76.67 g) sour cream
- 1/4 cup (56.75 g) unsalted butter, (1/2 stick), melted
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, (approx.)
For the Chocolate Whipped Cream Filling
For the Whipped Chocolate Ganache Frosting
- 6 ounces (170.1 g) semisweet chocolate,, broken into small pieces
- 1/2 cup (118.29 ml) heavy cream
For the Meringue Mushrooms (Optional)
To Make the Chocolate Sponge Cake
- Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl on whip on high speed for a full 5 minutes. (The mixture should be very pale and fluffy, and tripled in volume.)
- Fold in the flour, cocoa, and baking powder.
- Whisk the sour cream, melted butter, and milk together, then fold the mixture into the batter.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing it out to the corners in an even layer.
- Bake for 22 to 28 minutes, or until the cake is fully set and springy in the center but not dried out.
- While the cake is still hot, dust it generously with powdered sugar and lay a clean kitchen towel on top.
- Starting at one of the short sides of the cake, carefully roll it into a tight log and allow it to cool completely before filling, frosting, and garnishing.
To Make the Chocolate Whipped Cream Filling
- Place the powdered sugar, cocoa, cream cheese, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl, and whip together until smooth.
- Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and slowly drizzle the cream in while continuing to whip on medium speed. (Stop frequently to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, to avoid lumps.)
- When all the cream has been added, turn the mixer up to high speed and whip until the filling holds stiff peaks.
- When the cake has completely cooled, gently unroll it and spread the filling on in an even layer.
- Carefully roll the cake back up into a log, frost with whipped ganache, and garnish.
To Make the Whipped Chocolate Ganache Frosting
- Warm the cream in the microwave (or in a small pot on the stove) until just beginning to simmer, then pour it over the chocolate and allow it to stand for 5 minutes.
- Whisk the ganache together until smooth, then allow it to cool until firm but still soft.
- Whip the ganache on high speed until fluffy (about 3 to 4 minutes).
- Use a small spatula to frost the yule log cake with the whipped ganache, dust with powdered sugar, and garnish.
To Make the Meringue Mushrooms (Optional)
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Place the egg whites in a large, clean mixing bowl, and add the cream of tartar and salt.
- Whip the whites on medium speed until foamy and just beginning to turn white.
- While continuing to whip, add in the sugar very slowly (about 1/4 teaspoon at a time).
- When all the sugar has been added, turn the mixer up to high speed and whip until the meringue is glossy and very stiff.
- Bake the meringues for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until light and crisp.
- When the meringues have fully cooled, trim the points away from the tops of the stems with a sharp paring knife.
- Dip the bottoms of the caps in melted chocolate and adhere them to the tops of the stems, then dust the tops of the mushrooms with cocoa powder for garnish.
To Garnish the Yule Log Cake
- Dust the cake roll with powdered sugar, then garnish with meringue mushrooms, fresh greens, and sugared cranberries.