I first learned about a Yule Log cake, or a Buche De Noel in French, when I was in high school and taking French class. We used to eat one for our French class Christmas party each year. I took French one, two, and three so that’s three years of Buche De Noel. Since then, I’ve always wanted to make one myself.
The history of the yule log cake goes back to before the medieval era. According to History.com: Back then, Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans would gather to welcome the winter solstice at December’s end. People would feast to celebrate the days finally becoming longer, signaling the end of the winter season. To cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and to usher in the spring, families would burn logs decorated with holly, pinecones or ivy. Wine and salt were also often used to anoint the logs. Once burned, the log’s ashes were valuable treasures said to have medicinal benefits and to guard against evil. Some groups claimed the ashes would protect the bearer from lightning—an important quality at a time when houses (and most of the contents in them) were made of wood.
As time went on, the tradition became to make a cake that looked like a log and eat that instead. Based on ingredients used, most believe the first yule cake could have been made as early as the 1600’s. Parisian bakers popularized the cake in the 19th century, and different bakeries became known for their more elaborate decorations.
In short: I finally made one this year! It was delicious and not near as hard as I thought it would be. I went ahead and took step by step pictures in case any of you might be interested. Now, bear in mind, it’s not perfectly perfect looking, but it was super yummy and I think my next one will be even prettier.
Alright, now that you’ve seen how yummy it looks, here’s what you need to make one yourself.
For the Cake
- 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- small pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup strong brewed coffee
- 8 ounces dark chocolate (60%)
For the filling
- 1 cup whipping cream, cold
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
For the bark
- 6 ounces dark chocolate (60%)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line a 15 inch baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper leaving excess paper over the edges to lift the cake out of the pan.
- Separate egg yolks and whites into separate bowls.
- Beat egg whites with an electric mixer, set on high speed, in a large bowl until stiff peaks form.
- Add 1/2 cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and vanilla with an electric mixer set on medium speed for 3 minutes; gradually add the remaining sugar. Beat for 2 minutes or until thickened and lemon colored.
- Stir flour with cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently fold the flour mix into the egg yolk mixture alternately with coffee just until mixture is smooth.
- Gently fold chocolate mixture into egg whites; spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until the top springs back when touched lightly in the center.
- Using the edges of the paper, gently lift the cake from the pan and place on a board or cooling rack.
- Lay a clean linen towel over the cake and then a board or cooling rack on top. Flip the entire thing over so that the cake is now laying on the towel. Dust with powdered sugar so the cake doesn’t stick to itself.
- Immediately roll cake in towel starting at the narrow end.
- Place on a wire rack seam side down to cool completely.
- While the cake is cooling, melt the 6 ounces of dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 20 second increments, stirring until melted.
- Lay out a piece of parchment paper flat and place weights on each corner to hold it down. (Maybe you have super classy weights like me.)
- Spread the melted chocolate out across the parchment paper.
- Now roll up the parchment paper tightly and place in the fridge to harden.
- Now take a little break. Get some ice water or a fancy holiday drink and sit down to watch some Christmas-y stuff. Might I suggest something from the Master List ?
- Once the cake is cooled completely and the chocolate is hardened in the fridge, it’s time to make the filling.
- Using an electric beater, whip the whipped cream and vanilla until it starts to thicken. Add the powdered sugar in small amounts until the cream is thick.
- Carefully unroll the cooled cake and cut off a 1-inch strip off the long end of the cake for the branch.
- Spread the whipped cream evenly onto the large and small piece of cake.
- Roll both cakes seam side down. Cut the ‘branch’ piece at an angle so it sits flush against the cake. Place both cakes on the surface where they will stay as it will become difficult to move them now.
- Remove the chocolate covered parchment paper from the fridge and unroll it, breaking apart the chocolate into pieces. Place them into a bowl and place it back into the fridge.
- Once the cakes are placed, melt the 8 ounces of chocolate in the same way as before.
- Working in small areas, spread melted chocolate, then place pieces of bark onto the chocolate. Continue working until the entire log is covered with ‘bark’.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar to resemble snow.
Voila! You’re done. It is rich and creamy and goes really well with a cup of coffee. I enjoyed making this and I can’t wait to make it again next year!
P.S. I stole this recipe from the blog “Culinary Ginger”.
If you make it, please share your experience and pictures with me! I hope you all had a very merry Christmas!