This is a classic French dessert that is served at Christmas time. Bûche de Noël translates as the “Christmas Log” and is meant to look like the piece of wood you are about to toss into the fireplace. It is a rather odd tradition and yet I find myself making one every year. It always reminds me of the TV station that plays Christmas music and shows nothing but a burning log in a fireplace. I thought those were just memories of my long ago childhood, but I was amazed to see that the burning log still finds its place on YouTube even today.
Despite my unglamorous association there is something quite elegant and beautiful about the Bûche de Noël. According to Larousse Gastronomique the yule log cake tradition started in the 1870s when Parisian pastry chefs decided to replace the less elaborate brioche style fruit loaf with this more festive confection. Although I am quite partial to the Panettone style breads, I can see why pastry chefs created something a little more fussy to work on, that is just how we are!
If you came to this post through Instagram, you will see that this cake is slightly different than the one in my video, but the process is the same.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can use any flavor combination that you choose. I’ve even done them with ice cream in the center or mousse. For this one I used a classic vanilla chiffon roll, ganache and buttercream.
Vanilla Chiffon Roll from Mary Bergin in Baking with Julia:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup vegetable or safflower oil
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
Prepare a 17 1/2- by 12 1/2-inch jelly-roll pan with oil and a sheet of parchment
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Sift together 1 cup of the sugar, flour, baking powder, and baking soda onto a sheet of parchment; add the salt.
In a large bowl, whisk the yolks, oil, water and vanilla until blended. Add the dry ingredients gradually to the yolk mixture, whisking all the while; set aside.
Beat the 6 egg white in a stand mixer on low speed until foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the remaining sugar, beating until the teh whites are thick and shiny and hold medium peaks.
Fold 1/3 of the whites into the yolk/flour mixture to lighten it, then turn the yolk mixture into the whites and gently fold together until thoroughly incorporated.
Pour the batter onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula. Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 10-12 minutes, until the edges just start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow to rest on cooling rack until room temperature.
6 1/2 ounces really high quality bittersweet chocolate
2 ounces milk chocolate
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cup heavy cream
Place the chopped chocolate in large bowl. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise down the middle and scrape out the seeds. Put the heavy cream in a sauce pot on medium heat. Place the vanilla bean and seeds in the cream, bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate to the cream, remove the vanilla bean. Make sure all the chocolate is submerged in the hot cream. Let sit for about 3 minutes then stir gently until perfectly smooth. Pour into a glass baking dish and allow to set up at room temperature, about an hour.
To assemble the cake:
invert the cake onto a sheet of parchment.
Spread all but a 1/4 cup of the cooled ganache over the complete surface of the cake with an offset spatula.
Using the parchment to help you roll the cake over the ganache into a tight log starting at the long end.
Wrap the log of cake and refrigerate for at least an hour to set the ganache, which will make the cake easier to work with.
Once the cake is chilled cut it at an angle in half. Cut one of the halves again making one of the pieces 1/4 and the other 3/4. Place the 3/4 piece against the half log and the 1/4 piece will sit on top of the half log.
Spread the buttercream over the surface of the cake. You want to create the appearance of bark so don’t worry about it being too smooth, you probably will not use all of the buttercream. I even swirl the ends to resemble the cut end of the log. Save at least a small portion of the buttercream to mix with the reserved ganache.
Blend the reserved ganache with the buttercream to create a contrasting color. Use your spatula to spread this onto the log in patches. You want to be able to see the lighter buttercream underneath.
Use a fork to create the bark texture and swirl the two buttercream colors together.
Create peeling bark by shaving a chocolate bar with a sharp knife. Sprinkle it over the top of the log and then dust with powdered sugar snow.