Bûche de Noël ~ Christmas Yule Log

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!

I created the yule log pictured here for the holiday issue of Better Homes and Gardens. You can find the recipe here and you’ll find a video of me creating one in here.

More Bûche de Noël recipes…

How to make Bûche de Noël - Christmas Yule Log | Photo by Zoë François

The video matches this recipe and not the one in the Better Homes and Gardens article. Assembling the Yule log is essentially the same no matter what cake or filling you use, so the video will be helpful no matter what. You choose the flavors and style of decoration. Have fun and Happy Holidays!

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 (make your own vanilla)

2 large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Prepare a Jelly Roll Baking Sheet with butter and a sheet of parchment

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 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. Immediately invert the cake and roll it into a log. See my video to watch me do this.

For Ganache:

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.

One batch Mocha Buttercream or White Chocolate Buttercream

To assemble the Bûche de Noël

(Here is the recipe for the praline buttercream you see in the photos) – the following directions match the yule log in my video.

Unroll the cake and 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 on the Bûche de Noël and swirl the two buttercream colors together.

Create peeling bark for your Bûche de Noël by shaving a chocolate bar with a sharp knife. Sprinkle it over the top of the log and then dust with powdered sugar snow.

Recipe for the meringue mushrooms decor can be found in the Better Homes and Gardens article, link here.


44 thoughts to “Bûche de Noël ~ Christmas Yule Log”

  1. Wow, it is perfect! Nice work. My brother and his wife had a buche de noel cake for their wedding. His name is Forest and her name is Ivy, they figured it was appropriate..ha! Anyways, the cake is stunning! Happy Holidays Zoe!

  2. I have always, always wanted to make one of these. Maybe next year. Your instructions are perfect & it turned out beautiful!

    You’re going to laugh… but we actually have a CD of that burning log that we play w/ the Christmas music 🙂

  3. Hi Lori,

    Truth be told I had it in the background as I put together the post. It really is soothing! I may just have to get myself that CD! 🙂

    Happy Holidays! Zoë

  4. This is fantastic! I swear, I was just looking through your first book yesterday trying to find a recipe for a yule log. I ended up picking out the chocolate brioche! Mmmmm! Chocolate in any bread… you can’t go wrong!!

  5. Beautiful Bûche de Noël. Your instructions and pictures are very clear, thank you. My sister has made this a few time for our Christmas Eve get together, I think it’s my turn to give it a try.

  6. Each time we look at a posted tutorial, it increases our self confidence so much making us want to get set in the kitchen and work out the same magic. Thanks Zoe.

    And Merry Christmas to you, in case we don’t get to see another posting b’fore Christmas!!

  7. I have been wanting to make one this year. I miss them! We used to make them every year because I was studying French and we would have a big party. This recipe looks great! Thank you!

  8. Looks amazing! I’ve learnt this year that buche de noel is definitely a must-have for French Christmas. Unfortunately, not having the amazing skills you possess, I think for my first “French Christmas” in the states, we’re going to stick with flan.

    One day though!

  9. I happened to come across this blogpost after flollowing a few links: and lo and behold, a post about the famous buche de Noel. And it just happens that I made my own, first buche last week! Very similar to yours — vanilla cake; apricot jam, chocolate ganache and Italian buttercream for the filling; more buttercream, cocoa powder and meringue mushrooms for the outside. The main difference between yours and mine is that I began rolling the cake from the short end, not the long side. This gave more “growth rings” visible at the end and a wider-diameter log, but only allows for one branch made from a cut-off end. Either way, like most things, making a buche turned out to be more intimidating in theory than in practice — it’s actually just a lot of simple steps, that all add up to a pretty stupendous looking (and tasting) dessert. Happy holidays, all!

  10. Another success for me, thanks to your website!!! I made this for Christmas and everyone raved about it. Many of my guests asked if there was some left so they could take a piece home with them. I had made a buche 2 years ago, but I liked the flavor of this one better and the ganache filling was superb. I have been eating as a nutritarian since late October, but allowed myself a piece of this cake for dessert. Let me just say, I do not regret my decision one bit, and my sisters are glad they get to eat the rest! I am baking up another cake and using the leftover buttercream to make for coffee at church tomorrow, my sister is actually considering going if it means getting more of this cake!

    Thanks so much for being my cyber cooking buddy!!!

  11. I’ve been an awful food-blog-reader but I wanted to stop by and wish you a happy holidays! Beautiful buche de noel, Zoe. Have a great new year.

  12. Love the mixing of the two colors of frosting! You make it all look so easy. I’ve made ONE and it’s been a few years. Happy New Year to you, Zoe and wishing you continued success on your amazing books!

  13. ZOE! My gosh! This looks absolutely beautiful!

    In all of my baking years would you believe I have never made a yule log. I think I know what I have to make next Christmas!

    Great Post as always! And lovely, lovely photos! 🙂

    Have a Happy New Year! 🙂

  14. Oh boy- I’m such a sucker for the taste of buttercream and the texture of shaved chocolate. This almost looks too pretty to eat- not that I wouldn’t, though!

    Absolutely wonderful to see you over the holidays:)

  15. I have two questions:

    1. Sift together 1 cup of the sugar, flour, baking powder, and baking soda onto a sheet of parchment; add the salt. — why do you do this on a sheet of parchment paper?

    2. Is there a reason why you oil the baking tray (as opposed to butter or pam)? I used butter to grease the tray and my oven turned out a little smoky — is this the reason why oil is better?

    P/S: Your mocha buttercream is outrageous indeed! Love it! 🙂

    1. Hi Sarah,

      I do it on parchment so I have plenty of room to sift and can pick it up easily. You can do the same in a bowl, but I find the parchment easier to deal with.

      I have used oil, butter and pam to grease the pan with good results. A sheet that was greased with butter and filled with cake batter will probably not smoke at 350 degrees. It may be something that had landed on the bottom of your oven and heated up along with your cake.

      Thanks! Zoë

  16. I tried this sponge recipe twice and it didn’t work either time! Very frustrating. Can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong…

    1. Hi Lily,

      Did you watch my video on instagram? If so, did your batter and cake resemble what you saw? If it didn’t look like mine, can you describe what was different?

      Thanks, Zoë

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