Food Friday--Buche de Noel

Back in my senior year of French class in high school, I learned how to make a Buche de Noel. For a few years after that, I made the cake for my family at Christmas. Then I did things like get married and have kids and forgot about the recipe still somewhere in Mom's files, and eventually it got lost. But I have reunited with the Buche de Noel finally, and am glad I did.

To the uninitiated: The Yule log is a particularly large log burned in the fireplace as part of the Christmas celebrations in several countries. There is disagreement about its origins, but this isn't "Large Log Friday," so I won't go into that here. Suffice it to say that the Buche de Noel, or Yule Log cake, is meant to represent the wooden log in a much tastier fashion. If you've never had one, think, "big Ho-Ho." It's a thin, flourless chocolate cake rolled up with a cream center. Traditionally, I think, it's chocolate cake with either chocolate or white cream, but in reality the cake and the cream can be any flavor you want.

This past weekend I hosted my side of the family for a belated Christmas celebration, and I decided to return to my high school roots and do a Buche de Noel for dessert. I stuck with chocolate. I made my first attempt on Saturday night at about 7:30 p.m. I have learned that I should not try to bake after sundown on a long day. I made the same mistake twice...did with the egg yolks what I was supposed to be doing with the egg whites and vice versa. Can't come back from that error, really. Next morning, I hied myself to local grocery store to pick up another dozen eggs...this time all went swimmingly.

Forgot to take a picture of the finished product, as things were a bit chaotic when I added the finishing touches to take it to the table after dinner (house-full n' all); but here's the cream that went into the middle!

I sprinkled confectioner's sugar and some mini-M&Ms over the top before serving; next time, I think I'd put the mini-M&Ms on the inside with the cream and do shaved chocolate or some other decoration on top. Lots of folks go all out and frost it to look like bark, add other branches, meringue mushrooms and the like.

The recipe below is inspired by one I found on I made some adjustments to the way it was written (to hopefully help others avoid making the same errors I did) and included a couple of extra things. Also, I've made notes at the bottom with additional suggestions.

Buche de Noel

Cream filling:
2 c heavy cream
1/2 c confectioner's sugar
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whip cream, and slowly add confectioner's sugar, cocoa, and vanilla until thick and stiff. Refrigerate.

6 eggs, divided into yolks and whites
3/4 c sugar, divided
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/8 t salt
(confectioner's sugar for rolling and dusting, see below)

1. Preheat oven to 375, and line a 10x15" jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Spray the paper with nonstick spray, and set aside.

2. In large bowl using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks with 1/2 c sugar until thick and pale. Slowly blend in cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 c sugar and continue beating until whites form stiff peaks.

4. Immediately fold yolk mixture into the whites--do not stir; simply fold gently until two mixtures are combined.

5. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, being sure it reaches the corners and is as evenly spread as possible.

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Meanwhile, lay a clean, lint-free dishtowel on a flat surface and dust the towel well with confectioner's sugar. (A thorough dusting is important to keep the cake from sticking to the towel.)

7. When cake is done, remove it from the oven, and immediately run a knife around the edge of the pan to help loosen the cake. Turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Carefully remove parchment paper, being sure not to remove a layer of cake with it. Discard paper. Starting at a short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. (The cake should be touching towel, not cake.) Cool for 30 minutes.

8. Carefully unroll the cake, and spread the filling to within about an inch of the cake edges. You may have more filling than can be expected to fit on the cake--that's fine. You can use it as topping later. (See notes.)

9. Roll the cake up with filling inside, and place seam-side-down onto serving plate. Refrigerate until serving. Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.


  • I used a 10x15 jelly roll pan and thought I probably could've gotten away with a slightly larger one. My cake baked a little thicker and took a little longer to finish baking than the recipe said.
  • Be careful not to overbake the cake--the drier it is, the more likely it is to crack while you're rolling it. Also, don't cool it longer than the 30 minutes. It also helps prevent cracking if it's still a little warm while rolling.
  • The original recipe did not say to spray the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray--I found that later on message boards. I do wish I'd known to do that--I lost a little of the back of my cake on the parchment paper.
  • I had far more cream than would've fit in the cake--it'd have just splurted out the side as I rolled it. I thought about using it to frost the finished cake but was worried it might be too rich. So, I put the remainder in a pretty serving dish alongside regular "non-dairy whipped topping" and gave people the choice of which they wanted to put on their slice of the buche de noel, if any. Most went for the chocolate cream. I probably could've gotten away with using it as frosting after all.
  • Lots of people frost the cake with a buttercream frosting. I prefer it without, but you may want to experiment with that as well.
Have you ever made a buche de noel in a different flavor? Give us some ideas!