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How to make a Buche de Noel

It’s easier than you might think to make this impressive, traditional Christmas Yule log.

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Buche de Noel, Yule log

Buche de Noel

If you’ve ever contemplated making the traditional dessert, Buche de Noel (Yule Log), but have been intimidated by its sophisticated name and seemingly involved process, then I have good news: if you’ve made a cake with frosting, or even a jelly roll, then you already have all the skills required to make this.

To prove this, I made one this past weekend, and it was a huge success! Along the way I noted some useful tips to simplify the Buche (in other words I made all the mistakes for you) so yours can be perfect. I pulled elements from classic Chatelaine recipes for mousses and ganaches to create one great Buche de Noel. I’m not going to lie, there were a few bumps along the way – and there are several steps involved – but I hope to have ironed out all the bumps, and individually the steps involved are not difficult. Even better, most of the Buche can be done days – if not a week ahead. So, if you are interested in giving this a try, I highly recommend it. It truly is an impressive dessert – and a once-a-year treat that will get lots of oohs and ahhs.

Some things to note before you get started:

Pre-plan. Seeing as there are several components – such as significant baking and cooling times – make a plan so you don’t get stuck waiting an hour or two for your mousse to set.

Choose a “bendy” cake – Sponge cakes and genoise are best for Buche de Noels. The fine texture of butter cakes are slightly too brittle and will crack and break when you try to roll them. Make your cake from scratch. Store-bought cake mixes are difficult to get thin enough and tend to crack when rolled.

Make the meringue mushrooms. Don’t let anyone tell you they’re cheesy – you’ll be glad you didn’t skip them!

Choose a cake flavour, a mousse filling and a separate frosting. I recommend a golden cake, a dark mousse filling and a chocolate frosting (ganache). The golden cake layer makes the roll appear most impressive when sliced.

Step 1: Make the meringue mushrooms

Do these a few days in advance to get them out of the way. They are easy, but take some time to bake, so it’s a good idea to do them when you don’t need the oven for something else. Follow our recipe for peppermint meringue kisses with the following changes:

  • Omit the ¼ tsp peppermint extract, you also won’t need the skewers and the food colouring. After beating in all the sugar, and stiff peaks have formed, beat in 1 tbsp cocoa powder, to give the mushrooms a slightly off-white colour. Pipe onto prepared sheets in varying sizes of small circles – think mushroom caps (see image below…they don’t need to be perfect!). For each circle, also pipe directly upward forming a stem. Bake as per recipe instructions.
  • To assemble mushrooms, brush a small dab of melted chocolate onto the centre of the underside of a mushroom cap and attach base. Voila.

Step 2: Make your frosting

You can make this up to one week in advance (yay!). Make a triple batch of Chatelaine’s super easy dark chocolate ganache. Cool to room temperature and then keep refrigerated until you need it.

 Step 3: Make your filling

Make a batch of the mousse portion only from our chocolate hazelnut mousse cake recipe.

225g bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup coffee
4  eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 tbsp brandy
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Place chocolate and coffee in a large bowl. Microwave on medium until chocolate is melted, 1 to 2 min, stirring halfway through. Let cool. Using a wooden spoon, beat egg yolks into cooled chocolate mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in brandy. Using an electric mixer, beat whites just until soft peaks begin to form when beaters are lifted, 2 to 3 min. Gradually beat in sugar until stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted, 1 min. Stir 1/4 egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Then, gently fold in remaining mixture until no white streaks remain. Cover and refrigerate until mousse is firm, 1 to 2 hours.

Step 4: Bake your cake

Bake your cake the day you want to assemble the Buche. I found a fresh cake worked the best. The key  is to have a very thin, moist, and pliable sheet of cake to roll. Don’t over bake – the drier it is, the more likely it is to crack when rolled. A classic sponge cake is all you need for a Buche de Noel, as there are so many other components of flavour. A Genoise is also a perfect fit – if you are feeling especially skillful in the kitchen. Use any sponge or genoise recipe you have that is suited to a 12×15 in sheet pan.

Here is a basic cake recipe, if needed

2 eggs at room temperature
2 eggs separated, at room temperature
½ cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup all-purpose flour, sifted

POSITION rack in lower third of oven. Preheat to 425F. Lightly grease a 12×15 inch baking sheet and then top with a layer of parchment (the oil keeps the parchment in place). Set aside.

PLACE 2 eggs and 2 yolks in the bowl of a stand-up mixer, or a large mixing bowl. Mix on low until eggs and yolks are combined. Increase speed to medium-high and add ½ cup of sugar, one tbsp at a time, mixing continuously until the sugar has been incorporated, and the eggs are pale and thickened, but still thin enough to run off the beaters when lifted, 3 to 4 min. Beat in vanilla. Set aside.

BEAT egg whites in a separate large bowl on medium speed until frothy. Increase speed to medium high and add remaining 2 tbsp sugar in small additions, beating continuously until whites form firm, glossy peaks, about 2 min.

STIR 1/2 cup of egg whites into yolk mixture. Working quickly, sprinkle mixture with half the four and fold in. Fold in half of the remaining whites, then remaining flour. Fold in the rest of the whites.

POUR the batter onto prepared sheet and carefully spread the cake into the corners. The less you touch the cake the better, as this will deflate it.

BAKE until the cake is just golden and the centre springs back when touched, about 6 to 8 min. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. Using a sharp knife release any areas where the cake is stuck to the side of the pan. Let rest in the pan for about 5 minutes to settle, then invert onto a second baking sheet lined with kitchen towel and peel away parchment. Let cool fully.

Step 5: Assemble

LAY your fully-cooled sheet cake (still on kitchen towel), on a large counter. Spread the layer of chilled mousse evenly over the cake, leaving a 1 inch border around the edges. Grasp the edges of the kitchen towel and use it to help you gently roll up the cake. You want to roll starting from the two wide corners. Once rolled, transfer to a platter or pan that can fit in your fridge. Let chill for 2 hours.

REMOVE your ganache from the fridge 20 minutes before you plan to use it. Once slightly softened, transfer to a large mixing bowl and mix on medium speed until the ganache has lightened in colour and is spreadable, about 1 or 2 min. *For a fun twist, beat in 1/2 cup of chocolate-hazelnut spread…yum.

REMOVE chilled Buche from fridge. Decide on the shape you want. If you want one single log, then frost with ganache as is. If you want the look of stacked logs (see my picture below), then cut into a few portions on the diagonal. Choose the platter you wish to serve the Buche on. Frost the centre portion first (ends as well) and lift with a spatula onto your platter – making any corrections needed after transferring it! Repeat with remaining portions. When frosting, you want to create the look of wood grain, so don’t try and make it too pretty, leave some texture. If you wish, you can also drag a fork over the iced cake to create lines and texture.

TUCK mushrooms into corners of the Buche. Sprinkle with cocoa powder, if desired. Chocolate shavings add a nice touch as well. Chill until ready to serve. Enjoy!