McKenzie’s Yule Log
Challenging to make, rewarding to eat
December 12, 2022
Buche de Noel or a Yule log, is a traditional French dessert that my grandma ordered from a bakery in Austin for years, although I thought she was making them by hand until I was 10-years-old.
When I moved to Dallas three years ago, I was left without any bakery that made a yule log, so I decided to try and make one for Christmas on my own. My first year attempting to make this dessert was rough, but I managed to get the notorious interior swirl that any good yule log should have. The primary disaster lay in the frosting, which curdled after I put it in the fridge despite instructions telling me not to. This led to a very rustic-looking final product that I was able to correct on following attempts.
Yule logs are a challenging dessert that can really only be achieved if you are committed to spending six hours in the kitchen, but they sure do impress people when you show up for Christmas dinner with a beautiful rolled-up cake.
As long as you have a little patience and gentle hands, you will be able to create this delicious, rich, and chocolatey dessert.
The cakes are extremely fragile, making them difficult to handle. To ensure that the texture is light and thin, make sure to fold the egg whites into the flour and egg yolks very gently. Additionally, the cake cannot be overbaked, so be sure to keep the baking time under 12 minutes or else you will risk a cracked yule log.
Although they can be difficult to perfect, yule logs are an adaptable dessert. You can take the cacao powder out of the cake to make a vanilla cake, or you can use white chocolate in the recipe to make a white chocolate frosting.
In terms of festive decorations, the traditional approach is to make meringue mushrooms and stick them all on the cake, but I don’t care for meringue, so I leave them out. Instead, my mother added a little plastic reindeer and a Santa Claus sleigh as a festive replacement.
Overall, there are a vast amount of ways to customize your yule log and make it more suited to your family, but no matter how you change its exterior, the cake will still taste great.
This year will be my third time making a yule log for Christmas Eve, although it can be made to celebrate any holiday or special event.
My recipe is no carbon copy of the professionally-made yule log my grandma ordered in Austin. However, it still sparks the warm memories of spending time with family and the anticipation of unwrapping presents.
- 4 tablespoons salted butter melted
- ¾ cup melted flour
- 6 eggs separated
- ¼ cream of tartar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup strong coffee cooled
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 and line a 12 by 17 inched pan with parchment, butter, and flour. The pan should have an excess amount of parchment paper hanging over the edge to make it easier to pull out the cake once baked.
- In a large bowl beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt till the mixture is frothy. Add ¼ of the sugar then beat till stiff glossy peaks form.
- Sift flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a bowl. In another large bowl mix the remaining ½ sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Beat until thick and add cooled coffee and melted butter then mix till combined.
- Add the previously made flour mixture to the yolk mixture and lightly beat the mixture until well combined. Gently fold in the egg whites until no streaks remain.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly to every corner. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cake springs back when lightly touched. The cake may be a little tacky when done but be careful not to overbake because it will cause cracks in the cake when rolled.
- Immediately after the cake is taken out of the oven release the edges of the cake from the pan by running a knife around the edge. Dust the top of the hot cake liberally with powdered sugar and cover the top with a clean kitchen towel. Finally, add a large wire wrack over the towel covering the entire cake. Holding all elements together flip the cake so it comes out of the pan and onto the rack and towel. Gently remove the parchment from the bottom of the cake and dust powdered sugar as you did to the top.
- Beginning with the long side in hand roll the cake with a towel. Use the towel to tightly roll the cake; the towel will be inside the cake. Add cake to fridge seem side down then let cool for an hour.
- To start the filling, get a large bowl and beat the cream cheese on low speed until just smooth. Mix in the powdered sugar and mix till smooth. Little by little add in the whipping cream a ¼ cup at a time till out of cream. Make sure the mixture is smooth before adding another ¼ cup. After all whipping cream is added, enhance the speed to high and beat till stiff peaks form. Add in vanilla extract and beat for a few seconds.
- After the cake is cooled carefully unroll the cake and remove the towel. Take the filling and spread it onto the cake leaving a gap between the edge of the cake and the cream about a ½ inch. Roll up the cake again with parchment on the outside and an extra tight layer of plastic wrap. Stick the cake back in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
- While the cake is in the fridge make the frosting. Take a small pan and bring heavy cream and corn syrup to a simmer. Take the heavy cream and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let the mixture sit for five minutes with plastic wrap over the bowl. Mix until the chocolate is melted from the heat of the heavy cream. Let sit at room temperature for two hours, the mixture will thicken.
- Carefully unwrap the cake onto a cutting board. Make a diagonal cut on one-fourth of the cake to make a branch. Place the branch on the side of the cake then put it on a platter and trim the exposed ends of the cake to reveal the swirl. Spread the cake with frosting over all sides of the cake except the swirls. Take a fork and drag it through the frosting to create a bark effect.