Yule log Bûche de Noël

The Yule log is generally associated with Christmas Eve, the last day of preparations for Christmas. In many countries a huge log often of cherry wood was dragged indoors and kept alight in the hearth through the festive period.

Cakes representing yule logs are popular in many countries, particularly in France and often contain chocolate or chestnut purée. The traditional decoration is of marzipan holly leaves, meringue mushrooms and small figurines.

Yule log Bûche de Noël
Yule log Bûche de Noël

Makes 12-16 servings

Ingredients

For the cake

  • unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 140g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 145g granulated sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar for dusting

For the syrup

  • 60ml water
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp dark rum

For the frosting

  • 315g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 560ml fresh cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. 
  2. Grease a 39 ½ cm x 26 ½ cm (15 ½ inch x 10½ inch) rimmed baking sheet and line the bottom with parchment (baking) paper. Grease and flour the paper and pan sides.
  3. To make the cake, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl until blended. 
  4. In a large bowl, using a mixer on medium-high speed, beat the eggs until pale and thick, about 3 mins. 
  5. Add the granulated sugar and vanilla and continue beating until tripled in volume, about 3 mins more.  
  6. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the eggs and, using a rubber spatula, fold gently until just blended. 
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly touched, 13 – 15 mins.
  8. While the cake is baking, lay a clean kitchen towel on the counter and sift icing sugar generously onto it, covering it evenly. 
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and immediately run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake. 
  10. Holding the cake in place, invert the pan onto the prepared towel. Lift off the pan and carefully peel off the paper. Beginning on a long edge, roll up the cake and towel together. Set on a rack and let cool.
  11. To make the syrup, combine the water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Stir in the rum and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  12. To make the frosting, combine the chocolate and cream in the top of a double boiler (bain-marie method). Set over barely simmering water and melt the chocolate, then whisk until well blended. Remove the bowl from the heat and refrigerate, stirring occasionally until cold, about two hours. When the mixture is cold, add vanilla and salt. Using a mixer on medium-high speed, beat the chocolate briefly until firm enough to hold a soft dollop. The mixture will continue to firm up as it sits.
  13. To assemble the log, unroll the cake and brush it liberally with the cooled syrup. Using an icing spatula, spread one-third of the frosting over the cake. Gently reroll the cake and place, seam side down, on a cutting board. Frost the top and sides of the roll with the remaining frosting, using long, rough strokes. Using a serrated knife, trim each end on a sharp angle. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with the chocolate curls, a sifting of icing sugar, and meringue mushrooms. Pass the remaining meringue mushrooms around at the table for garnishing individual servings.

To make chocolate curls 

Use a vegetable peeler to shave the edge of a bar of chocolate. The bigger the chunk of chocolate the wider the curls will be. To ensure long handsome curls the chocolate must be at room temperature or even slightly warm. Rub the chocolate with your palm. Refrigerate the curls until ready to use or keep at room temperature for a short amount of time.

For the meringue mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 105g granulated sugar
  • 40g icing sugar
  • Unsweetened cocoa, for dusting
  • Chocolate curls for garnish
  • Icing sugar for garnish

For the frosting

  • 315g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 560ml fresh cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to low, 110°C and line baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no 6) plain tip. 
  2. In a bowl, using a mixture on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.
  3. Scoop the mixture into the bag. On 1 baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each 12mm (½ inch) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, 2cm (¾ inch) tall, and spaced about 12mm (½ inch) apart. On the other sheet pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 3cm (1 ¼ inch) wide and 2cm (¾ inch) high, also spaced 12mm (½ inch) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.
  4. Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, about one hour. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each round. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

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