Delicious and chocolatey Yule Log cake recipe to celebrate the holidays. This classic European Christmas dessert is a shallow cake that you spread with cream and then roll up and decorate like a Yule log. The recipe also features a rich chocolate ganache instead of icing.
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The first time I was introduced to a yule log cake was many many moons ago in a high school French class. Called a Buche de Noel in France, it’s a traditional Christmas cake made to resemble a yule log. What makes it truly special is that instead of making a flat cake and decorating it, a yule log cake is made as a thin layer of sponge, spread with cream filling, and rolled up to look like a log. When you cut slices to serve, each slice will have a beautiful spiral of cream filling.
Now that I live in Britain, yule log cake is a traditional dessert at Christmas. Josh’s grandmother proudly makes one each year for the big day. Which means that when I make one, I’ll keep it at home so as to not step on any toes! There’s a lot of love put into each one and pride in serving it to loved ones. Though you can make it very simply, such as in this recipe, you can also decorate it with greenery or holiday decorations. Marzipan or sugared decorations are becoming a common way to dress up a homemade Yule log cake. Once finished, it can look beautiful in the middle of a holiday table. Then when you cut it, each slice is an airy miracle of chocolate and cream.
How to Make a Yule Log Cake
There’s the easy way to make a yule log cake, which requires a boxed cake mix and icing. Honestly, they’re not as good as one made from scratch. That’s because the batter of a traditional yule log cake doesn’t require any added ingredients to help the sponge to rise. It’s made with a light and fluffy batter made by gently folding meringue and a frothy egg yolk mixture together. It’s simply divine.
The other thing that makes this recipe different from others is that it uses chocolate ganache for the icing. Standard icing is heavy on the sugar but chocolate ganache is much more about deep chocolate flavor. It also hardens into a firm coating that holds a design well and that is more like a chocolate truffle shell than frosting. It really is the icing on the cake in this recipe.
Making a yule log cake from scratch requires quite a few steps so I’d like to take you through the process with photos to help explain. It’s also important to be gentle with the mixing, gentle with the baking, and most importantly, gentle with the rolling. Once that’s done it’s a sturdy cake that transports well and will earn you oohs and ahhs of delight. For something different this year, try this simple yule log recipe and who knows, it may end up becoming your family’s tradition as well.
More Ideas to celebrate the Holidays
Before we move on to the recipe, here are some other ideas to help to you celebrate and enjoy the holidays. There’s nothing like handmade when it comes to a memorable and fun Christmas. Fill it with nature crafts, recipe ideas, outings, and unique ways mark the season. Tis the season!
- How to Make Homemade Kahlua (easy recipe)
- Creative ways to celebrate the Winter Solstice
- Make this Genius Christmas Table Decoration
- And even more ideas
Traditional Yule Log Cake Recipe
- 9X13 Jelly Roll Pan You can use a larger pan, but the sponge will be thinner
- Sieve for sifting
for the Sponge
for the Filling
- 3 Tbsp icing sugar (powdered sugar) (25 g)
- 1 tsp cocoa powder (optional)
- 1 cup double cream (heavy cream) (240 ml / 235 g)
- 1 Tbsp sour cream (15 ml / 15 g )
for the Chocolate Ganache
- 1 cup double cream (heavy cream) (240 ml / 235 g)
- 8 oz high-quality dark chocolate (226 g / as chips or bars broken into small pieces)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C or 160°C if you have a convection oven
- Melt the butter and use a brush to coat the pan well, including the corners and sides. Next, line the pan with baking paper and brush the top of the paper with the remaining butter. Make sure that every part of the paper and the inside of the pan is well greased.
Make the cake sponge mixture
- Crack the eggs and separate the yolks and whites into different bowls.
- Using the sieve, sift the flour, salt, and cocoa powder for the sponge together in a bowl.
- Using the sieve, sift the icing sugar into a separate bowl.
- Pour the egg yolks into the electric mixer's bowl. Add the vanilla and ¼ cup of the sugar and mix on medium speed for two to three minutes or until well-mixed and frothy on top. Since it's such a small amount of egg in the bowl, I tend to use the spatula to help direct the egg into the mixer's beaters.
- Take the mixer's beaters off and rinse thoroughly. If you have a second bowl that will fit your mixer, get that out now and set the one with the egg yolk mixture aside. If not, pour the egg yolk mixture into another bowl and set aside. Clean and dry the mixer bowl thoroughly.
- Add the egg whites to the empty mixer bowl and begin beating at medium-high speed. When they begin forming peaks, add the remaining ½ cup of sugar a spoonful at a time. The peaks will look glossier after, and the entire step only takes a few minutes.
- With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites. Folding simply means working from the edges of the bowl and turning the outside ingredients into the center of the bowl. Do not stir, or you'll lose the fluffiness of the mixture.
- Next, sprinkle over the sifted cocoa powder and flour and gently fold it in too.
- The cake batter will be fluffy yet fully incorporated when it's finished. Don't be tempted to over-mix it since stirring too much can flatten the airiness of the batter.
Bake the Yule Log Cake Sponge
- Pour the batter into the pan and smooth with your spatula. If the baking paper sticks out beyond the pan's edges, trim it off now to ensure it doesn't fall back into the sponge while baking.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cake springs back a little when touched. Using a 9×12" pan will take closer to ten minutes. Larger pans like the 11×16" in the photos needs less time.
- As soon as you take the cake sponge out of the oven, gently pull the sponge out of the pan and onto a damp tea towel. It should come out fairly easily, thanks to the butter used to grease the pan.
- Once the cake is on the tea towel, sprinkle it with sifted icing sugar.
- Lay another piece of baking paper on top of the cake, then roll the cake up while it is still warm. Doing this helps mold the sponge into a rolled shape while it's warm and can reduce the chances of it splitting later on.
Make the Filling
- Wait until the cake has cooled to room temperature before moving on to the next step.
- Whip the cream, sour cream, and three tablespoons of sifted icing sugar in the mixer until it forms stiff peaks. Although optional, you could also sift 1-2 teaspoons of cocoa powder into the mix. This will give the filling a light brown color and a hint of chocolate flavor.
- Gently unroll the cake and remove the top layer of baking paper. Spread the cream filling evenly over the top of the cake sponge, except for a one-inch strip on one of the shorter ends.
Roll the Yule Log Cake
- Roll the cake, beginning from the short end that is covered with cream. Lift up the edge of the sponge and pull it away from the lower layer of baking paper. Roll the sponge onto itself as gently but as tightly as you can. Peel the paper away as you go and use it to help push the sponge as you roll.
- If the cake cracks a little as you roll, don't worry. The roll should hold it in place, and the last steps can cover all manner of imperfections.
- Roll all the way to the uncreamed side. The result is a rolled-up cake, and most of the hard work is over! If the cream filling was spread a bit thin on the sides, the ends of the cake might look thinner than the middle. This is completely fine but if you are aiming for a more uniform shape, you can trim up to an inch of cake from the ends using a sharp knife. It's a great way to sample the cake before you decorate it too.
- When you've finished, lift the cake and place it seam-side down on a serving plate. Tuck baking paper under the edges of the cake (not too far under, though) in preparation for the next step. You surround the cake with paper to protect the plate from too much chocolate mess.
Make the Chocolate Ganache
- Place the cream in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Take it off the heat, add the chocolate and let it sit together for up to five minutes. Stay with it and stir every thirty seconds or so. The result will be a gorgeous and even chocolate mixture.
- Once the chocolate ganache is fully mixed, allow it to cool for five to ten minutes before the next step. This allows it to set up a bit so that it isn't too liquidy.
- Next, slowly pour the chocolate ganache over the yule log cake to cover it. If the ganache runs down from the cake, the paper will protect the plate from mess and you can use a silicone spatula to pull it back up on the cake.
- Wait another ten minutes for the ganache to fully set before gently pulling the paper out from under the edge of the cake. If the paper feels stuck under, you hold a spatula against the cake while you pull and that helps to keep the ganache in place while you pull the paper out.
- To create tree bark texture, use a fork and gently run it along the chocolate ganache. If you wish, lightly sift icing sugar on top for a dusting of snow.