This Buche de Noel Recipe is a beautiful holiday recipe. It's made from a rich cholate sponge cake, filled with a light and fluffy chocolate hazelnut pastry cream, and decorated with the most charming homemade forest-themed confections. Learn how to make this show-stopper across 3 days to help manage the prep!
Loving the look of this cake, but don't have 3 days to spend? Not to worry try my Chocolate Christmas Cake instead! Equally delicious and a lot easier to whip up last minute. You can even use the Buche de Noel decorations on the Christmas Cake too!
What is a Buche de Noel Cake?
- A Buche de Noel is a French Christmas cake formed in the shape of a log. It's essentially what we would call in the States, a yule log cake.
- They are made from rolling a sponge cake, filled with pastry cream, and then decorated with meringue mushrooms.
What is the meaning of Buche de Noel?
The literal translation in French is "Christmas Log", but the sentimental significance of this cake, as told by my French sister-in-law is even more charming. She explains that the tradition began as a way to signify that even the poorest of citizens of France should have a log in their fire at Christmastime.
In France, you'll see Buche de Noel cakes everywhere in the month of December, in just about every flavor. But for me, my favorite is a Chocolate Buche de Noel Cake with Hazelnut Pastry Cream. How can that be bad, right?!
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I will show you how to spread the prep out across 3 days.
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What are the traditional Buche de Noel Cake Decorations?
Well, if you ask me, at a strict minimum you must have a few meringue mushrooms to decorate your yule log. Those are classic and make it distinctly French.
How to Keep Meringue Mushrooms Crisp?
I find the best way to preserve the crispy and light texture of meringue mushrooms is to store them uncovered in the freezer. They oddly do not freeze solid and the texture remains light and crispy.
But extra credit goes to those who take the time to also add the fondant pinecones and the chocolate bark. Did I happen to mention this is a cake for "show-offs" so if you are going to "go for it" you might as well go BIG!
I find the store-bought chocolate fondant is the way to go for the pinecones. It makes the process way easier! See the recipe card below for a recommendation on which brand I use.
The chocolate bark is also just SO easy to make and gratifying to place. It's worth doing even if it's the only buche de noel cake decoration you have time for. It's also an easy decoration that kids can help with too!
Make it Snow!
Sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top of the chocolate bark before serving and you have a snowy log. The good news is these decorations are pretty simple to do and can also be made ahead, which really helps with the prep. The video will walk you through which decorations to do on which days leading up to Christmas.
Dutch-Process vs. Natural Cocoa Powder
- There's a lot more than meets the eye between these two and using the wrong one can sometimes yield dicy results. For this cake, you'll want to use Natural Cocoa Powder, like Hershey's brand.
- But to dive deeper into this topic and get the ultimate explanation on the differences and why you should care, check out Joy the Baker's awesome breakdown on the subject.
Why Did My Yule Log Cake Crack?
There are a few reasons why this can happen, and there's nothing more disheartening! I've been there too. Over the years I have found it usually comes down to these issues:
- The cake was overbaked and dried out. As the cake becomes too dry it loses its springiness and flexibility.
- The dishtowel was too wet. It shouldn't be soaking just damp. If it's too wet it will make the cake soggy and that will also force it to crack
- Not using the natural Cocoa Powder. I have had the most problems with this. I find other cocoa powders are too drying. I now only use Hershey's Natural Cocoa Powder and I have the best success rate with it.
- Not allowing the eggs to reach their full volume in the beating of the eggs and sugar. This will result in a denser cake that also will not be as springy
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FOR MERIGNUE MUSHROOMS:
- 4 egg whites
- ½ teaspoon (2.5ml) cream of tartar
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) salt
- ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla
- 1 cup (200g) of sugar
- 2 tablespoon (13 g) of cocoa powder
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
FOR THE PINECONES:
- 1 cup (240 ml) Chocolate Fondant
- 2 cups raw (480 ml) sliced almonds, skins on (you need more nuts that necessary so you can be choosy with picking out the perfect ones)
FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE:
- ½ cup (60g) of flour
- ½ cup (50g) unsweetened Hershey's cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
- ½ teaspoon (2.5ml) salt
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) baking soda
- 6 eggs
- ½ cup (100g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla
- 5 tablespoons (75 ml) unsalted butter, melted
FOR PASTRY CREAM:
- 2 cups (475 ml) milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped of paste
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup (50) sugar
- ¼ cup (30 g) cornstarch
- ¼ cup (60ml) of chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella or similar brand)
HOMEMADE WHIPPED CREAM:
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoon powdered sugar
FOR CHOCOLATE BARK:
- 4 oz of dark bittersweet chocolate
- 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar
- 2 sheets of parchment paper
FOR THE MUSHROOMS:
- Preheat oven to 225F (107C) Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Whip egg whites, tartar, salt, and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Then add sugar slowly until combined.
- Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a ½” (13 mm) round tip. Pipe 1-2 in mounds (for the mushroom tops) and 1” (2.5mm) lines for the stems.
- Dip a spoon in water and flatten down any peaks that are created in meringues. You want a smooth top and stem.
- Dust with powder cocoa either with a shaker or a fine-mesh sieve. Bake for 1 hour.
- Allow to sit until meringues are hard and no gummy-ness remains.
- Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, microwave on high in 30-sec increments until chocolate has melted.
- Core out a small hole under the meringue tops (the flat side) top, smooth on a layer of chocolate on the surface and in the hole. Insert stem and allow to dry. Keep uncovered in the freezer until ready to use.
FOR THE PINECONES:
- Break off a small piece of fondant, about the size of a ping pong ball, form a ball, then place it on a work surface, flatten the bottom, and “cone the top”. You’re trying to create a slight pyramid shape.
- Start at the bottom, inserting the almonds (point size up) into the cone, slightly elevating the almonds upwards.
- For the next row, begin ⅛ inch (3mm) up from the first to allow for separation, placing the second row of almonds. Work all the way up the cone, until the top, assuring that almonds are tilting upwards and creating a pinecone shape.
- Transfer pinecone with a metal spatula on to a sheet pan.
- Create a variety of pinecone sizes, to make it look more natural, 4 large, 2 medium, 2 small.
- Use pinecones to decorate the corners of the buche.
- Pinecones can be kept, uncovered at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will dry out and set and become less fragile and easier to handle.
TO MAKE THE CAKE:
- Preheat oven to 325F (162).
- In a medium sized bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer beat eggs with sugar on high speed until tripled in volume, at least 5-7 minutes. Then add vanilla, beat until mixed.
- Beating on low, add dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with melted butter until just combined.
- Pour out onto a sheet pan (Pan exterior dimensions 17.88 x 12.88 x 1.06 inches and interior dimensions 16.5 x 11.38 x 1 inches) that has been sprayed with baking spay and lined with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment paper (on top) too and distribute well with a pastry brush.
- Pour batter into pan and gently smooth out with an offset spatula. Bake for 8-10 mins until cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow to cool completely. Then take a damp dishtowel and stretch it out to full size, dust with cocoa powder to create a non-stick surface. Flip cake bake upside down out of the pan onto the towel. It will now be parchment paper side up. Gently remove the parchment paper.
- Then starting at one end of the towel starting rolling it into a log, carefully rolling the cake as well, until the cake is completely rolled into the towel. Refrigerate overnight. This will help the cake form it’s log shape.
TO MAKE THE PASTRY CREAM.
- In a heat-safe bowl add the egg yolks and cornstarch, whisk until a smooth paste forms. Set aside.
- Then in a large saucepan heat milk, sugar, vanilla seed paste and bean until simmering. Remove the bean pod. Add the warm milk slowly to the egg mixture whisking all the while until combined. Wash out the saucepan.
- Strain the egg mixture into the washed-out saucepan. Heat custard on medium-high until slightly boiling, whisking all the while, lower heat to medium, continue to whisk until thickened. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate hazelnut spread, whisk until smooth.
- Transfer pastry cream to a shallow container, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM:
- Add cream, vanilla, powdered sugar to a bowl and whip on high until stiff peaks form.
- In a large bowl add the chilled pastry cream, gently fold the whipped cream to the pastry cream, in thirds, to lighten the mixture.
FOR THE CHOCOLATE BARK:
- Melt chocolate in the microwave in:30 increments until melted.
- Pour chocolate onto parchment paper, smooth out with an offset spatula to roughly a 12 x 6 rectangle.
- Place another sheet of parchment paper on top, and press down to smooth.
- Place parchment “sandwich” on a sheet pan, and place in the freezer for 10 mins until hard.
- Working from the short end of the parchment paper, roll paper into a loose log, to create large round shards of “chocolate bark”.
WHILE BARK IS IN THE FREEZER…
STEP 1: Remove cake from the fridge, gently unroll the cake. Spread the pastry cream over the surface of the cake. Then gently roll the cake back up. Position it so that the seam of the cake is on the bottom. Then dust the top of the cake with more cocoa powder to create a finished, dusted look.
STEP#2: Transfer cake to a large rectangular platter (one that will fit in your fridge)
STEP#3: Place pinecones at the 4 corners of the cake, assuring each corner has 1-2 sizes
STEP#4: place mushrooms in front of the cake, in little groupings
STEP#5: Place chocolate bark on top of log in haphazard pattern, covering the middle section and placing some bark on top of each other
STEP#6: lightly dust some powdered sugar on top of bark (to look like snow) and ever so slightly on top of the pine cones.
STEP#7: stand back and admire your masterpiece!!!
STEP#8: Place in the fridge, uncovered until ready to serve. Then slice into thick 1 inch slices, on the bias for a pretty decorate touch. Add a few decorations to each plate.
Place extra meringue mushrooms on a cake stand to serve with the buche.
Take a bow!! You did it!
This cake is best made across 3 days of prep.
DAY: 1 Make the pinecones and mushrooms. Keep the pinecones refrigerated and place the mushrooms in the freezer. They will stay light and crispy that way, and oddly do not freeze solid.
DAY 2: Make the cake and roll it up in a kitchen towel in the fridge. This will help keep the cake moist, but more importantly, form it into a log and keep it that way. You can also make the filling and keep it in the fridge.
DAY 3: Fill your log and decorate it. You can then keep everything in the fridge until ready to serve. Place your pinecones and mushrooms on top right before serving. Et voila!
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 14 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 341Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 158mgSodium: 185mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 11g