Bûche de Noël – Yule Log
Bûche de Noël is the traditional French Christmas cake that shows up in pâtisseries well before Christmas, to tempt and delight! The log-shaped cake hearkens to the ancient tradition when the eldest and the youngest male in a farm family each took hold of the end of a log and put it on the family hearth, to bring in luck for the new years’ crops. Today we serve it to celebrate the holidays, a delicious treat to make the season special and, why not? To usher in the best of luck for the new year!
A Cake with Moving Parts
This cake has several moving parts but each one is clear and simple, and when they go together you’ll be so proud of yourself, AND you’ll have a deliciously different cake to serve to those you love!!
Add your favorite flavors
You can adapt the flavors, and the decor. One year my young son was given the job of decorating – he took his miniature fleet of sports cars – they were VERY tiny – and had them driving across the top of the cake, among the meringue mushrooms. Unconventional…but that can happen when kids are given free reign!
Warning: this log DOES NOT go on the fire!
Bûche de Noël
For the pastry cream:
- 5 egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons;75g vanilla sugar
- ¼ cup;35g all purpose flour
- Pinch Pinch of fine sea salt
- 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups;375-425ml l milk, preferably whole
- 1 cinnamon stick 3-inches; 7.5cm long
For the ganache:
- 1-1/4 cups;310ml heavy cream or crème fraiche
- 10 ounces;300g semi-sweet chocolate (52-54%)
For the cake:
- 7 large eggs separated, at room temperature
- 1 cup;200g vanilla sugar
- 1-1/4 cups;185g all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
- Make the pastry cream: whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a medium-sized bowl until they are thick and lemon-colored. Whisk int eh flour and the salt and set aside.
- Make the ganache: place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the chocolate and stir it into the cream. Melt the chocolate and the cream together, stirring often. As the chocolate melts stir it continually until the mixture is homogeneous. Remove from the heat.
- Place 1-1/2 cups (375ml) cups of the milk and the cinnamon stick in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Scald the milk by heating just until little bubbles for around the edge of the milk. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes.
- Return the milk to the scalding point over medium-high heat, and then gradually whisk it into the egg yolk mixture. Return this mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. Continue cooking for at least 2 minutes, until the pastry cream thins slightly and the flour taste has cooked out of it. Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the pastry cream to a bowl, cover, and set aside to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Line a 17 x 11 x 1-inch (42.5 x 27.5 x 2.5cm) jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Dust the parchment lightly with flour.
- Prepare the cake: Whisk together the egg yolks and ¾ cup (150g) sugar until the mixture is thick and lemon colored.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and the salt together onto a sheet of waxed paper. Remove the whisk and using the paddle attachment, add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture at low speed, mixing until just incorporated. Add the vanilla, mix quickly and thoroughly, and set aside (the mixture will be quite thick).
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are foamy and beginning to turn white. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup (50g) sugar and continue whisking until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff points.
- By hand, fold one fourth of the egg whites into the batter until incorporated, then fold in the remaining egg whites, being careful not to over mix, but making sure they are thoroughly incorporated.
- Spread the batter over the parchment paper in the jelly roll pan. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the cake is golden and the top springs back when lightly pressed, about 8 minutes.
- While the cake is baking, sift the tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar onto a clean kitchen towel that is spread out on a counter.
- Remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert it onto the sugar-dusted towel. Peel off the parchment paper from the cake, and starting from one short side, roll up the cake in the towel. Allow it to cool for about 30 minutes.
- When the cake has cooled, unroll it. Trim off about 1-inch (2.5cm) from each end (or to the size you want your bûche) and save the trimmings!
- If necessary, reheat the pastry cream just until it is spreadable consistency, remove and discard the cinnamon stick, and spread an even layer on the cake. Carefully re-roll the cake and place it, seam side down, on a work surface or a platter.
- Now the fun begins! Spread an even, and fairly thick, layer of the ganache over the cake, making sure to frost the ends., reserving about ¼ cup (60g) of the ganache. Take one of the trimmed ends of the cake (which should still be in a round) and place it on the top of the cake but right at the edge, pressing it gently into the ganache. Frost it with ganache, which will harden as it cools and become the “glue” which holds the little whorl on the cake.
- Using a fork, make striations the length of the cake, and in rounds at either end and on the top of the “whorl” to mimic tree bark! Have fun with this!
- To decorate with mushrooms, gently make a hole in the bottom of several mushroom caps (use a chopstick or the point of a knife) and fit stems into the mushroom caps. If necessary, use some ganache to “glue” the caps to their stems. Decorate with the mushrooms while the ganache is still slightly soft, so you can gently press them into it to make sure they remain upright.
- Once the ganache is set, your bûche de noël is ready to serve, though it is best if it sits a few hours so the flavors have a chance to mellow together.