This Yule Log Is All Your Dessert Table Needs

The festive yule log — or Bûche de Noël — makes its annual appearance on a dessert table every Christmas. This moist and feather-light Christmas cake looks a lot more complex to make than Christmas cookies, but it's actually very easy to make. 

Laura Sampson has been making yule logs for many years, and she shares her recipe with us. Sampson's website, Little House Big Alaska, is chock full of other delectable goodies, sweet and savory. The holiday dessert of European orign is basically a Swiss roll (whipped cream rolled in chocolate cake) that's slathered with lots of frosting and decorated with adorable mushrooms made of frozen whipped cream. Sound intriguing? There are a lot of steps to this whimsical recipe, but Sampson is a meticulous teacher — and talented food photographer — and she'll guide you all the way to making this impressive holiday dessert that's sure to be a hit at your holiday table. 

Gather together the ingredients for the yule log

If you can make a sponge cake, you can absolutely make a traditional yule log. The recipe starts with gathering together the ingredients, all of which you most likely have in your refrigerator and pantry: eggs, butter, flour, cream, cocoa, salt, and sugar. Sampson finishes off the yule log with canned chocolate frosting, but she told us "If you make a really good chocolate frosting you can substitute homemade for the canned." If you don't want to make the whipped cream filling — or if you're watching calories (especially during the holidays) — Sampson suggested "you could probably get away with using Cool Whip. I haven't done it, but I bet it would work!" So now that you've got everything you'll need, let's get started by preheating your oven to 350°F.

Beat the egg whites and egg yolks separately for the yule log

First, the four eggs need to be separated, yolks from whites, since they will have different preparations. If you've never done it before, there are a lot of YouTube videos with instructions. Most have you cracking the egg in half and have the white drip into a bowl, as you switch the yolk from shell half to shell half. It works most of the time, but occasionally the yolk gets broken by the sharp edges of the shell. A method that we like is to simply pass the egg gently between impeccably clean hands (as Julia Child used to say); the white slips through your fingers, and the yolk stays intact. 

Once you've separated the eggs, put the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer with 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until they hold stiff, glossy peaks. (Another eggy hint: room-temperature egg whites whip up faster.) This will take about 5 to 8 minutes. 

Keep an eye on the whites so they don't overwhip and become dry. Transfer the egg whites to a mixing bowl, and wash and thoroughly dry the stand mixer's bowl. Add the egg yolks and brown sugar and beat them with the paddle attachment until they're creamy. Then stir in some melted butter, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and you're ready to finish the cake batter.

Blend the yule log batter and fold in the egg whites

Next, before making the batter, you'll need to sift the dry ingredients. Do you really need to sift? Absolutely. Not only does it help lighten the batter, but it loosens up the little clumps of cocoa powder and baking powder, which could create air pockets in the baked cake. It's easy to sift. Hold a mesh strainer of a wide bowl, add the dry ingredients, and shake until everything has passed through. Pour the sifted ingredients over the egg yolk-sugar mixture, and stir it all together to combine. Now comes the slightly tricky part: folding in the egg whites.

"The Yule log makes you look like a great baker," Sampson told us. "But you only need a little experience to make it work. Folding in the egg whites so they don't deflate is the hardest part!" Once you get the hang of it, though, you'll realize it's not so difficult after all. First, stir a little bit of the whipped whites into the batter, which helps lighten it. Then add all of the egg whites on top. Using a rubber spatula, cut through the middle to the bottom of the bowl, then lift it up, turning the spatula and fold the batter up from the bottom and onto the egg whites. Keep lifting and folding gently until everything is blended and you don't see any more egg white.

Spread the batter onto the baking sheet and bake the yule log

Spray a 12x17 baking sheet with baking spray, line it with parchment paper, and spray the parchment. This preparation will ensure that your baked cake will easily slide off the sheet. Transfer the batter onto the lined baking sheet, and using an offset spatula — if you don't have one, a dinner knife will work just fine — evenly spread the batter to the edges of the parchment. Put the cake into the preheated oven, and set your timer to 10 minutes. Sampson's philosophy about cooking is "toss it all in, and see how it comes out!" But she's pretty firm about the bake for this cake: "Don't overbake it, or it will crack." And a cracked cake is impossible to roll.

Dust the parchment paper with cocoa and begin the yule log rolling

While the cake is baking, lay an impeccably clean dishtowel over a large flat surface. Cut a piece of parchment paper that's the same size as the work surface, and spread it out on the surface. Sift the remaining cocoa powder over the parchment so it's evenly distributed. When your timer for 10 minutes rings, get the cake out of the oven immediately. 

Gently turn it over onto the prepared parchment, and peel off the parchment you used to line the baking sheet. The cake should look moist and light with only a few tiny cracks, which you'll later cover up with whipped cream. You don't want the cake to cool, so you have to start rolling it up right away. "It's the best way to roll the cake successfully," advises Sampson.

Roll the yule log cake in the clean dishtowel and cool overnight

Rolling the cake while it's still warm helps the cake "remember" the rolled shape and prevents cracks from forming. Starting at one of the short ends, and using the dishtowel as a guide, loosely roll up the cake into a log shape. Don't roll it too tightly at this stage; this step is to just give the cake its preliminary shape. If you're using a white towel, you'll begin to get a sense of what the rolled cake and whipped cream filling will look like when it's done. Once you've got the cake rolled up, gently transfer it to a cooling rack seam-side down. Cover it with plastic wrap to prevent the cake from drying out, and let it cool overnight. 

Now that the yule log cake has cooled, spread the whipped cream

Once the cake is cooled, and you're ready to finish the yule log, it's time to whip the cream for the filling. When you're whipping cream, everything needs to be very cold, including the bowl and hand-mixer attachment, which helps the cream whip up faster. Put the bowl and attachment in the freezer for 15 minutes. 

Add the cold cream and sugar to the chilled bowl along with the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Begin whipping at a slow speed to avoid splattering, then as the cream begins to thicken, increase the speed of the hand mixer. Remember, don't overwhip, or you'll have some very sweet butter instead! 

Remove a 1/2 cup of the whipped cream from the bowl, and put it in the fridge (this will be for the mushroom decorations). Unroll the cake, and slide it off the towel with the parchment paper. (You won't need the towel after this.) Evenly spread the whipped cream over the cake, filling in any cracks. Using the parchment paper as a guide, begin to roll up the cake. This will take a little bit of patience, and don't worry if the cake cracks or whipped cream spills out. The chocolate frosting will cover up the little flaws. When you've finished rolling the cake, dust off any excess cocoa powder.

Slice, assemble, and frost the yule log

The hard part of making a yule log is now done and it's time to get creative. "The best part of the whole process," Sampson told us, "is the frosting because if your rolled cake breaks, no worries — the frosting covers it up!"  Let's first get the cake to resemble a log. Slice off one end of the cake at an angle: This will be your Yule Log's branch. Set the cake and branch on a serving platter. Spread a little chocolate frosting on the bottom of the branch, and position it along the side of the cake. Trim off the un-cut side to neaten it up. Cut a piece of parchment in half and slide each piece on either side of the cake, which will catch any frosting mistakes. 

Frost the entire Yule Log, filling in the space between the branch and cake. Using the tines of a fork, make bark decorations by running the tines lengthwise down the cake and branch. Cover and chill the Yule Log for one to two hours, but not much longer because the whipped cream will deflate. You could serve the yule log as it is — or make the cute whipped-cream mushrooms in the next step as an attractive final touch.

It's time for your yule log's decorative mushrooms

These little mushroom decorations for the yule log couldn't be easier. Retrieve the 1/2 cup of reserved whipped cream you've chilled in the refrigerator. If you have a piping bag, spoon the whipped cream inside. If you don't have a piping bag, simply snip off the corner of a Ziploc bag instead. 

Line a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer with parchment paper. Pipe several discs of whipped cream, which will be the mushroom caps. Then pipe the same number of "stems." Lightly dust the mushroom pieces with sifted cocoa powder, and put the baking sheet into the freezer while the Yule Log is chilling. 

When you're ready to serve, dab some frosting to the underside of the mushroom cap (this acts as glue), and attach the stem. Arrange the mushrooms on the Yule Log wherever you like, and present your masterpiece to your family and friends. When we asked Sampson what she loved most about cooking she said, "I express love with food." With her recipe for this holiday yule log, you will as well.

This Yule Log Is All Your Dessert Table Needs
4.8 from 5 ratings
When it comes to Christmas cakes, few desserts are as visually impressive as the yule log. The cake with European roots is a chocolate delight that steals the show of any holiday table it graces. This recipe might not be easy, but those who pull it off will be rewarded with a tasty treat.
Prep Time
45
minutes
Cook Time
10
minutes
Servings
10
Servings
yule log recipe
Total time: 55 minutes
Ingredients
  • 4 whole eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 7 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups canned chocolate frosting
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 12x17 baking sheet with baking spray, line with parchment paper, and spray again. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites and granulated sugar with the whisk attachment until they are glossy and hold stiff peaks, about 5-8 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl halfway through.
  3. When the egg whites are stiff, scrape them out of the bowl, and set aside. Wash and dry the stand mixer bowl.
  4. Add the egg yolks and brown sugar to the bowl, and beat with the mixer's paddle attachment until creamy.
  5. While the egg yolks and brown sugar are blending, sift the flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
  6. When the egg yolks are creamy, stir in melted butter and vanilla. Pour over the dry sifted ingredients, and stir to combine.
  7. Fold in the egg whites. Scrape around the bowl once, then cut through the middle with a spatula, turning it over as you continue to fold in the egg whites. Keep gently folding until no white remains.
  8. Scrape the batter onto the prepared pan and spread to the edges of the parchment paper. Bake 10 minutes, taking careful attention to not overbake the cake.
  9. While the cake is baking, lay a clean dishtowel on a flat surface, cover with a sheet of parchment paper, and lightly dust it with the remaining cocoa powder.
  10. When the cake is done, gently turn it over on the prepared dishtowel while it's still hot, and peel off the parchment paper.
  11. Gently roll it up from one of the short ends. Don't roll the cake too tightly; loosely is fine. Set the roll seam-side down on a cooling rack, cover with plastic wrap, and let it cool overnight.
  12. When the cake roll is cool, beat the 2 cups of whipping cream with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until thick. Set aside about ½ cup of the whipped cream if you want to make a couple of decorative mushrooms.
  13. Unroll the cake, evenly spread the remaining whipped cream, and roll it back up (not in the towel). Dust off any excess cocoa powder.
  14. Cut one end of the cake at an angle for a branch. Set the cake and the branch on a serving platter, and position the branch to one side of the cake, fastening it to the cake plate with a little chocolate frosting. Trim the other end so it's neat.
  15. Split a sheet of parchment paper and tuck under each side of the cake to catch any frosting mistakes. Cover the cake and branch with the frosting. You can make bark decorations by dragging the tines of a fork lengthwise down the cake and branch.
  16. Cover and chill the cake 1 to 2 hours until ready to serve. (It will keep several hours in the refrigerator, but it's best to assemble and serve right away or the whipped cream could deflate.)
  17. To make the decorative mushrooms: Fill a piping bag with the remaining whipped cream. Alternatively, snip off one corner of a Ziploc bag and fill with the whipped cream. Pipe several disks for mushroom tops and several stems onto a lined baking sheet or plate. Dust the mushroom pieces lightly with a small amount of cocoa powder, and freeze until ready to serve.
  18. To assemble the mushrooms: Dab a little frosting on the cap, attach the stem, and place on the yule log wherever you like.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 549
Total Fat 33.0 g
Saturated Fat 16.5 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 129.2 mg
Total Carbohydrates 63.0 g
Dietary Fiber 1.8 g
Total Sugars 52.9 g
Sodium 372.3 mg
Protein 5.1 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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