‘Tis the season for Yule logs – traditionally burned in the hearth as a part of European Christmas celebrations, they are more familiar these days in the form of chocolate Bûche de Noël, looking deliciously festive in bakery windows and on Nigella Lawson Christmas specials. And while they seem complex to make, they’re really not – all you do is bake a thin layer of cake in a rimmed baking sheet, then roll it up in a tea towel to cool. It can then be easily unrolled, filled and rolled back up without breaking; add frosting, pattern the surface with a fork, and you have yourself a festive homemade yule log, perfect for parties or your holiday table. It’s a great kitchen activity to do with the kids, too.
Here’s a double chocolate version with a coffee cream filling – leave out the coffee if you like, or spike the filling with peppermint extract.
Chocolate Bûche de Noël
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups icing sugar
1 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped green pistachios (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°F and line a 15″x10″ rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and pale yellow; beat in the water and vanilla. Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and beat just until blended. Spread into the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly into all corners. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until springy to the touch. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan.
Invert the pan onto a tea towel that has been generously sprinkled with icing sugar; peel away the parchment and roll the cake up gently (you want to do this while it’s still quite warm) starting from a short end. Leave the cake to cool completely, rolled up in the towel.
Meanwhile, beat the whipping cream with sugar and instant coffee until stiff; unroll the cooled cake, spread it with the cream and roll it back up. Place it on a piece of plastic wrap and wrap it up; freeze for a couple hours or up to a few months.
Beat the butter, cocoa, icing sugar, water and vanilla until smooth, adding a little extra icing sugar or water as needed to produce a spreadable frosting. When the log is frozen, slice about 1/5 off the end at a diagonal, then set it alongside the log, as if it were a branch coming off. Spread the whole thing with frosting, not covering the cut ends; run the tines of a fork through the surface to make it look like bark. If you like, sprinkle with pistachios.