This delicious Homemade Yule Log Cake is made with a rich, chocolate sponge cake and wrapped in a chocolate buttercream frosting. Grab a fork to texture the frosting to look like tree bark and dust it with powdered sugar. It's the perfect cake for the Christmas dessert table and tastes great!
There are so many incredible, classic Christmas desserts. It is almost impossible to choose which ones to make! Luckily, there are a lot of possible baking days in December for you to try as many classic recipes as you can.
One classic Christmas dessert that I truly love is the yule log cake. It is delicious, beautiful and has a wonderful story behind it. Let me tell you all about this yule log recipe and you will quickly see why it should be part of your family's Christmas traditions.
What is a Yule Log Cake?
A yule log cake is also known as a buche de noel. It is a rolled cake that is made to look like a log. The shape symbolizes the burning log that is used to keep people warm on Christmas. The cake is a traditional holiday dessert mostly in France, Switzerland and Belgium where it has been enjoyed on Christmas Eve for decades.
While you may no longer need a real, wood yule log on Christmas, the pretty cake is now a classic holiday dessert. I love the idea of staying warm by the burning fire and also enjoying a slice of yule log cake.
Yule Log Ingredients
My yule log recipe is essentially a thin, chocolate sponge cake rolled up with chocolate buttercream frosting. Here are the ingredients you will need for both the cake and the frosting:
- Flour- sifted all-purpose flour gives the cake its structure and shape.
- Cocoa powder- Unsweetened cocoa powder makes the chocolate cake rich and tasty. It also helps the frosting look brown like a real log!
- Salt- Salt always enhances the flavor of cakes and frostings
- Eggs- whipped eggs make the cake light and airy
- Sugar- you want a cake that is sweet and sugar will do the trick!
- Vanilla- A little vanilla makes the cake and buttercream more flavorful and rich.
- Heavy cream- Heavy cream will help make the frosting smooth
- Egg whites- Whipped egg whites give the buttercream a lighter texture.
- Meringue powder- Meringue powder will help stiffen the frosting
- Powdered sugar- Powdered sugar is used to sweeten the chocolate buttercream
- Butter- Butter is essential for flavor and to make a creamy frosting!
Most of these ingredients you can find in the grocery store. You may have to order the meringue powder online or head to a baking supply store nearby. Any craft store that carries baking supplies will also have meringue powder.
How to Make a Yule Log Cake
Making a yule log cake is essentially the same as making a roulade. First, you make a thin sponge cake. Then, you spread buttercream across the cake and roll it tightly into a log shape. It is pretty easy when you think of it in those simple terms! Here is a little more detail to help you visualize how to make the yule log recipe.
For the chocolate sponge cake
- Whip the egg whites for the cake to stiff peaks.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla until the mixture is thick.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients and then gently fold them into the egg yolk mix.
- Gently fold in the whipped egg whites, stirring only to combine the batter. Do not over mix or the cake will deflate!
- Spread the airy cake batter in an 11x15 sheet pan line with parchment. Try to make it as even as possible.
- Bake the cake until the center is set and the edges of the cake just begin to turn golden brown.
- Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar.
- Flip the warm cake onto a towel, dust it with powdered sugar, and carefully roll it starting on the short side. This will help the cake cool in the shape of a log. Rolling it while warm will prevent the cake from cracking.
For the chocolate buttercream frosting
- While the cake cools, make the chocolate buttercream frosting.
- Whip the egg whites and heavy cream together. Add the meringue powder, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar and whip until fluffy.
- Add the butter, one stick at a time. Whip the buttercream until combined and then switch to a paddle attachment on your mixer.
- Beat the frosting until it is creamy and smooth.
- Gently unroll the cake and spread about half the buttercream over the entire cake. Roll it back up into a log (without the tea towel!).
- Let the cake chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
How to assemble the Yule Log
- Slice about three inches off the top of the roulade at an angle. This will be the nob of the log.
- Stick the cake nob on the side or top of the cake using buttercream.
- Frost the cake with the extra chocolate buttercream, raking a fork or cake comb through the frosting to make “bark” lines.
- Decorate the cake with sugared cranberries, fondant leaves or meringue mushrooms.
I know that this cake may seem like a lot of steps to make but it is truly not that hard. Sometimes perfect Christmas cakes take a little time!
How to Decorate a Yule Log
Yule log cakes are supposed to look like real logs. The type of logs you may throw on the fire to keep you warm on Christmas. Make your yule log cake look like a real log by raking the chocolate buttercream in rough, uneven lines. This will help it look like bark. Some creative, nature themed decorations are also a great addition to any yule log cake. Here are a few ideas of things you can add to your yule log:
- Powdered sugar to look like snow
- Fondant leaves
- Sugared cranberries
- Fondant 3D animals (a racoon on a yule log is a classic decoration!)
- Sprigs of rosemary to imitate pine needles
- Fondant snowflakes
The more realistic the decorations, the more beautiful your buche de noel will be!
Substitutions and Variations
This recipe is very flexible. You can change so many little components to make the cake your own. Think about what your family and friends would like best on Christmas and then start baking! Here are a few of my favorite substitutions.
- Use classic chocolate buttercream (American or Italian)
- Thinly spread some melted almond bark on waxed paper, let it set and then use it to cover the yule log. This will look even more like real bark!
- Use vanilla buttercream to look like a birch tree log
- Add almond extract to the cake for a subtle, nutty flavor
- Sprinkle chopped nuts in the filling before rolling the cake
- Spread a thin layer of ganache over the cake before you roll it up for extra chocolate flavor.
Yule log possibilities are really endless. Get your creative juices flowing and see what ideas pop into your head!
How to Store a Yule Log Cake
Once your yule log is baked and decorated, it should be stored in the fridge. Grab a large cake box, cardboard or plastic, and close your buche de noel inside. It will keep in the fridge for about a week. The yule log frosting is best when served at room temperature so pull your cake out of the fridge about an hour before you are ready to serve it. This will let the frosting get soft and creamy.
Frequently Asked Questions
The egg whites in this frosting recipe are not cooked so they need to be pasteurized. It is not considered safe to eat unpasteurized, raw eggs. Do not use unpasteurized eggs to make this frosting.
Yes! Grab your double boiler or a medium saucepan with a heat-proof bowl/stand mixer bowl that sits on top of the saucepan. Add about 1 inch of water to the saucepan or the bottom of the double boiler and place over medium/low heat until the water begins to simmer. Make sure your bowl doesn't touch the water otherwise it will cook your egg whites. Once it's simmering, reduce the heat to low.
Place the unpasteurized eggs and the granulated sugar in the top of the double boiler or in the heat-proof bowl. Whisk your eggs and sugar over the heat until the egg whites reach 160 degrees F.The sugar will be completely melted as well.
Transfer the egg whites to the stand mixer bowl and whisk on low until the egg whites have cooled to room temperature. Then whip them to stiff peaks as directed in the recipe card.
It doesn't. If you would like a frosting that crusts, this chocolate frosting recipe is perfect.
You can freeze your yule log cake! Skip the decorations. Place the cake in the freezer without covering it until the frosting is firm and frozen.
Once the buttercream frosting is frozen, wrap the cake in two layers of plastic wrap and as tightly as possible to protect it from the drying air of the freezer. I like to do a layer of heavy-duty tin foil over the plastic wrap just for extra protection. Store the cake in the freezer for up to a month.
To defrost the cake, unwrap it and place it in a cake container. Allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.
Slice a yule log cake into round circles, cutting about an inch thick slice off the ends. This will show you the pretty spiral of the cake which also looks very much like the center of a log!
More Christmas desserts
Yule Log Cake
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line an 11x15 inch sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with nonstick baking spray.
- In a medium bowl, add the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until combined and set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the egg whites. Using a hand mixer on medium/high speed, whip until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, add the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until the yolks are incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the dry ingredients to the yolk mixture and continue whisking until well combined.
- Add about½ of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate/yolk mixture. Fold in using a spatula.
- Add the remaining whipped egg whites and fold together until the whites are completely incorporated and there are no white streaks in the batter.
- Spread the cake batter evenly into the prepared pan using an angled spatula.
- Place the preheated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until done. Test your cake by gently poking the center of the cake with your finger. It will spring back if it’s fully baked. You an also insert a toothpick into the center of the cake and if it comes out clean, it’s done.
- Remove the cake from the oven. Immediately run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen up any stuck sides.
- Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar. I dust it until the cake is completely white.
- Cover the cake with a tea towel.
- Place a cookie sheet on top of the towel and flip the cake over so the cookie sheet is on bottom. Remove the hot 11x15 baking pan and then carefully remove the parchment paper from the cake.
- Dust this side with powdered sugar until well covered.
- While the cake still very hot, roll it in the tea towel starting with the short side.
- Set the cake aside to cool completely.
- In a stand mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, add in the heavy cream and egg whites. Beat for 30 seconds.
- Add the meringue powder, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar. Whip for 5 minutes on high.
- Add the butter 1 stick at a time while the cocoa frosting is still whipping.
- Once all the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla and whip another 2 minutes or until the butter is fully worked into the frosting.
- Change the attachment to the paddle attachment and beat for 3-5 minutes until the frosting is pale brown.
- Once the cake is completely cooled, unroll the cake.
- Spread the filling evenly onto the unrolled cake.
- Re-roll it without the tea towel and wrap it in plastic wrap, seam side down.
- Refrigerator for at least 3 hours to allow the buttercream to firm up.
Assemble the Yule Log
- Using a sharp knife, slice off 3 inches of the roll at an angle. This will be the knob part of the log.
- Add buttercream to the flat side of the 3 inch piece of cake and stick it to the side of the cake roll.
- Using the angled spatula, cover the outside of the cake roll generously with buttercream. Be sure to clean up the buttercream so the yule log still has a nice shape log shape to it.
- Create bark like texture by lightly dragging a fork through the buttercream. Don't go too deep otherwise you'll dig up the cake. Clean off the fork when the buttercream frosting begins to gather and be sure to not have straight drag lines.
- Add sugared cranberries to the top and chill until ready to serve.
(Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.)