A Very Merry Bûche de Noël to All!

December 26, 2010

Now that I’ve survived the Christmas rush and a nasty bout of pneumonia, I am back and ready for action!  Nothing says Christmas baking to me like a beautiful Bûche de Noël, but first a little backstory…

In third grade, we were all assigned a project to interview our oldest living relative about their holiday traditions.  I chose to interview my mom’s mother (my Mémère), who was not the oldest, but perhaps the most interesting and (knowing me) most convenient.  Mémère was French, and what I remember from her interview about holiday traditions was this funny sounding thing called Bûche de Noël.  I didn’t know what it was, but I really couldn’t figure out why anyone would be excited about eating a log.  I imagined it being tough and woody.  Not good eats.  Ohhh, how naïve I was…

Now older and wiser, I understand that this coveted holiday treat is made of cake and deliciousness rather than bark and pine needles.  Part of the beauty of which is that it can be made in almost any flavor combination, as long as you’ve got the three basic components:  a spongy, rolled cake; a filling; and a frosting.  The possibilities are almost endless and can be tailored for your audience, but one thing’s certain:  everyone loves this elegant and easy holiday treat.


The hardest part of this recipe is to get the sponge cake to turn out right.  Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time.  My first batch completely stuck to the waxed paper and had to be scrapped.

When I made it, I went for triple chocolate (chocolate cake with chocolate filling and frosting), but I think in retrospect that’s awfully over-chocolatey-whelmy.  A white sponge cake would make the cake look more woody and cut down on the chocolate.  Also, a more custardy, pastry cream filling would be delicious.

It doesn’t take any specialist equipment to decorate the cake.  I used a fork and a butter knife to make decorative ridges in the frosting to make it look like bark.  I also sprinkled with powdered sugar to make it look like freshly fallen snow on the Christmas log.

I found some chocolate mushroom cookies at World Market that I used to make the log look like it had been colonized by fungi on the forest floor, though if you can’t find the storebought ones, there are plenty of recipes and instructions out there for making meringue or marzipan mushrooms.  Anything works though, get creative!

Garnish with holly leaves or berries!

Chocolate Sponge Cake

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1/2 c. sifted cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease jellyroll pan; line with greased waxed paper. Separate eggs and beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; set aside. Beat egg yolks until lemon colored. Add sugar and cocoa gradually to yolks; beat until thick. Blend in flour and salt. Fold egg yolk mixture into beaten egg whites, taking care not to deflate egg whites too much.

Pour batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Bake 15 minutes or until done. Loosen cake edges immediately; turn out onto clean dish towel sprinkled with powdered sugar.

While still hot, roll up cake in dish towel. Cool rolled with seamside down. Unroll cake; spread with about 1/3 cup desired filling and reroll.  Frost with desired frosting and decorate.  Refrigerate overnight before serving. Let cake set at room temperature 30 minutes before slicing.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream

Place the semisweet chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl. Bring cream to a boil in heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat; pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 10 minutes; use rubber spatula to stir until smooth.  Let chocolate mixture cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Place mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium speed until ganache holds its shape and is slightly lightened in color.  I filled and frosted my cake with this ganache, but feel free to use a different filling.  Enjoy!

– Josie



  1. This cake looks amazing! I have seen so many of them in Spain, too!

    Josie and Erik, so so many of your recipes look great! When I return to the US and have access to all said ingredients it will be much easier to make these things, but I am starting a list of things to attempt!!


    • Thanks Annie! I’m so glad you’re enjoying reading our blog! Sorry to tempt you with inaccessible ingredients. But really I can only be but so sorry because I’m sure you’re having the time of your life in Spain!

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