The Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log, is a traditional French Christmas cake. We based our cake on David Lebovitz’s recipe in My Paris Kitchen. We have found that his pastry recipes are very reliable. We’ve made it twice now (did a test run a few weeks ago) and it’s worked perfectly both times. We love his génoise (French sponge cake) recipe brushed with Cointreau syrup.
On our test Bûche, we used the ricotta filling in the book. It was really good, but this time around we switched it up a little and did a jam filling. It works as well, but you’ll want to make sure your jam is very thick so it does not run and holds the shape.
Here are a few more tips, in the order you’ll need them:
Bake the génoise on a Silpat. Parchment might work, but the Silpat is thick enough that you can easily lift the cooked cake off the sheet pan, and you can also use it to assist with rolling the cake once it’s filled.
Make the chocolate icing in a double-boiler. If you don’t have one, use a heat resistant glass bowl set over a small saucepan of barely simmering water. Don’t rush it. The chocolate will break and you’ll have to throw it away and start over. Once the icing cools enough to spread, apply it in thin layers with a small silicone spatula or offset spatula for realistic-looking bark.
For the meringue mushrooms, you absolutely need a stand mixer. They are very easy to make (three ingredients), but you need to whip the egg whites for much longer than anyone would want to do by hand. We used our new KitchenAid Pro-Line mixer (c/o) and they were done in no time. Dust them very lightly and unevenly with cinnamon tapped through a small mesh strainer for a speckled look.
Everything on the cake is edible. To decorate, we made icy branches by dipping thyme sprigs in egg white and dredging it through sugar and allow to dry. Same for the snowy cranberries. The leaves are fresh bay sprigs from the farmer’s market. We wanted our log to look like it was sitting on a forest floor, so we crushed pistachios for some mossy dirt and crushed a few of the extra mushrooms for meringue “snow.” Tiny plating spoons and tweezers come in really helpful here.
The only problem with this cake: no one will let you cut into it! Check out David Lebovitz’s book for his perfect génoise recipe and entertaining stories on Bûches in Paris. It’s a fun read!