Learn how to make a Christmas yule log cake for your holiday gatherings. Filled with an irresistible homemade chocolate ganache filling, this vanilla roll cake is shaped and decorated like a real yule log. If you’re looking for a holiday dessert recipe to delight your party guests, this is it!
Christmas Yule Log Cake
Although I’m a decent cook, I am not a cake decorator. Piping is a skill I’ve yet to master. (Though admittedly I haven’t devoted much, if any time, to learning.) Therefore, the first time I made this vanilla and chocolate yule log cake, I’ll admit I was a little intimidated. However, this Christmas vanilla roll up cake isn’t that hard to make. Just remember to be patient. You also want to allow the cake cool completely, so it doesn’t break.
When you bake this cake, you actually make one big log, then cut it to make the branch. This means you won’t need to buy a special pan to make this holiday cake recipe. I used the same chocolate ganache for the filling as I did for the frosting. This helps to cut down on prep time.
This beautiful vanilla and chocolate roll cake recipe not only makes a delicious dessert, but it’s also easier to make than you think. This decorative Bûche de Noël cake tastes wonderful, too! It also makes a gorgeous centerpiece for your Christmas table.
Keep reading to discover how to make this wonderful vanilla and chocolate roll cake from scratch.
Where Did Bûche de Noël Originate From?
A Christmas log roll cake is also known as a Bûche de Noël. Bûche de Noël is a French tradition dating back to medieval times.
This custom began when a log from a fruit tree was brought into the home and placed in a fireplace hearth. Generally, this was in the center of the home and used for heat. The log was presumed to bring a successful harvest for the coming year. The family would then sprinkle wine, holy water, or salt onto the log and light it on fire. The yule log would burn for three days to bring good luck. The ash, they thought, brought protection. While the coals were used for medicinal purposes.
Eventually, people replaced the hearths with wood burning stoves. After which, small yule logs were used as a decoration on a table to serve as a reminder. Somewhere along the way, people started making a Bûche de Noëll recipe as a Christmastime dessert.
What is the Difference Between a Yule Log and a Bûche de Noël?
A Bûche de Noël recipe and a yule log cake recipe are essentially the same thing. You may also hear this holiday dessert called a Christmas roll up cake. There are, however, different variations. You can find these festive cakes decorated in a variety of ways. Often, they will also have powdered sugar dusted on top to represent snow.
How Do You Make a Christmas Roll Cake?
Making a vanilla and chocolate roll cake for Christmas isn’t as hard as it looks. You begin by making a vanilla cake, then pour the batter in a thin layer onto a baking sheet. Once baked, allow it to cool completely.
As it’s cooling, prepare a chocolate ganache to spread onto the cake. You then roll the cake with the chocolate filling into a log shape. Once the roll cake is formed, you cut an end off to make a branch.
Finally, top the cake with chocolate ganache. This imitates the look and texture of bark, similar to a traditional yule log or Bûche de Noël that was once used on the fireplace hearth.
If desired, you can also decorate the Christmas roll cake with other elements.
Some people make a woodland themed cake and add fondant mushrooms. While others add herbs and berries. You can, of course, simply dust the finished cake with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. There’s really no right or wrong way to decorate this holiday dessert recipe.
Common Questions About Making Bûche de Noël Cakes
What Does a Yule Log Cake Recipe Taste Like?
This yule log cake recipe tastes like vanilla cake with a chocolate ganache icing, similar to a chocolate roll cake. You can also make a chocolate cake and use a different flavor for the filling, if you’d prefer. Or simply swap vanilla icing for the chocolate ganache.
How Long Do Yule Log Cakes Last?
This yule log cake recipe will last about two days at room temperature. After that, it should be refrigerated to preserve the chocolate ganache. I recommend baking this traditional Christmas cake no more than one to two days before you want to serve it. The fresher the cake is, the better your Christmas log roll cake will taste.
Does Yule Log Cake Need to be Refrigerated?
As previously mentioned, my yule log cake recipe is made using chocolate ganache. Therefore, it can be kept at room temperature for two days. After that, refrigeration is highly recommended.
Can I Freeze This Christmas Cake Recipe?
In my experience, cakes — even decorated cakes — still taste great and have a good texture even if they’ve been frozen. However, be aware that the colors used to decorate the cake can bleed. I do freeze leftovers from this Christmas cake recipe. However, as it’s not necessarily as pretty once frozen, I would not freeze it before serving it to guests.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t freeze it. If you’re into saving time through food prep, you can make a Christmas yule log roll cake ahead of time, then freeze it. To do so, bake and roll the cake as instructed. However, don’t ice or decorate the cake just yet!
Once you’ve baked the main part of the cake and allowed it to cool, wrap the log in plastic wrap and foil. You can then freeze it for several weeks.
You can also freeze the remaining chocolate ganache separately in a freezer container. Alternately, you can also place it in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Once you’re ready to serve your Christmas log roll cake, allow both the cake and the chocolate ganache come to room temperature. Once they have both thawed, you can then cut the cake to form the branch. Then decorate the top with frosting and any additional decorative elements you’d like to add.
Yule Log Cake Recipe Ingredients
Surprisingly, you don’t need many make this Christmas yule log cake recipe. Here are the ingredients you will use to bake both the cake as well as to make the chocolate ganache.
For the cake
This is a very basic cake recipe made with vanilla flavoring. Therefore, only five ingredients are needed to make the batter.
- All purpose flour: This is what makes the cake structure. I used all-purpose flour for this recipe. However, you can also use cake flour, if desired. To substitute the all-purpose flour with cake flour, use an additional 1 Tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon of cake flour than called for in the recipe.
- Sugar: I used regular, white granulated sugar for this classic Christmas cake. The sugar gives the cake its sweetness.
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla extract is used to enhance the flavors in the cake. If omitted, your holiday desserts may taste bland or flat. I recommend using real Bourbon vanilla extract rather than an artificially flavored vanilla extract.
- Eggs: Like flour, eggs add structure to cake recipes. They also serve to add richness, flavor and color. And eggs help the cake to rise. When mixed at the proper ratio with flour, eggs help to also give this yule log cake strength, so it can be rolled up with the chocolate ganache filling inside. (In lieu of the 5 large eggs called for in my Christmas dessert recipe, you can also use 6 medium-sized eggs to bake this holiday cake.)
- Baking powder: Similar to the eggs, baking powder also helps the cake to rise.
For the chocolate ganache frosting
Ganache is made using a combination of equal parts chocolate and cream. While you could also use store bought chocolate icing for this traditional Christmas cake recipe, this filling and frosting is actually quick and easy to make. Ganache will thicken as it cools. However, it is important to be aware that it will not harden.
- Heavy whipping cream: You need to use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream to make ganache. Do NOT make substitutions using half and half or whole milk. Otherwise, your ganache will not set up properly. If you can’t tolerate dairy, you can use full-fat coconut in a can. Simply shake the can before opening, then whisk on the stovetop until it reaches a simmer. Then added the finely chopped chocolate.
- Dark chocolate: Pure dark chocolate really gives this recipe a rich flavor. However, you can also use semi-sweet chocolate chips, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate or even white chocolate to make the ganache. (For white chocolate, reduce the amount of heavy whipping cream to 1 Cup.) Ghirardelli chocolate or bakers chocolate works great for this. You do NOT want to use chocolate chips as they won’t melt and incorporate smoothly into the ganache. It’s also possible it won’t set up as desired.
How to Make a Bûche de Noël Cake
Follow these steps to make a traditional Christmas roll up cake with chocolate ganache.
Bake the Yule Log Cake
Here is how to prepare the batter and bake the yule log cake recipe:
1. Start by preheating the oven to 350°F.
2. Now make the cake batter for the yule log cake. To do this, separate the egg whites from the egg yolks and place into separate bowls. Then beat the egg yolks with a whisk. Add 2/3rds the sugar called for in the recipe. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together until the mixture is clear and fluffy.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites with the remaining 1/3rd of the sugar. Beat the egg whites with the sugar until they form stiff, fluffy peaks. (Similar to making meringue.)
4. Now carefully fold the egg white mixture into the mixture with the egg yolks.
5. Next, combine the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and vanilla extract in a medium-size bowl. Mix well, then sift the mixture into the batter. Now gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture using a spatula.
6. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Then spread the Christmas roll cake batter onto the pan. Use a spatula to level out the yule cake batter. It should be about 1 cm, or between ¼ and ½ inches, thick.
7. Bake the Bûche de Noël cake in the preheated oven for approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Once baked, remove this Christmas dessert from the oven.
8. Now sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar. Wrap the cake with plastic wrap, folding the wrap under the sides. This will keep it moist as it cools. Allow it to rest on a flat surface until cool.
Make the Chocolate Ganache Filling and Icing
While the Christmas vanilla roll cake cools, use this time to prepare the chocolate ganache filling. Here is how to make homemade chocolate ganache:
1. To make the chocolate ganache, chop the chocolate into small pieces. (The finer you chop the baking chocolate, the easier it will be to work with. You can use leftover chocolate shavings to decorate the top of the cake. Alternately, it can also be incorporated into recipes for hot chocolate bombs, chocolate covered pretzels or chocolate bark.)
2. Now pour the heavy whipping cream called for in the recipe into a medium-size saucepan. Heat the cream over medium heat until warm. Take care not to boil the cream, reducing the heat if necessary. Once the cream is warm, turn the heat off.
3. Next, add the chopped chocolate to the warm whipping cream. Then whisk the cream and chocolate together until the chocolate has completely melted. Now transfer the mixture to a bowl large enough to hold the ganache.
4. Choose another bowl larger than the one that contains the chocolate ganache. Then fill that bowl with ice. Place the chocolate ganache bowl on top of the ice. Then use an electric mixer to whip the ganache for 10-15 minutes. It should resemble chocolate milk, however the consistency will be firm.
5. Once the Christmas cake has completely cooled, carefully remove the plastic wrap from the top. Then remove the cake from the pan. Set the cake on top of a sheet of plastic wrap. Add about half of the chocolate ganache to the cake, spreading it to about an inch from the edges using a cake spatula.
6. After the filling has been applied to the cake, begin rolling the yule log cake into a log shape, using the plastic wrap to help you guide the cake. Place the vanilla log cake onto a pan. Then set it inside the refrigerator for an hour. Place the leftover chocolate ganache in the fridge as well. It will be used to ice the cake once it’s been chilled.
Decorate the Bûche de Noël Cake
Now that this Christmas roll up cake has cooled, it’s time to decorate it! Here’s how to decorate a Bûche de Noël cake:
1. To decorate this Christmas vanilla roll cake, use a large serrated knife to make a diagonal cut to remove a piece of the log about three inches from the end. Then use some of the chocolate ganache to attach the smaller piece you cut to the side of the rolled log in order to form a branch.
2. Now spread the remaining chocolate ganache icing onto the Bûche de Noël log. Use a fork to make lines in the lines. This helps to create a texture that looks like wood.
3. After the holiday cake has been iced, you can then add additional decorations. These can be rosemary sprigs, sugared cranberries, nuts or fondant creations. I kept my traditional Christmas cake simple and used winter berries and rosemary sprigs for my yule log cake decorations.
Note: The chocolate ganache you created for this classic Christmas cake can be left out for about two days. Therefore, I recommend making this Bûche de Noël recipe no more than one or two days before serving. Any leftovers should then be refrigerated.
- ½ Cup + 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2/3 Cup white granulated sugar (plus additional for dusting)
- 5 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups heavy whipped cream
- 2 and 1/3rd 4 oz. dark chocolate baking bars
How to Make Bûche de Noël Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Separate the egg whites and egg yolks into separate bowls. Beat the egg yolks with a whisk and add 2/3rds the sugar. Whisk until it becomes clear and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and the remaining 1/3rd of the sugar. Beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks and become fluffy.
- Carefully fold the egg white mixture into the other mixture.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Sift the mixture into the batter and gently fold the powder mixture into the egg mixtures.
- Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Spread the Christmas roll cake batter on the pan and use a spatula to level it. It should be 1 cm (between ¼ and ½ inch) thick.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar. Then seal it with plastic wrap to keep it moist. Let cool on a flat surface.
Make the Chocolate Ganache Filling and Icing
- While the Christmas vanilla roll cake is cooling, prepare the chocolate ganache filling.
- Chop the chocolate into smaller pieces. Pour the heavy whipping cream into a medium sized saucepan and heat it over medium until the cream is warm, being careful not to boil the cream. Once the cream is warm, turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Whisk the cream and chocolate until the chocolate is melted. Then transfer the mixture to a bowl.
- Fill a larger bowl with ice and place the chocolate ganache bowl on top of the ice. Then use an electric mixer to whip for 10-15 minutes. It will look like chocolate milk but with a firmer consistency.
- When the cake is completely cooled, carefully remove the plastic wrap from the top. Then remove the cake from the pan and place it on top of a sheet of plastic wrap. Add about half of the chocolate ganache and spread it to about an inch from the edges.
- Begin rolling the Christmas roll up cake, using the plastic wrap to help you guide the cake. Place the vanilla log cake recipe on a pan and place in the fridge for an hour. Place the leftover chocolate ganache in the fridge as well.
Decorate the Yule Log Cake
- To decorate the yule log cake, use a large serrated knife to cut off a piece of the log about three inches from the end with a diagonal cut. Use chocolate ganache to attach the small piece to the rolled log to make a branch.
- Spread the remaining chocolate ganache on the log. Use a fork to make lines to create a wood texture on the Christmas roll cake.
- Add more decorations like rosemary sprigs, sugared berries and nuts to decorate the Bûche de Noël Cake.
- You can also dust the iced cake with powdered sugar so it looks like this Christmas roll cake has been dusted with snow.
The homemade chocolate ganache created for this classic Christmas cake recipe can be left out for about two days. I recommend making this Bûche de Noël cake one or two days before serving, then refrigerating any leftovers.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 171Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 124mgSodium: 108mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 0gSugar: 20gProtein: 5g
If you like my recipe for baking a Bûche de Noël cake, then be sure to try my fig cake recipe for another classic Christmas cake for the holidays. Or explore some of these other amazing Christmas recipes.