Here is my favorite bûche de Noël recipe (Yule Log Cake) by French Master Pâtissier Christophe Michalak. Christmas is almost here, and in France, no Christmas meal is possible without the traditional Yule Log Cake.
The bûche de Noël is a traditional French dessert served after the main Christmas dinner. The original bûche de Noël recipe emerged during the 19th century. The cake represents the yule log that families would burn starting on Christmas Eve. The burning of the yule log symbolized the new year to come and would bring good luck to the family. The name bûche de Noël was transferred to the dessert presumably during the first half of the 20th century.
This traditional cake is made from a génoise or sponge cake baked in a large, shallow pan, then rolled into a cylinder, frosted with buttercream, and decorated. This French dessert comes in two forms:
- Pâtissière: a génoise cake with buttercream,
- Glacée: an ice cream-based cake.
The most traditional and common bûche de Noël is the bûche pâtissière which is made of a basic yellow sponge cake and chocolate buttercream. However, many variations of this cake are now available including some made of sorbet, ice cream, or elaborate confections, and come in a multitude of flavor combinations. I personally love the bûche patissière! Others prefer the second one, as it’s easier to eat a slice of ice cream than a rich cake when you’ve already been eating for two hours.
The Bûche De Noël Recipe By Christophe Michalak
For the sponge cake
- Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan. Mix the egg yolks with the sugar and the cornstarch. Mix with the milk. Transfer to the saucepan and thicken over medium heat, stirring constantly. Pour into a dish and cover with a stretch film on contact. Let it cool.
- Distribute the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10 minutes. In a saucepan, heat the sugar with 2 tablespoons of water until the syrup forms large bubbles. Pour the hazelnuts into the saucepan and caramelize them over medium heat while stirring: the preparation will take on a sandy appearance. As soon as the syrup becomes caramel, add the butter and whisk vigorously. Spread out on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and let cool. Put them in a bag and crush them coarsely with a rolling pin.
- With a mixer, whip the cooled pastry cream for 2 minutes at medium speed with the soft butter cut into cubes and the praline.
- Put the eggs and sugar in a bowl on a double boiler: whisk until the mixture reaches 60°C/140°F. Off the heat, continue whisking until the temperature drops to 35°C/95°F. Sift the flour with the baking powder and incorporate them gently with a whisk. Warm the honey with the oil and add it to the dough.
- Pour the dough on a baking sheet covered with baking paper: roll out into a 28 x 38 cm rectangle. Bake at 180°C/356°F for 10 to 15 minutes. Peel off the parchment paper, cover the sponge cake with a kitchen towel, and let it cool.
- Remove the brown part of the sponge cake and trim the edges. Spread a layer of praline cream (8 mm thick) on top and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Roll the sponge cake up tightly and wrap it in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour (or overnight to get ahead).
- Spread the rest of the cream on the log. Top with the remaining hazelnuts and refrigerate until ready to serve. Decorate with icing sugar.
In order to properly roll the sponge cake don’t over bake it. Indeed, an over-baked cake will be dry and crack as it rolls. Because it’s a thin cake it bakes quickly so keep an eye on it. Another tip is to roll your cake while it is still warm. Let cool just for a few minutes and then invert it onto a kitchen towel. Warm cakes are more pliable and less likely to crack.