A bûche de Noël is the traditional dessert the French serve at Christmas and, like so much of their pâtisserie, it has potential for other celebratory occasions throughout the year. Annie Bell gave us her recipe for this very chocolatey, very festive yule log.–Micah Carr-Hill
LC Let’s Be Clear About One Thing… Note
We’re all for festive, although we’re not so into the traditional–and woodsy–embellishments for this edible yule log, among them marzipan mushrooms and faux bois flourishes. We’re into Christmas cakes strictly for the chocolate, pure and simple. So as far as we’re concerned, no need to fuss over decorative devices. Besides, one bite of this decadent cake and its inherent and chocolate-y goodness will steal all the attention. We guarantee it.
Bûche de Noël
For the cake
- Butter for the pan
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- Pinch of sea salt
- 3 extra-large eggs
- 1/3 cup light muscovado or dark brown sugar
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
For the chocolate chestnut mousse
- 3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) broken into pieces
- 13 ounces unsweetened chestnut puree
- 1/4 cup light muscovado sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Butter a 10-by-13 inch jelly roll pan, line it with parchment paper, and butter the paper as well.
- Sift the cocoa into a bowl and add the salt. Whisk the eggs and muscovado or brown sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until the mixture is pale and mousse-like, 8 to 10 minutes. Lightly fold in the cocoa in two additions. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth it using an offset spatula. Give the bottom of the pan a couple of sharp taps on the work surface to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake the cake for 8 to 10 minutes, until set and springy to the touch.
- Place a clean kitchen towel on your work surface and sift a fine layer of confectioners’ sugar on the towel. Carefully turn the hot cake onto the towel. Starting at one short end, carefully roll the cake up with the towel and the parchment paper. You should end up with a short, fat roll. Let cool for 40 to 60 minutes.
Make the chocolate chestnut mousse
- Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Let cool to room temperature.
- Beat the chestnut puree, sugar, and vanilla in a food processor until creamy. Add the cooled chocolate and mix until combined.
- Beat the cream until it forms soft peaks, and then gently fold it into the chocolate chestnut mixture in two additions.
- Carefully unroll the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Spread the top of the cake with half of the chocolate chestnut mousse, then roll the cake up again and transfer it to a platter, seam facing down. Smooth the rest of the mousse over the exposed surface of the cake. If desired, using the tines of a fork, make lines along its length to replicate tree bark, swirling the ends to create a log effect, and making a few knots on the log, too.
- Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour. If keeping it for longer than this, loosely cover the cake with plastic wrap and let set at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
- Just before serving, shower the bûche de Noël with confectioners’ sugar.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
My bouche was certainly amused eating this delicious dessert! The chocolate chestnut cream filling/frosting is really the star here, but the cake is pretty darned stellar as well. The cake is moist and light, but also slightly dense. It rolls easily and didn’t crack. It retained its shape well and didn’t need any assistance in staying put while cooling. My baking time edged to the 10 minute mark, and I let it cool for more than the hour specified, as it was quite warm when I baked it. When melting the chocolate, I just used the microwave at 30-second intervals until the chocolate was mostly melted and then let the residual heat finish melting the remaining bits. The filling, rolling and frosting of the cake is straightforward enough, and came together without much fuss. Despite the recommendation that the cake is best the day that it’s made, I really thought it benefited from an overnight stint in the fridge. The flavors really melded, and the cake and filling almost fused together in a delicious, moist and ganache-like way. I’d make this the day before I’m planning to serve it and then let it sit out a bit before serving. A winner in my books.
Originally published December 08, 2011