Bûche de Noël, an homage to the yule log in velvety rich chocolate form, is a welcome if not essential holiday treat in many homes. A thick and luscious layer of dense chocolate sponge cake is wrapped around a layer of mouse or chantilly cream, dusted with cocoa powder, and often finished with chocolate ganache and meringue or marzipan mushrooms. Decadent doesn’t even begin to describe the dessert and we’re fortunate that this sort of a treat is a once-a-year affair – reserved for the solstice or for Christmas.
For years upon years, generations celebrated the changing of the seasons. At the winter solstice when the darkness shrouded the world and daylight waned to but a few grim hours, families and tribesmen would venture out into the bleak and bitterly cold winter to harvest the yule log. They’d light it afire, beckoning the return of the sun on the darkest day of the year. The tradition of the yule log, of mistletoe, and of the Christmas tree is, perhaps, the last vestiges of ancient winter rites still celebrated, albeit quietly, in modern times. Of course, the Bûche de Noël is a totem to the once-popular yule log – a chocolate treat rolled and formed to resemble to resemble the rough bark, rings, and knots of a log.
In this Bûche de Noël recipe, we omit flour altogether for an intensely rich sponge cake that resembles a souffle in texture and ingredients. Cocoa (or carob) powder pairs with pastured eggs, unrefined cane sugar, vanilla, and orange for a decadent winter treat. As rich and complex as the dessert may seem, it’s easy to prepare. This weekend, as I spooned cocoa into egg yolks, neighborhood children gathered in my kitchen with my son – each anxious to dip a finger into the chantilly cream or to help roll the cake. If you have small children, you’ll enjoy the time spent making this dish with them – forging new holiday traditions in your home.
bûche de noël recipe
for the sponge cake:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut the parchment paper to fit inside the jelly roll pan.
- Grease the parchment paper with butter or coconut oil, then dust with a sprinkling of carob or cocoa powder then line the jelly roll pan with the prepared parchment paper.
- Whisk six egg yolks together with four tablespoons unrefined cane sugar, dash sea salt, carob or cocoa powder and vanilla extract with the zest of one orange until smooth, creamy and thickened.
- Beat six egg whites with one-quarter teaspoons cream of tarter and remaining two tablespoons unrefined cane sugar until soft peaks form.
- Fold beaten egg white mixture into the egg yolk and cocoa mixture.
- Pout the batter over into the jelly roll pan over the parchment.
- Bake the cake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for fifteen minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- As the cake cools whip heavy cream with one tablespoon unrefined cane sugar and the contents of one vanilla bean until stiff peaks form. Reserve.
- Generously dust the cake with additional cocoa or carob powder.
- After the cake has cooled, gently invert it onto a stretch of aluminum foil or a kitchen towel.
- Spread whipped cream onto the cake, then gently roll the cake length-wise and place it seam down on a serving platter. The cocoa dusted cake make crack, revealing a bark-like texture and appearance; however, if you find the cracks unappealing you can also frost the cake with chocolate ganache.
- Slice the ends of the roll off at an angle, then affix them to the side of the log.
- Dust with additional cocoa or carob powder, if desired, and serve.