For this luscious classic you just need a large baking tray and willingness to roll a cake! I’ll quickly point out this is the easiest and yummiest chocolate sponge I’ve ever rolled! You don’t have to put a damp tea towel on it, rush to pre-roll or anything of the sort. The sponge is easy to make and sits there perfectly happy to wait till you’re ready to roll. It cooperates wholeheartedly, even the glutenfree version I made, so there’s no cracking, sticking or bits crumbling off – yes, I’ve had my share of rolling woes in the past, but no longer! Thank you dear sponge (yes, I talk to my food).
I love this chocolate roll cake, from the deliciously flexible cocoa sponge that neither too sweet nor bitter, to the silky smooth mousse filling and the simple buttercream with milk chocolate. To top it all off, there’s a slight crunchy texture from a light sprinkling of toasted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds and/or pistachios) and the marzipan Christmas holly is naturally-coloured with pink pitaya then turmeric with pea flower powder for the leaves. Plus it’s lovely how you can make pretty individual slices from leftover trunk. This Xmas chocolate log cake – or as it’s traditionally called in France, la bûche de Noël – is pretty old school and deliciously moist with its lovely chocolatey mousse. Merry Xmas and yum yum! 🙂
This is the back view of the log. It’s a ‘nice-from-every-angle’ kind of cake. 🙂
So without further ado, let’s go to the recipe.
THE RECIPE – for 12 – 14 people, depending on size of slices
The sponge and mousse are based on Christophe Felder’s log recipe in his lovely Ma Petite Pâtisserie book. I added the buttercream layer outside for an Xmas log effect and a richer festive cake. I made this cake various times earlier in the year without covering in buttercream and also loved it. You can do that if you prefer a plainer, lighter cake. This Xmas version was made with a glutenfree flour mix but you can use plain (all-purpose).
An experimental thing for me here was using a new set of natural food colourings for the marzipan decoration. I ordered online (you know, from that place starting with A and ending with N). Natural food colouring’s a really big thing now in France. This year in Season 10 of Le Meilleur Pâtissier, the French version of the GBBO (same music and everything – you can watch it on youtube), judges have really frowned upon any use of artificial colourings and seeemed to penalise the bakers who didn’t go natural. So here we are: turmeric, blue pea flower and pink pitaya powder. I must admit, there is a nice guilt-free feeling when eating the decorations and the extremely subtle spice flavours are pleasant (was I imagining the flavour or was it really there?). And unsweetened cocoa is supposed to be pretty good for you too! Lol, yes this yule log is a superfood (not). 😉
- Line large baking tray (usually the size of an average oven – 30cm x 40cm) with baking paper.
- Preheat oven to 180ºC/355ºF fan oven or 200ºC/390ºF (static).
- To see how to fold egg whites delicately into a mixture with figure of eight motions, watch this youtube video here (or similar) – note: I use a rubber spatula instead of a large metal spoon, and just added 1/2 whites then 1/2 (but you can do 1/4 first to loosen mixture, as per the video).
- 25g/1/5 cup plain/all-purpose flour
- 25g/1/5 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 75g beaten egg – 1 and 1/3 M-L (medium-large) free-range eggs
- 45g egg yolks – 2 and 1/3 yolks (from 3 M-L eggs)
- 50g/1/5 cup + 3/4 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
- 90g egg whites – 2 and 1/3 whites (from 3 M-L eggs)
- 25g /5 + 1/3 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
- Sieve flour and cocoa powder into medium-small bowl. Whisk to combine. In separate large bowl whisk egg, yolks and the 50g of sugar for a couple of minutes until pale and frothy.
- In separate medium-sized very clean bowl, whisk egg whites with the 25g of sugar to get glossy meringue with stiff peaks (when bowl is upside down meringue doesn’t slide out).
- Add 1/2 the meringue to yolk mixture.
- With a rubber spatula fold until almost combined (see video mentioned in notes above).
- Carefully fold in 1/2 the flour and cocoa mix.
- Delicately fold in remaining halves of meringue and flour/cocoa mix, using figure of eight method.
- Only fold until just combined (with no lumps) – do not overmix or mixture will flatten out too much.
- Pour onto lined baking tray and spread evenly, leaving 1cm space all around the sides.
- Bake 10-13 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and if you press sponge lightly with fingertip, it springs back a little.
- Once cooled a little you can place baking paper on top then turn sponge upside down back onto wire rack. Then carefully peel off baking paper that the sponge was baked on.
Milk chocolate mousse
- 230g/8.1oz milk chocolate (preferably good quality, like Callebaut or Valhrona)
- 190g/ml liquid whipping cream (35% fat minimum)
- 45g/ml milk
- 45g/ml liquid whipping cream (35% fat minimum)
- 20g egg yolk (1 yolk from a medium-large egg)
- 5g/1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
- Melt chocolate in medium-large bowl over bain marie (or in short spurts in microwave). Allow to cool a little.
- In a large bowl, whisk 190g whipping cream to soft-stiff peak.
- Briefly whisk yolk and sugar in a medium bowl until frothy.
- Heat milk and cream (the 45g) in a heavy-based medium-sized saucepan until just boiling. Immediately take off heat and pour into yolk mixture, whisking to combine. Pour mixture back into saucepan and whisk or stir on low heat until mixture coats the back of a spoon and just reaches 80ºC/176ºF – don’t let it get hotter or you’ll get scrambled eggs.
- Pour this over the melted chocolate and whisk vigorously to combine and get creamy mixture.
- Wait until mixture is 30ºC/86ºF (slightly warm) then fold in 1/4 whipped cream to loosen the mixture.
- Delicately fold in remaining cream.
- Don’t overmix – fold until just combined.
Cocoa soaking syrup and nuts
- 50g/ml water
- 15g/6 tsp cocoa
- 10g/2 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
- 10-12g/3-4 tsp roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts, almonds and/or pistachios
Whisk water, cocoa and sugar to combine and warm slightly in small saucepan over low heat. Prepare the nuts.
- Brush sponge all over with the cocoa syrup. Repeat until all used up.
- Evenly spread chocolate mousse over sponge.
- Sprinkle nuts over mousse.
- Roll (the long side of the log, away from you) with the help of the baking paper, quite tightly but not so much that mousse squishes out. Freeze roll, wrapped in paper, for 1 hour.
After 40 minutes, make buttercream …
Buttercream (to cover log)
- 38g/ml milk chocolate (good-quality baking chocolate)
- 75g/1/3 cup unsalted butter (good-quality French style), softened and creamy
- 100g/3/4 cup + 2 and 1/3 tsp icing (powdered) sugar
- 11g/4 and 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
- 9g/ml milk
Melt chocolate in small bowl over bain marie (or in short spurts in microwave). Allow to cool a little. Whisk soft butter until creamy. Slowly whisk in sugar, cocoa, pinch of salt and milk. When combined whisk faster to get fluffy buttercream. If too stiff add a little milk (1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon). Buttercream should be creamy enough to spread but stiff enough to hold its shape.
Note – adding coloured powder to marzipan you need to knead it well for even colouring and add powder little by little until you get desired colour. I rolled it out for the leaves and used a plastic holly-shaped cookie cutter (a magazine freebie).
- Take log out of freezer and unwrap.
- Slice off pieces at an angle (with one side straight and the other diagonal) to stick on the sides and also to have individual portions.
- Smooth a little buttercream on the side pieces to stick them to the log then smooth buttercream all over log (the buttercream looks pale in the photo due to light overexposure, oops).
- Finally, use a fork to scrape lines for wood effect. Add marzipan holly berries and leaves to decorate, or any other decorations you prefer (I added a few little pieces of edible gold paper). You can also sieve a little icing (powdered) sugar over the cake for a snow effect.
Surround with Christmas decorations. Tada!
Eating and storing
Eat immediately or store in fridge up to 3 or 4 days. Before serving, allow to come to room temperature 30 minutes or so, so that the buttercream is nice and creamy (and not too hard). You can also freeze cake (in individual slices if preferred), wrapped tightly in plastic film or in a reusable plastic wallet/airtight tupperware. Defrost at room temperature around 4 hours. Friends who have taken away some defrosted slices have loved this yummy moist cake.
Serving this easily sliced cake for family, friends or just you, is a total doddle ’cause of this cake’s shape. And it’s rich yet also light and moreish, so maybe first serve a smallish slice then expect to serve seconds!
And just help yourself to a slice of trad chocolate yule log right away? 😉
Are you ready for Christmas (if you celebrate)? What are you making?
Thank you for dropping by again dear reader. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! With lots of happy baking and eating, of course! 🙂 Lili x