Saturday, 5 January 2013

Bûche de noël

My intention had been to make this cake before Christmas. I bought a new Swiss roll tin and the decorative little robins, then decided it was unnecessary as it would be another thing to eat when you didn't really need to eat. James had his 12th birthday yesterday, so I asked him if it was ok to make it for his birthday cake. As chocolate cake is his favourite, he had no problem with agreeing to it. It was fairly easy to make, but you do need 2 appliances to whisk with. The sponge did roll very easily and stayed together well once rolled. I wouldn't put as much vanilla in the icing next time as it was quite overpowering. The recipe looks long and complicated, copied from, it's not as difficult as it would seem.

6 medium eggs (separated)
150g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoon icing sugar (to decorate)

For the icing;
175g dark chocolate (chopped)
200g icing sugar
225g butter (soft)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I would only use a teaspoon next time)

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites until thick and peaking, then, still whisking, sprinkle in 50g of the caster sugar and continue whisking until the whites are holding their peaks but not dry.
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining caster sugar until the mixture is moussy, pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract, sieve the cocoa powder over, then fold both in.
Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the egg whites, folding them in robustly. Then add the remaining whites in thirds, folding them in carefully to avoid losing the air.
Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving a generous overhang at the ends and sides, and folding the parchment into the corners to help the paper stay anchored.
Pour in the cake mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool a little before turning it out onto another piece of baking parchment. If you dust this piece of parchment with a little icing sugar it may help with preventing stickage, but don’t worry too much as any tears or dents will be covered by icing later. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel.
To make the icing, melt the chocolate – either in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water or, in a microwave following the manufacturer’s guidelines – and let it cool.
Put the icing sugar into a processor and blitz to remove lumps, add the butter and process until smooth. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and the tablespoon of vanilla extract and pulse again to make a smooth icing. You can do this by hand, but it does mean you will have to sieve the sugar before creaming it with the butter and stirring in the chocolate and vanilla.
Sit the flat chocolate cake on a large piece of baking parchment. Trim the edges of the Swiss roll. Spread some of the icing thinly over the sponge, going right out to the edges. Start rolling from the long side facing you, taking care to get a tight roll from the beginning, and roll up to the other side. Pressing against the parchment, rather than the tender cake, makes this easier.
Cut one or both ends slightly at a gentle angle, reserving the remnants, and place the Swiss roll on a board or long dish. The remnants, along with the trimmed-off bits earlier, are to make a branch or two; you get the effect by placing a piece of cake at an angle to look like a branch coming off the big log.
Spread the yule log with the remaining icing, covering the cut-off ends as well as any branches. Create a wood-like texture by marking along the length of the log with a skewer or somesuch, remembering to do wibbly circles, as in tree rings, on each end.
You don’t have to dust with icing sugar, but I love the freshly fallen snow effect, so push quite a bit through a small sieve, letting some settle in heaps on the plate or board on which the log sits.

Make the Yule Log up to 1 week ahead and store in an airtight container in a very cool place.

Make the Yule Log and 
freeze in a rigid container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in a cool room and store in an airtight container until needed.


  1. I saw those two from the British Bake-off thing doing this over Christmas. Watching her roll the sponge, I thought - yeah it'd be Generation-Game city if I tried this.
    Great photo!

    1. I always thought that would be difficult, but the sponge is so light and rolled really easily. Especially when packed full with chocolate icing to stick it together .