In France, a proper Christmas dinner wouldn’t be complete without a traditional Chocolate Bûche de Noël. This wooden log look-a-like cake, traditionally made of a rolled-up Génoise cake frosted with Chocolate buttercream, is part of the official conclusion to a Christmas feast. A holiday ritual no one will pass on – even with an overfilled belly.
A French Tradition
It is no understatement to say the Bûche de Noel is one of the Christmas traditions that get the French the most excited about. And even if this year’s Holidays will be quite different amid the covid-19 pandemic, bakeries and pastry chefs have already started to craft their signature Bûche de Noel and will be selling plenty of them – just like every year.
With such an incredible choice of Bûches de Nöel at every corner bakery in France, few French people make their own Bûche de Nöel at home nowadays.
But since finding an authentic premade Bûche de Nöel in North America is much more difficult to achieve, making one yourself is the obvious decision. It will take two to three hours of your time (depending on your baking abilities), but I guarantee the process will be fun, rewarding, and much easier than what you may think. And worth all the calories… it is the Holidays, after all!
Making your own Bûche at home
Despite its elaborate look, this traditional Chocolate Bûche de Nöel is a simple combination of only two elements: a light vanilla Génoise sheet cake rolled into a cylinder and a rich dark chocolate buttercream. The Bûche is presented with one end cut off and re-attached to the side of the cake to resemble a branch, before being entirely covered with buttercream.
This festive dessert is far easier to make at home than what you may think. Take it step-by-step: the Génoise cake first, then the chocolate buttercream, and finally the assembly.
– Avoid cracks in the Génoise Cake
The trick to preventing cracks in a Génoise cake when rolling it (or any swiss roll cake) is to roll the Génoise right out of the oven while still warm, in a clean kitchen cloth dusted with sugar. This keeps the cake moist and allows it to “memorize” its rolled shape. When the cake is cool, gently unroll it and immediately spread the buttercream into it and roll it back up.
– Make a fluffy and spreadable Chocolate Buttercream
As its name suggests, a chocolate buttercream is made with a generous amount of butter, whipped gradually into a fluffy chocolate meringue. The butter should be soft (at room temperature) – to be properly incorporated – yet not too soft or it will make for a runny buttercream. If the buttercream becomes too fluid during the process of making it, pop your bowl into the fridge until it has chilled through.
– Create a bark-like look
Once the cake is covered with buttercream, a bark texture is created by dragging a fork along the cake. It doesn’t have to be perfect; the more rustic the better.
For finishing, a Bûche de Nöel is traditionally decorated with a dusting of powdered sugar to recreate snow and dotted with meringue mushrooms to match the woodsy theme. You can also get creative and use ingredients you may already have in your kitchen: such as fresh cranberries and rosemary sprigs to resemble mistletoe.
I hope you’ll love this Classic Chocolate Bûche de Noël recipe as much as I do! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.
More Holiday Baking ideas:
- Cocoa Almond Thumbprint Cookies from Alsace (Linzele)
- Spiced Cookies with Candied Citrus Peels and Almonds (Leckerli)
- Raspberry Jam Swiss Roll
- Almond Chocolate Twice-Baked Cookies from Provence (Croquants)
- Raspberry Jam-Filled Sablé Sandwiches (Lunettes de Romans)
For the Genoise Cake:
1 cup (150g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5g) baking powder
4 large eggs
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp (40g) butter, melted and cooled
For the Dark Chocolate Buttercream:
7 large egg whites
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cup (250g) sugar
6 ounces (157g) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cup (355g) unsalted butter, softened
8-10 cranberries, for garnish
8-10 fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish
Powdered sugar, for garnish
A. The Genoise Cake:
Step 1 - Pre-heat your oven to 375F (190C) with a rack in the middle. Butter a 10x15-inch (25.5cm x 38cm) rimmed baking sheet and line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment or spray it with cooking spray. Set the pan aside.
Step 2 -In a large mixing bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until thick and foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat for 2 more minutes.
Step 3 - Gently fold the flour into the wet ingredients and stop mixing when just incorporated. Slowly pour the melted butter into the batter while still mixing, and stop again when just incorporated. Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out with a spatula so it covers the whole pan.
Step 4 -Bake for 12 minutes, until a tooth pick inserted in the center of the cake sheet comes out clean. Right out of the oven, sprinkle a clean kitchen towel with about 1 tablespoon of sugar and flip the cake onto it. Peel off the parchment paper and roll the cake in the kitchen towel, starting from the narrow (shorter width) side. Make the buttercream while the rolled cake cools to room temperature.
B. The Dark Chocolate Buttercream:
Step 1 - In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with salt on high speed until soft peaks form. Set aside.
Step 2 - In a small saucepan, combine sugar with 2/3 cup (155ml) water over medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by half or until it has thickened to a thin syrup consistency.
Step 3 - Start beating the eggs whites on high speed again and slowly pour in the syrup. Continue beating and pour in the melted dark chocolate and vanilla extract. Continue beating until the mixture has completely cooled, about 5 minutes. Add the softened butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating well between each addition until the butter is fully incorporated.
Step 4 - Once all the butter is incorporated, the buttercream should be fluffy and spreadable. If too soft, refrigerate for one hour until it has chilled through.
Step 1 - Unroll the cake sheet and transfer it carefully onto a working surface. Evenly spread half of the buttercream, about 2 ½ cups, onto the entire cake sheet. Re-roll the cake into a log, as it previously was.
Step 2 -Using a large serrated knife, cut a quarter of the cake off of the log on a diagonal and attach that end piece onto the center of the cake with buttercream, to resemble a branch bulging from a tree log.
Step 3 - Transfer the Bûche de Noël to a serving plate and use the remainder of the buttercream to cover the log entirely. Smooth it out with an offset spatula. Take a fork and run it through the log to leave streaks resembling tree bark. Adorn the Bûche de Noël with cranberries and rosemary sprigs.
Chill the Bûche de Noël for at least 2 hours before serving, to allow the buttercream to set. Dust with powdered sugar right before serving.
Did you make this recipe?