Bûche de Nöel

December 13, 2013

Every other Friday, Yossy Arefi from Apt. 2B Baking Co. shares dessert projects that demand a little extra time and effort. Because your weekends should always be sweet.

Today: Welcome in the holiday season with this traditional French cake.

Buche de Noel on Food52

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There are just about a million ways to make the traditional log-shaped Christmas cake, a Bûche de Nöel, but they all have three main components: cake, filling, and frosting. (They actually have four components, if you count all of the fun bits and bobs you can use for decoration.)

This version utilizes a flourless chocolate cake -- which makes it gluten-free! -- from famed pastry chef Dominique Ansel (yes, the cronut guy is actually a fantastic pastry chef). He used to make mini Bûches de Nöel for all of the diners at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous restaurant around the holidays. 

Buche de Noel on Food52

Inside, you’ll find a simple coffee and mascarpone cream flecked with vanilla beans and finally, the whole thing is coated with rich chocolate ganache “bark,” both inspired by Cook’s Illustrated. 

More: Need something to wash it all down? Try this rich holiday drink.

To decorate the serving platter and make this dessert ultra-festive, I also made Merill’s meringue mushrooms and sugared cranberries and rosemary sprigs which are strictly optional, but highly recommended since you can make both in advance.

Buche de Noel on Food52

Bûche de Nöel

Serves 10 to 12

Chocolate Cake

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
5 egg whites
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Chocolate Ganache

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch salt

Coffee Mascarpone Filling

12 ounces mascarpone
6 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso
1 vanilla bean
Pinch salt

To Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 375° F and line a 9-inch by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease the paper. Lightly dust a clean kitchen cloth with cocoa powder.

Buche de Noel on Food52   Buche de Noel on Food52   

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the yolks with half of the sugar on high until the mixture is pale and very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the salt and vanilla, then the cocoa powder.

Wash and dry the bowl and whisk, then beat the egg whites on medium high until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, gradually add the rest of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Buche de Noel on Food52   Buche de Noel on Food52

Stir 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the egg yolks to lighten everything up. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet and bake until the cake springs back and is dry to the touch, 10 to 15 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes (the cake will deflate a bit). Then turn it out onto the cocoa-dusted kitchen cloth. Gently roll the cake, towel and all, into a long cylinder. Let the cake cool completely in the towel while you prepare the ganache and filling.

Buche de Noel on Food52

To Prepare the Ganache: Add the chocolate, butter, and salt to a bowl. Heat the heavy cream to a bare simmer, then add it to the chocolate. Stir until smooth and let sit at room temperature until it cools to a spreadable consistency.

Buche de Noel on Food52

To Prepare the Filling: Heat the cream to a bare simmer and turn off the heat. Add the sugar, salt, vanilla bean, and instant coffee. Stir and let steep for 20 minutes. Add to the room temperature mascarpone and stir to combine. 

Buche de Noel on Food52    Buche de Noel on Food52

To Assemble the Cake: Gently unroll the cake/towel. Spread the mascarpone mixture over the top and use the towel to help roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

Buche de Noel on Food52    Buche de Noel on Food52

Cut a 2- to 3-inch piece off of one end at a diagonal to use as a stump. Gently move the cake to a parchment-lined baking sheet (or a serving platter, if you’d prefer to only move the cake once). Use the cooled ganache to attach the stump to the log. Next, you’ll want to go ahead and slather that ganache on the rest of the cake.

Buche de Noel on Food52    Buche de Noel on Food52

Be generous with the amount you use and drag your spatula or knife over the surface to give it a “barky” look.

Buche de Noel on Food52

Finish by decorating the plate with meringue mushroomssugared cranberries, rosemary sprigs, and a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

Buche de Noel on Food52

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Yossy Arefi

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  • zalmine
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Yossy Arefi is a photographer and stylist with a passion for food. During her stint working in restaurant kitchens, Yossy started the blog Apt. 2B Baking Co. where, with her trusty Pentax film camera, she photographs and writes about seasonal desserts and preserves. She currently lives in Brooklyn but will always love her native city of Seattle. Follow her work at &


zalmine December 21, 2014
My Buche de Noel doesn't have nor need all three components. Mine does not involve a cake. I add Petit Beurre cookies to creamed sugar/butter and melted chocolate with additional ingredients and form that into a log. No cake. Never was, Never will be. And it looks and tastes incredible! (if I do say so myself!)
sarabclever January 2, 2014
Too late for me this year, but I am always meaning to make this a holiday tradition. I will come back here when I finally do so!
AhnaM December 17, 2013
This looks fantastic. Is it alright to make this a day ahead of time?
fiveandspice December 13, 2013
Yay! My husband and I decided we wanted to make a buche de noel for Christmas this year, and we need a gluten free one because several of my family members are gf. This is perfect!
laurenlocally December 13, 2013
I second Molly, gorgeous! And brings back such great memories of french Au Pairs.
molly Y. December 13, 2013
this is gorgeous!