This chocolate cake roll makes a delicious and festive addition to any holiday table! We’re talking a soft and tender chocolate sponge cake filled with a simple whipped cream frosting, and rolled into the shape of a log. Chocolate ganache finishes everything off to perfection!
* This post was updated with new photos and a revamped recipe! Read on to see what’s changed 🙂
I am squeezing in all the Christmas baking, cookie eating, and Home Alone watching that I possibly can before Christmas! And one of the recipes I’m baking is this cake.
Chocolate yule log has been a tradition in my home since I was a kid!
I’ve been trying to make it for yeaaarss with no luck. But I FINALLY sorted out a recipe that I’m so insanely proud of!
Through (a lot) of trial and error, I’ve put together what I consider the best chocolate cake log recipe around! I’ve also included some tips and tricks that I learned (the hard way) throughout the process.
Yule learn everything you need to know in this post! Get it?
Okay, sorry. I’m done. Onto the post!
What is a yule log cake?
My first real introduction to this cake was by my mama. I had never even heard of Bûche de Noël, yule log, cake rolls, or any of the other names for this delicious holiday dessert!
For those of you who may not have had the pleasure of hearing about or trying this cake, a yule log cake is basically a long and thin sponge cake, filled with some sort of filling (there are tons of options!), rolled into the shape of a log, and topped with more frosting or icing!
When you cut into it, you get a beautiful swirl pattern that actually resembles wood!
Yule log ingredients:
There are three components that make up this dessert: chocolate sponge cake, whipped cream filling, and chocolate ganache glaze.
For the sponge cake, you will need:
• cocoa powder: update: the amount of cocoa used in this recipe was slightly reduced to get a more authentic Bûche de Noël (this cake traditionally has more of a subtle and simple chocolate flavor)
• baking powder
• cornstarch: for an extra tender cake!
• granulated sugar
• sour cream: not a super traditional ingredient in sponge cake, and it’s one of the changes I’ve made to this recipe! The sour cream yields a richer, softer, and more flavorful cake. AND it also helps keep the cake moist and bendable – which makes it easier to roll and less prone to cracking
• oil: this was the other change I made to this recipe. The oil also helps keep the cake moist and easy to roll!
For the whipped cream filling, you will need:
• heavy cream: update: the amount was increased slightly for a more generous filling!
• powdered sugar: this actually does more than just sweeten the whipped cream – it ALSO helps stabilize the whipped cream so it holds its shape for longer!
For the ganache topping, you will need:
• heavy cream
How to make a yule log:
First, start by making the chocolate sponge cake:
1. Whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside.
2. Beat egg whites. Make sure the bowl is 100% grease free because it can impact how well they whip up! It’s the same idea when making meringue cookies. Avoid using plastic mixing bowls because they tend to absorb and hold onto grease and residue from past foods. Glass and stainless steel bowls are best.
Whip the whites to stiff peaks (the egg whites should stand up straight on the whisk, as pictured below). Set aside.
3. Beat egg yolks and sugar together. The mixture should be fluffy and pale. You should be able to quickly draw a figure 8 (pictured below) with the batter before it disappears.
4. Add sour cream, oil, and vanilla. Whisk into the egg yolk mixture.
5. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Whisk the dry ingredients into your egg yolk mixture until combined. It will be thick at this point.
6. Incorporate egg whites into batter. Add about 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter, and mix in. This is to lighten the mixture so it doesn’t deflate all of the egg whites. Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold it into the batter until combined. Take care not to over mix or the batter will deflate!
7. Pour into jelly roll pan and bake. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cake springs back when gently poked.
8. Prep your rolling station. While the cake bakes, lay out a large kitchen towel or piece of parchment paper, and dust generously with powdered sugar or cocoa powder. The towel or parchment should be larger than your cake.
9. Roll. Turn your baked cake onto the towel or parchment paper. Dust the top with more powdered sugar/cocoa powder to prevent sticking. Starting from the short end, roll the cake along with the towel/parchment paper. This first roll is so the cake takes on the log shape, so it’s easier to fill and roll later on!
9. Cool. Set aside the rolled cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Next, make the whipped cream filling:
1. Combine cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla.
2. Whip until the mixture reaches stiff peaks.
3. Unroll the cake. Spread the whipped cream evenly on the cake. Leave a slight border so the filling doesn’t spill out.
4. Reroll the cake. This time, without the parchment paper/ towel. You ought to aim for a roll that’s loose enough so the filling doesn’t come out the sides, but tight enough to make a proper swirl.
5. Chill the cake for 1 hour. This makes glazing and slicing a lot easier!
6. (OPTIONAL) Create a branch. After chilling the cake, cut one of the tips of the cake off on a slight angle, then attach onto the side to create a branch (pictured below).
Finally, make the ganache topping:
1. Combine chocolate and cream in a heat safe bowl.
2. Warm in the microwave or over a bain-marie. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
4. Cool ganache slightly before glazing the cake. Pour the ganache evenly over the top and sides of the cake.
5. (OPTIONAL) Let the ganache sit for 5 to 10 minutes to set up slightly, then run a fork up and down the log to create grooves that look like wood!
Tips for yule log success!
It was a bit of an uphill battle for me to sort out how to make a yule log at home! But I sorted out a list of a few of the hiccups I made along the way, so you can skip past my woes and get straight to enjoying this delicious cake!
Don’t over mix … anything! Now it’s natural for your whipped egg whites and yolks to deflate a bit, but do keep an eye out to make sure they don’t deflate too much! This is most important with the egg whites. Fold in a third of them first to lighten the mixture, then fold the rest in gently to minimize deflating.
Watch out while baking the cake: The first time I made this cake, I over baked it. It turned into more of a cake cracker…
We don’t talk about that cake.
This cake is super thin. It can go from perfectly moist to cake cracker in the blink of an eye. To test the doneness, you can check with a skewer inserted into the center, and it should come out clean. You can also give the center of the cake a gentle poke, and it should spring back.
Turn the cake onto a powdered sugar or cocoa powder dusted towel or piece of parchment paper: This cake loves to stick! So you do need either powdered sugar or cocoa powder to help avoid sticking. Either one works fine.
Roll the cake while hot: Rolling the cake warm means it’ll remember the shape of the roll, and help prevent cracks when it comes time to fill and do the final roll! As it cools, it’ll firm up slightly, which makes it more and more difficult to roll without this step.
Cool the cake on a wire rack: This helps prevent condensation from forming on the bottom of your cake, which can make it soggy.
Leave a border on the sides when filling. This is to avoid having filling press out when you roll the cake again. A small border is all you need (just about 1/2 an inch along the sides).
Check out more festive recipes!
Chocolate Yule Log Recipe (Chocolate Bûche de Noël Recipe)
For the chocolate sponge cake:
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the whipped cream filling:
- 1 & 1/4 cups heavy cream, cold
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the chocolate ganache topping:
- 6 ounces semi-sweet Baker's or couverture chocolate, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of a (12×17 inch) jelly roll pan with parchment paper, and set aside.
- Make the chocolate cake: In a medium bowl, combine your flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk to combine, and set aside.
- Separate your egg whites into a large mixing bowl * (see notes). Set aside the egg yolks for later. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until they're fluffy and opaque and hold a stiff peak. To test for stiff peaks, hold your whisk upright (pictured above). The whipped egg whites should stand up straight. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine your egg yolks and sugar. Whip together until the mixture turns a pale yellow color. You should be able to quickly draw a figure 8 in the mixture without it disappearing right away (pictured above).
- Add the sour cream, oil, and vanilla to the egg yolk mixture. Whisk to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture. Whisk together until you no longer see any streaks of dry ingredients. The batter will be thick at this point.
- Fold about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the thick batter to lighten up the mixture. Once incorporated, gently fold in the remaining whipped egg whites until just combined! The mixture will deflate slightly, but take care not to over mix or the batter will lose too much airiness.
- Pour the batter into your prepared jelly roll pan. Even out the batter (again being careful not to deflate the mixture too much). Bake the cake in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly pressed. A toothpick inserted into the center should also come out clean. ** (see notes)
- While the cake bakes, lay out a lint free kitchen towel or piece of parchment paper that's slightly larger than the cake. Dust with powdered sugar or cocoa powder.
- Once baked, take the cake out of the oven, and turn the hot cake out onto the parchment paper or kitchen towel. Remove the parchment paper off the bottom of the cake. Dust the top with more powdered sugar or cocoa powder (this cake loves to stick!) Carefully roll up the cake along with the towel/parchment starting from the shorter end. Set aside (seam side down) on a wire rack to cool completely to room temperature.
- Make the whipped cream: In a large bowl, whip together your heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until it reaches stiff peaks.
- Carefully unroll your cooled cake. Spread your whipped cream onto the cake in an even layer, leaving a small border along the sides (about 1/2 an inch). Roll your cake back up into a log (this time without the parchment paper/towel). Chill the cake for at least 1 hour to let the filling set.
- (Optional) Once your cake is cooled, slice a piece off the tip on a slight angle, and place it on the side of the cake to create a branch (pictured above). Set aside.
- Make the chocolate ganache: In a heat safe bowl, combine your chocolate and heavy cream. Heat in a microwave or over a bain-marie until melted.If melting in a microwave, heat your chocolate and cream on high in 10 second bursts, pausing after each burst to mix, until fully melted and smooth.If melting over a bain-marie, place your bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Heat, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth.
- Cool the ganache for 5 to 10 minutes, and then pour the warm ganache over your yule log cake. Spread evenly along the top and sides of the cake.(Optional) Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then go in and create ridges using a fork to resemble wood grain! Decorate with sugared cranberries & rosemary, meringue mushrooms, powdered sugar, or whatever else you like!