This chocolate cake roll can make a delicious and festive addition to your table this Christmas! We’re talking a soft and tender cake, filled with a simple whipped cream, and rolled into the shape of a log. A chocolate ganache frosting finishes everything off!
I am squeezing in all the holiday 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 last year 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 in this post! 😉
What is a yule log cake?
My first real introduction to this cake was by my mom. 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 wood log, and topped with more frosting or icing!
When you cut into it, you get a beautiful swirl pattern that actually resembles wood!
How to make a yule log:
First, start by making the 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. Whip the whites to soft peaks (the mixture should curl on the whisk as pictured above). Set aside.
3. Beat egg yolks and sugar together. The mixture should be fluffy and pale. You should be able to draw a figure 8 (pictured above) without it disappearing too quickly.
4. Combine egg yolk mixture and dry ingredients. The mixture will deflate here, and that’s perfectly fine!
5. Add egg whites in 2 additions. The first addition is to lighten the mixture (so it will also deflate … which is fine!), the second addition is to add air to the mixture.
6. Pour into jelly roll pan and bake. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cake springs back when gently poked.
7. While the cake bakes, lay out a large kitchen towel or piece of parchment paper, and dust generously with powdered sugar or cocoa powder.
8. Turn the hot cake onto the parchment paper or towel. Starting from the short end, roll the cake up along with the towel/parchment paper.
9. Cool completely on a wire rack.
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.
5. Chill the cake for 1 hour.
Finally, make the ganache topping:
1. Place chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl. Set aside.
2. Warm cream in the microwave or in a small pot on your stovetop. The cream should be hot and just starting to bubble along the edges. It shouldn’t be boiling!
3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and all is combined.
4. Top cake with the ganache. Spread the ganache evenly along 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!
Decorate with sugared cranberries and rosemary, meringue mushrooms, powdered sugar, or whatever else you like!
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 half 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, so it bakes in 10 to 12 minutes. It shouldn’t really take longer than 15 minutes at most. To test the doneness, your 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 along the top of your yule log! As it cools, it’ll firm up slightly, which makes it more and more difficult to roll.
Cool the cake on a wire rack: This helps prevent condensation from forming on the bottom of your cake, which can make it a bit 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).
If you liked this chocolate yule log recipe, check out some of these other posts!
Chocolate Yule Log Recipe (Chocolate Bûche de Noël Recipe)
For the chocolate sponge cake:
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the whipped cream filling:
- 1 cup heavy cream, cold
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the chocolate ganache topping:
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of a (10x15x1 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 or a handheld whisk, whip the egg whites until they're fluffy and opaque and hold a soft peak. To test for soft peaks, hold your whisk upright (pictured above). The whipped egg whites should curl down slightly. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine your egg yolks and sugar. Whip together until the mixture almost doubles in volume and turns pale yellow. You should be able to draw a figure 8 in the mixture and it should take a few seconds to disappear (visual pictured above). Add the vanilla and whisk it into the egg yolk mixture.
- Add the dry ingredients to the egg yolks. Mix together until you no longer see any dry ingredients. The batter will be very thick at this point.
- Fold half of the whipped egg whites into the thick batter to lighten the mixture. Once incorporated, gently fold in the remaining half of the whipped egg whites until just combined! Take care not to deflate the mixture too, too much by over mixing.
- Pour the batter into your prepared jelly roll pan. Carefully 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 10 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly touched. 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 cake out onto the parchment paper or kitchen towel. Remove the parchment paper used for baking from the bottom. Dust the top with more powdered sugar or cocoa powder because this cake loves to stick! While the cake is still hot, 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.
- Make the chocolate ganache: Place your chocolate in a heat-safe bowl, and set aside. Heat the cream in the microwave or in a small pot on your stovetop until it just starts to bubble along the edges. Carefully pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is dissolved and everything is smooth and shiny.
- Pour the warm ganache over your cooled 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 and rosemary *** (see notes), meringue mushrooms, powdered sugar, or whatever else you like!