Elevate your yule log game and make this gorgeous vertical chocolate bûche de Noël! With frosting running UP the cake, this cake is as beautiful as it is delicious. The chocolate sponge cake stays moist and soft even after sitting in the fridge for days!! It's separated by vertical layers of light and fluffy chocolate whipped cream and all tied together with a rich chocolate ganache spread outside.
This post includes plenty of step-by-step photos and tips so any and every baker can make this advanced cake! So I highly recommend reading through it before starting.
Ok, let's start with a quick little disclaimer: this is a bit of an advanced cake and the process of making it (although fun) is VERY mess! It's going to take some time and definitely takes more effort than your average cake. BUUUUT I'd say it's BEYOND worth the work once you dig your fork into the cake.
This cake was inspired and based off of my classic chocolate yule log cake with slightly modified ingredient amounts to yield enough cake to stand vertically. If you're looking for a more classic yule log cake, that's the place to start!
what makes this vertical chocolate bûche de Noël so good?
- Christmassy: my family has been featuring bûche de Noël on our Christmas dessert table since I was a little kid, so it has a very special place in my heart. It's so undeniably Christmas, and being able to bring a modern twist to life is just all the more special!
- still a classic: it's got a fresh new look, but you still have all the delicious components of a classic yule log.
- light as a CLOUD: no exaggeration! These cake layers are quite literally the fluffiest I've ever had!! I made the cake 2 days in advance so I could take plenty of pictures and even by day 3 when we finally could dig in, it was the spongiest and most deliciously soft treat!
- pretty and unique: It's so cool seeing a cake with frosting running up and down the cake instead of side to side!
- chocolaty and rich: with chocolate cake layers, chocolate whipped cream and chocolate ganache, there's no missing the chocolaty flavor! And while it is very rich and decadent, it's surprisingly not heavy.
how to make vertical chocolate bûche de Noël
Make the chocolate sponge cake:
1. Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients minus the sugar and eggs. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture about triples in volume. You should be able to draw a figure 8 with the mixture and the 8 should take about 10 seconds to sink back down and disappear. This step is best done with a stand mixer for sake of ease, but a handheld mixture would work too! I really, REALLY don't recommend doing this by hand!!
4. Sift the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and add the remaining wet ingredients. Fold together until combined. Take care not to over mix!!
5. Pour the batter into your baking pan.
6. Bake the sponge cake.
7. Take the baked sponge cake out of the oven and (right away) dust the top with cocoa powder. Lay a piece of parchment paper on top of the cake followed by a large wire rack. Flip the cake onto the parchment lined wire rack. Peel the parchment paper off (the paper that was baked with the cake) and set aside to cool completely before frosting.
Make the chocolate ganache and whipped cream filling:
1. Melt ganache ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Set aside to cool completely to room temperature. It should be a spreadable consistency. If it's too soft, pop the ganache into your fridge about 15 to 20 minutes before decorating your cake, or until firm enough to spread easily.
2. Whip chocolate cream filling ingredients together until the mixture reaches stiff peaks. Take care not to overwhip!
how to roll and decorate vertical chocolate Bûche de Noël
Now that all the cake components are ready, it's time to shape and decorate! This is where things are going to get messy - so buckle up!
Evenly spread your chocolate whipped cream over the top of the cooled cake going out to the edges of the cake. Slice the cake into 4 even strips (parallel to the shorter side).
Grab the short end of one of the strips and roll into a tube (kind of like a cinnamon roll). Once you have one rolled up strip, gently lift it up and place it in front of the next strip of cake. Line up the seam from the first roll to the edge of the next cake strip. Continue rolling the cake up with the new strip. Repeat the process until all the strips are rolled up into one big cake roll.
The cake will want to crack and break a bit, but just be patient and continue rolling. Gently smoosh any cracks together to seal the gaping as best you can. Small cracks and gaps won't be visible in the final sliced cake - so don't worry too too much. You can see in the photos below that my sponge cake was kind of cracking - but you could never tell in the decorated cake!
Place the cake (swirl side up) onto your serving plate or cake stand. Chill for at least 30 minutes before decorating. This just helps make decorating much easier.
Spread the ganache over the top and sides of your cake. Working relatively quickly before the ganache sets, use a fork to create bark-like ridges in the side of the cake and use a spoon or spatula to spiral the ganache on top.
If the ganache is too soft, pop your cake back into the fridge for another 30 minutes, or until firmed up and set. Decorate the cake with sugared cranberries and rosemary. I also used the leftover sugar from the cranberries and rosemary to sprinkle on top to look like snow!
Slice and enjoy your pretty little log cake!
watch the mixing
Most of the airiness and volume of this cake comes from the whipped eggs, so it's important to whip them enough to reach that pillowy texture but not overwhip them or they'll start to deflate. Once all the cake batter ingredients are combined, it's also very important to avoid over mixing or it can also deflate the batter.
Don't panic if the batter deflates slightly - that's normal and this recipe accounts for a bit of volume loss. But be careful not to overmix or the cake will end up dense and dry - and ultimately won't roll as smoothly.
And speaking of whipping: also be careful when whipping the cream mixture for the filling. Under whipped cream will spill out the side when you try to roll the cake and over whipped cream will become grainy and separated.
GENEROUSLY dust the cake with cocoa powder
This cake loooooves to stick. Even though it's going to be cooled on parchment paper, the cake needs a good dusting of cocoa powder on top to make sure it doesn't rip or tear when you try to pull it off the parchment. Some recipes call for powdered sugar, but I found it would melt and actually make the cake more prone to sticking (as you can see in one of my failed test batches in the photo below).
It was a nightmare trying to pull that cake off the parchment paper when I dusted it with powdered sugar - so I really recommend using cocoa powder to dust the cake before inverting. And be generous with the dusting! The entire top of the cake should be fully covered with cocoa. Use a sifter to evenly distribute the cocoa powder and to prevent any huge clumps.
do NOT roll the cake to cool
If you've made a cake roll before, you may know that one of the most important steps is to roll the hot cake up and cool it rolled. This cake batter bakes up so soft and moist, that if you try rolling the warm cake it'll just stick and tear. A little outside tradition, but this cake needs to be cooled flat - like you would any other normal cake.
You can also see in that photo above that the rolled cake did not unroll gracefully... it was delicious though! But definitely not pretty enough to make it past the eating-in-the-dark phase.
invert the cake while it's warm
The less the cake sits in the pan, the better! You want to invert the cake out of the baking pan within no more than 5 minutes of it coming out of the oven so it stays soft and spongy annnd so it doesn't stick to the pan!
Keep you cake stored in the fridge until ready to serve. You don't need to let the cake come up to room temperature before enjoying - you can serve it straight from the fridge and it'll still be perfectly soft and pillowy! It's actually best served cold, otherwise the cream filling and ganache may soften and make it difficult to get clean slices.
You don't need to cover the frosted, unsliced cake. But after slicing, press a piece of plastic wrap against any exposed cake to keep it soft and fresh! This cake will keep for around 4 days in the fridge.
check out these other recipes!
Vertical Chocolate Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) Recipe
For the chocolate sponge cake:
- ⅓ cup (80g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (60mL) vegetable oil, or any neutral flavored oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour, spoon and leveled
- ½ cup (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the baked cake
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
For the chocolate ganache topping:
- 1 cup (240mL) heavy cream
- 12 ounces (340g) good quality semi-sweet chocolate, about 2 cups, finely chopped
For the chocolate whipped cream:
- 1 & ¼ cups (300mL) heavy cream, cold
- ⅓ cup (45g) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- sugared cranberries & sugared rosemary (optional - for decorating)
Make the chocolate sponge cake:
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of an 18x13 inch rimmed baking sheet. Line the bottom with parchment paper and lightly flour the sides of the pan. Tap out any excess flour and set aside to prep your batter.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together sour cream, vegetable oil, and vanilla to combine. Set aside.⅓ cup (80g) full-fat sour cream,, ¼ cup (60mL) vegetable oil,, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt to combine. Set aside.1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour,, ½ cup (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder,, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- In the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine eggs and sugar. Whip together on high speed for 6 to 8 minutes or until the mixture is fluffy, a pale yellow color and about triples in volume. You should also be able to draw a figure 8 with the mixture and it should rest on the surface of the batter for about 10 seconds before sinking back in.5 large eggs,, 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- Sift the dry ingredients into the egg mix and add the sour cream mixture. Fold together using a spatula until combined. Take care not to over mix! The batter will deflate by around ¼ of its volume. A little more or a little less is fine, but if it deflates too much, it means it's been over mixed.
- Pour the batter into your prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Again, take care not to overwork the batter or it will deflate!
- Bake the cake in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 12 to 18 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean of any batter (a few moist crumbs are fine!)
- Working relatively quickly, but carefully, as soon as the cake comes out of the oven, run a thin knife along the edges to loosen any stuck on cake, then sift cocoa powder over top to completely cover the surface of the cake. You'll need about 2 tablespoons of cocoa - don't be afraid to be generous with the cocoa!
- Lay a large piece of parchment paper over the cake and place a large wire rack on top *(see notes for alternatives if you don't have a large enough wire rack). Flip the cake onto the parchment lined wire rack and peel the parchment paper off the cake (the paper that was baked with the cake). Cool the cake completely to room temperature on the parchment lined wire rack.
Make the ganache:
- Combine heavy cream and chopped chocolate in a medium saucepot. Warm over low heat, whisking constantly, until melted and smooth.1 cup (240mL) heavy cream, 12 ounces (340g) good quality semi-sweet chocolate,
- Immediately transfer the melted ganache into a medium bowl and set aside to cool completely to room temperature. The ganache should thicken to a spreadable consistency. If the ganache cools to room temperature but it's still a little soft, pop it into the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes before decorating your cake, or until firm enough to frost with.
Make the whipped cream filling:
- In a large bowl, combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip on high speed until it reaches stiff peaks. Take care not to over whip or it will end up grainy! To test for stiff peaks, dip the tip of your beater into the cream and invert it. The tip of the whipped cream should not curl over.1 & ¼ cups (300mL) heavy cream,, ⅓ cup (45g) powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Assemble and decorate!
- Evenly spread the whipped cream filling on top of your cooled cake going to the very edges. Cut the cake into 4 strips parallel to the shorter end of the cake (pictured above). Each piece should be about 4 inches wide and 12 inches long (the cake shrinks as it cools so this is just a rough idea for measurements).
- Grab the short end of one of the cake strips and roll into a log (kind of like a cinnamon roll). Lift the rolled strip and line up the seam of this strip with the end of another flat cake strip. Continue rolling the cake with the new strip. Repeat until all the cake strips are rolled up into a full log (pictured above).The cake will want to crack and break a little as you roll it. As you roll the cake up, gently press any cracks together to seal the gaping as best you can. Small cracks and gaps won't be visible in the final sliced cake - so don't worry too too much.
- Place the cake roll, swirl side up, on your serving plate or cake stand. Chill the cake in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before topping with ganache to make it easier to decorate.
- Spread your ganache over the cool cake. Working relatively quickly before the ganache starts to set and firm up, use a fork to create ridges going up the cake to resemble a wood grain. Use a spoon to swirl the ganache on top.
- Serve as is or decorate your cake with some sugared cranberries and rosemary. Slice and enjoy!sugared cranberries & sugared rosemary