Buche de Noel is a Christmas roulade (rolled cake) with chocolate cream decorated to look like a Christmas log. It is also known as a Yule Log in the US. Because Japanese people are accustomed to eating Christmas themed cakes on Christmas day, Buche de Noel is a popular choice of Christmas cake there.
The Buche de Noel cake comes from an old European tradition of burning a huge log at the winter solstice to end the year and bring good luck, and later during the Christmas season to celebrate Christmas. It’s a little unclear when exactly people started making cakes instead of burning giant logs, but it seems to be connected to houses and fireplaces becoming smaller. The French name and the use of thinly rolled sponge cake points to 19th century France. In any case, at some point, people started to replace their wood yule logs with delicious cakes and now everyone can enjoy them!
Whether the cake is religious or a celebration of a season, it really doesn’t matter for most Japanese people since the majority of them are not Christian. They celebrate more of the commercial aspects of Christmas, such as food and gifts. As Christmas became popular in Japan, the Christmas cake became a big deal. There are so many styles of cakes to choose from, and that is an important thing for people to do every year. It is a big season for all the retail stores too. Cake shops of course, but department stores, supermarkets, and even convenience stores join in the selling competition. They make all sorts of beautiful and yummy cakes, and some are really over the top (prices, too)!
Buche de Noel may look basic compared to some of the more wild Japanese Christmas cakes. It looks like a log after all. However, it is chocolate sponge cake with tasty chocolate Buttercream – what’s not to like? The decoration can be simple, like the cake we made. Here we added meringue mushrooms, cocoa powder, and powder sugar to decorate. You can also use chocolate shavings, fruits, or a marzipan Santa Claus. There is no right or wrong. You can’t fail in decorating this cake!
Note: Make Ganache ahead of time so that it can be cool and set, preferably a day before.
- 4 eggs
- 50g cake flour
- 30g cocoa
- 30g butter
- 100g sugar
- 225g chocolate
- 1 cup heavy cream (240ml)
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Line an 11" (28cm) square baking pan with parchment paper.
- Divide eggs into whites and yolks. Sift cake flour and cocoa together. Melt butter. Set all aside.
- Beat yolks and 1/3 of sugar until a light color and very thick.
- In a different bowl, whip egg whites. When the eggs are forming into meringue, start adding the rest of the sugar in 3 parts. Whip until almost forming stiff peaks.
- In the bowl of beaten yolks, add 1/3 of the whipped egg whites, and mix in carefully without deflating the foam. Add this mixture to the rest of the meringue, and carefully mix in the same way.
- Add flour mixture, sifting into the egg mixture, and carefully mix. Finally add melted butter and mix again.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, spread evenly, and bake for 10-12 minutes. Take out from the oven, cool in the pan completely, covered with plastic.
- Chop chocolate into very small pieces and put in a medium bowl. Heat heavy cream to just before boiling. Add to chocolate and leave for a couple of minutes without disturbing. Stir well with a spatula until completely mixed. Let it sit at least 3-4 hours to set, preferably overnight.
- In a bowl, put 1/2 of the buttercream and 2-3 Tbsp of ganache and mix well.
- In a different bowl, put the rest of the buttercream and ganache and mix well.
- Remove the parchment paper from the cake. Place a new piece of parchment paper under the cake. Spread filling (leaving 1/2 cup or so) over the cake. From the one side of the cake, start rolling. Wrap the cake with the parchment end side down. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- If you like, cut out pieces of the cake with round cookie cutters to make branch stumps. Fill the holes with the frosting, and place round cake pieces on top.
- Then spread the frosting (the darker cream) over the surface of the log except the surface of the ends and any branch stumps. Cover the surface of the ends of the log and of any branch stumps with filling (the lighter color cream). With a fork, make lines like the surface of trees (bark) and circles on the ends and stumps. Sprinkle cocoa powder. Decorate as you like.