Friday, December 18, 2015

French Friday: Bouche de Noel (1)

 Apparently there are many variations of the Yule Log tradition.

Its history seems rooted in the Nordic culture. The ashes of the previous yule log were kept through the year to ward off house fires. Then, on Christmas Eve night, a new yule log would be placed in the fireplace and lit by those same ashes.

The log burned for twelve solid hours while watchers sipped cider, mulled wine or other beverages and told ghost stories and reminisced about old memories.

The French "patisseries" took this tradition one step further and created the Bouche de Noel - a decadent chocolate confection decorated to resemble the log of this traditional fire. I have admired this dessert for years, but felt unqualified to make it. However, for the good of the blog, I overcame my fears and gave it a try.

The Bouche de Noel incorporates three key components: sponge cake - whipped cream filling - chocolate frosting. There are as many recipes, however, as there are bakers. While sponge cake is fairly basic, the cream filling can be flavored in a variety of ways and the chocolate frosting can consist of butter creams, ganaches, or anything in between. Then of course there is the decorative element.

It isn't the ingredients that intimidated me, per se, but rather the technique. I wasn't quite sure how to roll a cake without it cracking and losing its shape. Come to find out... it wasn't all that difficult.

I did a lot of research and finally decided to combine two different recipes for my first attempt.

The cake and frosting recipe came from Sorted Food. While these three guys are rather unsophisticated, their video tutorial is quite helpful (and provided a good dose of humor as well). The recipe on the website is in metric form, so I tried to adapt as best I could.

 The whipped cream filling recipe I found on the Joy of Baking website. They offer a variety of whipped flavors, but I thought the Mocha would pair well with this dessert.

I would rate my first attempt at making this Bouche de Noel a solid B. There is definitely room for improvement, but it was edible and looked a bit like a log.

There are a few issues that will need to be addressed in the future. First, the cake was a bit dry and stuck to the waxed paper. Next time I will use parchment paper and perhaps lower the temperature to 400 degrees rather than 410.

The whipped cream was perfect - and the chocolate butter cream was rich and smooth. I will slightly adjust the butter cream technique next time, however, to allow for less cocoa mess all over the counters.

An additional change will include decorating the platter to match the forest theme.

So, I anticipate writing a Bouche de Noel (2) post this time next year - hopefully with a few improvements.

Chocolate Sponge Cake
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¾ teaspoons powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup cocoa

  1. mix eggs and sugar until light, fluffy and about triple in volume
  2. sift in dry ingredients and fold into mixture
  3. pour into wax paper lined jelly roll pan and bake at 410 for about 10 minutes
  4. Immediately remove cake from pan and place on top of wax paper sprinkled liberally with sugar.
  5. Roll tightly while hot – and allow to cool in rolled state. 

In meantime, make the whipped cream filling and butter cream frosting.

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting:
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 3.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • cream (to right consistency) 

Mocha Whipped Cream Filling

  •         1 cup cold whipping cream
  •         ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  •         3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  •        1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  •         2 tablespoons cocoa

  1. Place your mixing bowl and wire whisk in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes. 
  2. Place the vanilla extract, 3 tablespoons of sugar, cocoa powder, and instant coffee powder in the cold bowl. Stir in about 2 tablespoons of the cream to form a thick paste 
  3. Add the rest of the cream and beat just until stiff peaks form. 
Cake Assembly
  1. Unroll chocolate cake
  2. Spread whipped cream filling over entire cake
  3. Re-roll cake and place seam-side down on serving platter
  4. Frost with butter cream
  5. Using a fork, create lines to resemble tree bark
  6. Decorate with holly or sugar decorations

This post is a part of Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads. For other delectable recipes and food ideas, please visit this week's selection.


  1. Yay you for giving this a try! I've never made a yule log, but I have rolled a jelly roll cake. It is surprisingly easier than one would imagine. Now you have me wanting to try a bouche de noel ... I like the idea of decorating the platter with a woody theme.

    BTW: the pie cookbook offers a lot of tips and different recipes for crusts, so maybe one will work for you. I'm not all that good with crusts either, but I keep trying.

    1. I already reserved a copy of the pie book from my local library. I look forward to trying homemade crust again (the real problem will be deciding which filling to try first) :)

  2. Kudos to you for making this. I've admired bouche de noel for years but was always intimidated by it. I've even avoided trying plain jelly rolls. Yours looks good!

    1. In all honesty, Jama - I've never made a jelly roll either... but I'd be willing to try now :)

  3. You deserve a pat on the back for making this gorgeous dessert. It's worthy of a magazine cover!

    1. Awe Tina... thank you so much for the encouragement :)

  4. I've wanted to try this for years! We're hosting Christmas Eve dinner this year... wonder if I have time to make a 'test log' a few days early, just in case ;-)

    1. ABSOLUTELY JoAnn!!

      It didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would - and it wasn't as difficult either. I say... GO FOR IT :)

  5. Go you! I don't think I would have been brave enough to try this since I haven't baked in quite a few years other than really simple things.

    It looks beautiful and I bet it tastes really yummy!

    1. Actually, it was yummy, Vicki :)

      I meant to include in the post... it tasted better the second day so all the favors had a chance to meld together. The mocha flavor was quite prevalent, which I loved.

  6. It's certainly the right season for such decadence! This year we are resurrecting an old family tradition of making a cherry log. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

    1. A cherry log... I am unfamiliar with that tradition, but intrigued :)
      Do you plan to share on your blog sometime?

  7. I've loved the idea of Bouche de Noel since I read about it in a girl's magazine when I was, well, a girl. I've managed to get a slice a couple of times in my life, but never got brave enough to try to make it. I'm so impressed with yours -- it's beautiful!

    1. Thank you for your kind words!
      I definitely learned a lot this year and hope to improve when I make another one in 2016 (I think this might become a new tradition)

  8. Wow! Tricky. I respect those who attempt such wonders.

    1. Thanks, Deb... I think I will wait another 11 months before I attempt again :)


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