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Yule Log

by . Featured in NIGELLA CHRISTMAS
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Introduction

I know the recipe looks finicky, and I can’t promise it’s a doddle, but it works easily and you will soon find you are rolling chocolate logs without a care. In fact, if you have a lot of people coming round, and you can find a serving dish or board long enough, it might be worth making 2 cakes and sitting them end to end, to look like a really long log. But even if you’re making just one log, I advise at least a freestanding mixer or a hand-held electric whisk: I wouldn’t contemplate this by hand.

Now, it doesn’t look anything like a log when it is just a bald roulade, but once you’ve spread on the chocolate icing, made approximations of wood-markings on it (I use the sharp end of a corn-on-the-cob holder for this) and all, it does look quite impressive. I don’t go as far as the French, and make sugar mushrooms to adorn it: this is not only because I lack the talent, but also because a light snowfall of icing sugar is all this yule log really needs to complete its wintry perfection.

I know the recipe looks finicky, and I can’t promise it’s a doddle, but it works easily and you will soon find you are rolling chocolate logs without a care. In fact, if you have a lot of people coming round, and you can find a serving dish or board long enough, it might be worth making 2 cakes and sitting them end to end, to look like a really long log. But even if you’re making just one log, I advise at least a freestanding mixer or a hand-held electric whisk: I wouldn’t contemplate this by hand.

Now, it doesn’t look anything like a log when it is just a bald roulade, but once you’ve spread on the chocolate icing, made approximations of wood-markings on it (I use the sharp end of a corn-on-the-cob holder for this) and all, it does look quite impressive. I don’t go as far as the French, and make sugar mushrooms to adorn it: this is not only because I lack the talent, but also because a light snowfall of icing sugar is all this yule log really needs to complete its wintry perfection.

Yule Log
Photo by Lis Parsons

Ingredients

Makes: about 12 fat slices

Metric Cups

For the Cake

  • 6 large eggs (separated)
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 50 grams cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 teaspoons icing sugar (to decorate)

For the Icing

  • 175 grams dark chocolate (chopped)
  • 250 grams icing sugar
  • 225 grams soft butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Cake

  • 6 large eggs (separated)
  • ¾ cup superfine sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 teaspoons confectioners' sugar (to decorate)

For the Icing

  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate (chopped)
  • 1⅔ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 sticks soft butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF.
  2. In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites until thick and peaking, then, still whisking, sprinkle in 50g / ¼ cup of the caster sugar and continue whisking until the whites are holding their peaks but not dry.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining caster sugar until the mixture is moussy, pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract, sieve the cocoa powder over, then fold both in.
  4. Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the egg whites, folding them in robustly. Then add the remaining whites in thirds, folding them in carefully to avoid losing the air.
  5. Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving a generous overhang at the ends and sides, and folding the parchment into the corners to help the paper stay anchored.
  6. Pour in the cake mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool a little before turning it out onto another piece of baking parchment. If you dust this piece of parchment with a little icing sugar it may help with preventing stickage, but don’t worry too much as any tears or dents will be covered by icing later. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel.
  7. To make the icing, melt the chocolate – either in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water or, my preference, in a microwave following the manufacturer’s guidelines – and let it cool.
  8. Put the icing sugar into a processor and blitz to remove lumps, add the butter and process until smooth. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and the tablespoon of vanilla extract and pulse again to make a smooth icing. You can do this by hand, but it does mean you will have to sieve the sugar before creaming it with the butter and stirring in the chocolate and vanilla.
  9. Sit the flat chocolate cake on a large piece of baking parchment. Trim the edges of the Swiss roll. Spread some of the icing thinly over the sponge, going right out to the edges. Start rolling from the long side facing you, taking care to get a tight roll from the beginning, and roll up to the other side. Pressing against the parchment, rather than the tender cake, makes this easier.
  10. Cut one or both ends slightly at a gentle angle, reserving the remnants, and place the Swiss roll on a board or long dish. The remnants, along with the trimmed-off bits earlier, are to make a branch or two; you get the effect by placing a piece of cake at an angle to look like a branch coming off the big log.
  11. Spread the yule log with the remaining icing, covering the cut-off ends as well as any branches. Create a wood-like texture by marking along the length of the log with a skewer or somesuch, remembering to do wibbly circles, as in tree rings, on each end.
  12. You don’t have to dust with icing sugar, but I love the freshly fallen snow effect, so push quite a bit through a small sieve, letting some settle in heaps on the plate or board on which the log sits.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF.
  2. In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites until thick and peaking, then, still whisking, sprinkle in 50g / ¼ cup of the superfine sugar and continue whisking until the whites are holding their peaks but not dry.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining superfine sugar until the mixture is moussy, pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract, sieve the unsweetened cocoa over, then fold both in.
  4. Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the egg whites, folding them in robustly. Then add the remaining whites in thirds, folding them in carefully to avoid losing the air.
  5. Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving a generous overhang at the ends and sides, and folding the parchment into the corners to help the paper stay anchored.
  6. Pour in the cake mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool a little before turning it out onto another piece of baking parchment. If you dust this piece of parchment with a little confectioners' sugar it may help with preventing stickage, but don’t worry too much as any tears or dents will be covered by icing later. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel.
  7. To make the icing, melt the chocolate – either in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water or, my preference, in a microwave following the manufacturer’s guidelines – and let it cool.
  8. Put the confectioners' sugar into a processor and blitz to remove lumps, add the butter and process until smooth. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and the tablespoon of vanilla extract and pulse again to make a smooth icing. You can do this by hand, but it does mean you will have to sieve the sugar before creaming it with the butter and stirring in the chocolate and vanilla.
  9. Sit the flat chocolate cake on a large piece of baking parchment. Trim the edges of the Swiss roll. Spread some of the icing thinly over the sponge, going right out to the edges. Start rolling from the long side facing you, taking care to get a tight roll from the beginning, and roll up to the other side. Pressing against the parchment, rather than the tender cake, makes this easier.
  10. Cut one or both ends slightly at a gentle angle, reserving the remnants, and place the Swiss roll on a board or long dish. The remnants, along with the trimmed-off bits earlier, are to make a branch or two; you get the effect by placing a piece of cake at an angle to look like a branch coming off the big log.
  11. Spread the yule log with the remaining icing, covering the cut-off ends as well as any branches. Create a wood-like texture by marking along the length of the log with a skewer or somesuch, remembering to do wibbly circles, as in tree rings, on each end.
  12. You don’t have to dust with confectioners' sugar, but I love the freshly fallen snow effect, so push quite a bit through a small sieve, letting some settle in heaps on the plate or board on which the log sits.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Make the Yule Log up to 1 week ahead and store in an airtight container in a very cool place.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP: Make the Yule Log and freeze in a rigid container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in a cool room and store in an airtight container until needed.

For gluten-free, check the packet of your cocoa powder and icing sugar to be certain they are gluten-free.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Make the Yule Log up to 1 week ahead and store in an airtight container in a very cool place.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP: Make the Yule Log and freeze in a rigid container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in a cool room and store in an airtight container until needed.

For gluten-free, check the packet of your cocoa powder and icing sugar to be certain they are gluten-free.

Tell us what you think

What 18 Others have said

  • LOVE this recipe. I use it for every cake making venture and it never fails! It is the best chocolate log or cake recipe I've ever used. Have made it as a Yule log, a dessert, a two layered birthday cake (with icing between and on top) and it is fantastic as a gluten free option. My son's favourite cake. Thank you Nigella!!!! :) Ps. As we don't have a copper bowl for beating the egg whites I add a dash of lemon juice to increase acidity - which works wonders

    Posted by on 1st January 2016
  • A real hit, this version of Buche de Noel was so simple and quick to make, and delectably delicious for our Christmas Eve supper! I was concerned there wasn't going to be enough icing, so I skimped on the filling, but it was actually the perfect amount - next time I will fill more generously! I rolled it lengthwise in the icing sugar while still very warm and it actually looked rather like birch tree white bark before ladening on the icing! I may try adding a little more melted chocolate for a darker exterior next time.

    Posted by LusciousLynda on 26th December 2015
  • I've just made this cake. It was so easy and rolled a treat. I'll let you know if my guests like it.

    Posted by Memully on 24th December 2015
  • I am afraid to say that, although this looks good and tastes nice, it's really rather sickly and I could only eat a few mouthfuls. Basically, there seems to be far too much very heavy buttery icing, relative to quite a small amount of light and delicate sponge. In fact the sponge is almost incidental, because it's so overwhelmed by the icing.

    Posted by Maplo on 25th November 2012
  • I am a novice baker but tried this recipe over Christmas and it was a big hit! It's not an easy one, but the end result is really worth it. Tastes absolutely delicious! I found I had a lot of icing left over, otherwise instructions spot on.

    Posted by ChicaLaChef on 18th January 2015
  • Absolutely love Nigella's recipes, this one is no different. Made her "Cholcolate pudding for Christmas pudding haters" last week and it went down a treat! Further satisfying everyone's chocoate needs for New Years day with this lovely Yule log

    Posted by eoincremeeggs on 31st December 2014
  • So simple yet so tasty. Can't believe there's no flour in it!

    Posted by Tonetonytone68 on 23rd December 2014
  • I was a bit nervous about making this, but needn't have worried. I used a 9x13 inch roasting pan to make the sponge in, as I didn't have a large enough swiss roll tin. It was perfect - the sponge rose beautifully and never deflated which was a surprise. It also didn't crack at all, and was incredibly moist. Adding the icing was fun and I had plenty left over, given I didn't spread much on the sponge roll. Great recipe - I'm sure I'll be making it again.

    Posted by susieq62 on 24th December 2014
  • I did a trial before Xmas and used Nutella to roll the sponge, it was just amazing. Nigella never lets me down :)

    Posted by dini848 on 21st December 2014
  • Great cake, indeed! Not necessary as a yule log. I made an ordinary round cake

    Posted by dona2005 on 8th November 2014
  • I made this Yule log to celebrate our first Christmas in Australia . The recipe was easy to follow and the cake itself was very moist. Throughly recommend anyone to try and make this, even a novice baker.

    Posted by Pominoz on 13th January 2014
  • Please don't be out off making this if you don't have an electric mixer - I whisk all my egg whites with a rotary whisk in a copper whisking bowl - really quick, honestly. And good exercise. A great recipe, Nigella is right, you'll be churning them out with your eyes closed after a bit of practice and everyone always goes "ooooh! Lovely!!"

    Posted by Pea Bee on 26th December 2013
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