Impress your guests this holiday season with a bûche de noël, also known as a yule log cake. The chocolate sponge cake has a mascarpone filling and chocolate ganache frosting that is absolutely delicious! The decoration makes this dessert quite festive for Christmas.

chocolate Bûche de Noël cake with mascarpone filling and chocolate ganache frosting.

I’m so excited to share with you this traditional Christmas cake! A yule log cake, also known as a bûche de noël, is assembled and decorated to resemble a log. It makes for a showstopper dessert at Christmas and tastes as good as it looks!

Why you should try this recipe

It’s a classic French dessert for Christmas. Not only does it taste delicious, but the presentation will simply wow your guests. It is the perfect addition to your Christmas dinner menu. It can also be placed as the centerpiece for your table until you’re ready to serve!

What does Bûche de Noël taste like?

The cocoa sponge cake is light in texture and flavor. The mascarpone filling is creamy, but has a light consistency since it is whipped with heavy cream. The chocolate ganache is rich and decadent, but without being overwhelming to the tastebuds. It is also whipped to lighten up the texture a bit. The cake as a whole is similar to a chocolate swiss roll cake, but decorated to look like a yule log.

Ingredient notes

buche de noel cake ingredients in bowls labeled with text.
  • Eggs: Separate the yolks from the white and make sure they are at room temperature.
  • Cocoa powder: Unsweetened cocoa powder is best. I prefer the Ghirardelli brand.
  • Mascarpone: This will be for the filling. You can find it at most grocery stores. Be sure it is at room temperature for easy mixing and a smooth filling.
  • Bittersweet chocolate: Make sure you’re using good quality chocolate, such as Ghirardelli, for the chocolate ganache. It melts more evenly and creates a smoother ganache frosting.
  • Heavy cream: This will be used to make the whipped mascarpone filling and chocolate ganache. I do not recommend milk since it will make the frosting too thin.
  • Cranberries and rosemary: These are some simple garnish ideas. You can learn how to make sugared cranberries in my gingerbread bundt cake post.

Recipe variations

I like to keep it simple with decorations and use just cranberries and rosemary sprigs. However, you can also decorate your bûche de noël with meringue mushrooms, chocolate shavings or sliced almonds. If you have some candy, snowflake cookies, chopped nuts or fresh fruit, you can use that as garnish too.

A classic yule log cake has mascarpone filling, but you can also use chocolate buttercream frosting or regular buttercream frosting instead. If you can’t find mascarpone, you can use cream cheese in this recipe!

For a kick of flavor, add 2 Tablespoons of your favorite liquor to the mascarpone filling. Frangelico, Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream or Grand Marnier are good options!

How to make Bûche de Noël

photo collage demonstrating how to make buche de noel cake batter in a mixing bowl.
  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
  2. Whip egg whites and 1/2 cup until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  3. Mix egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Fold in half the egg white mixture. Add half the flour mixture and stir just until combined.
  4. Repeat again with remaining egg white mixture, then remaining flour mixture. Avoid overmixing and deflating the egg whites.
photo collage demonstrating how to roll buche de noel cake, make mascarpone filling and chocolate ganache frosting.
  1. Transfer batter to a 17×12 inch rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Bake at 350 F for 15 to 18 minutes.
  2. While the cake is still warm, invert it onto a clean kitchen towel dusted with cocoa powder. Slowly roll the warm cake with the tea towel. Cool the cake completely in the towel, about 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Make the mascarpone filling. Beat mascarpone on medium high-speed until fluffy. Turn mixer to low and slowly pour in the heavy cream. Then return to medium-high and mix until soft peak form. Add sugar and vanilla and mix until combined. Set aside.
  4. Make the chocolate ganache frosting. Heat heavy cream until simmering. Add chocolate and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. Mix until smooth, then cool completely. Whip the cooled chocolate mixture either by hand or using an electric mixer until thick.
photo collage demonstrating how to frost and reroll buche de noel cake and cut into log shape.
  1. Unroll the cooled cake slowly and spread mascarpone filling on top. Leave a border around the edges.
  2. Reroll the cake without the tea towel and transfer it to a serving plate.
  3. Cut about 3 inches of the cake off using a serrated knife (cut on a diagonal). Place the smaller cake piece against the side of the larger log. Use mascarpone to adhere the smaller piece if necessary.
  4. Spread chocolate ganache frosting over the cake leaving the ends exposed. Run a fork lengthwise across the frosting to mimic bark. Garnish with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, rosemary springs and cranberries.

Expert tips

Read the entire recipe through before getting started. You’ll be prepared, know the tricks ahead of time and set yourself up for success! This is a more advanced dessert so look at the photos, read the tips and be patient. It’s okay if it’s not perfect your first time!

Weigh your ingredients with a kitchen scale for best results. Sponge cake requires precise measurements to get the right texture. Use room temperature ingredients unless otherwise noted.

Do not over-mix the batter. It will deflate the egg whites and the sponge cake will not be light and “spongy.” Use a folding motion to add in the egg whites. Stir around the edge of the bowl, then come through center and turn the batter over.

Roll the cake while it’s still warm and without filling. It’s a lot easier and will prevent any breakage or cracks from happening! Use a kitchen towel dusted with cocoa powder to roll the cake in. This will prevent the cake from sticking to itself and help it stay in the log shape as it cools.

end of a yule log cake showing mascarpone filling swirl with chocolate cake.

Make ahead tips

  • Bûche de Noël can be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Cover loosely with plastic wrap so the cake doesn’t dry out or absorb odors. If you’re adding garnish or decorations, do so right before serving.
  • The cake can also be frozen before or after adding the chocolate ganache frosting. Wrap the cake tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before bringing to room temperature.
  • The rolled cake without filling may be be up to 1 day day in advance since it needs time to cool. Store in the refrigerator so it stays fresh then bring to room temperature before unrolling and adding the fillng.
  • The mascarpone filling will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Cover it tightly or store in an airtight container. Give it a good stir before adding it to the cake. If it’s too thick, allow it to sit on the counter for 15 to 30 minutes or until spreadable.
  • Chocolate ganache frosting can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days as well. I suggest storing after the ganache has cooled and you have whipped it to a frosting consistency. Same as the frosting, mix the frosting before using and, if necessary, let it sit at room temperature until it’s a spreadable consistency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my mascarpone filling runny?

It wasn’t mixed long enough. Keep the mixer running and the frosting will thicken. If necessary, place the mixture in the refrigerator for 20 minutes and try mixing again.

Can I use a 9×13 pan?

No, use the recommended 12×17 pan size for best results. Different pan sizes change the thickness of the cake, which can make it more difficult to roll.

Why did my yule log crack?

The cake was likely over-baked and dried out. Another explanation is the cake wasn’t warm when it was rolled. Remember the cools quickly so be prepared to start rolling as soon as it is just cooled enough for you to touch.

mascarpone filling swirl in chocolate yule log cake.

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chocolate Bûche de Noël cake with mascarpone filling and chocolate ganache frosting.

Bûche de Noël (Yule Log Cake)

Impress your guests this holiday season with a bûche de noël, also known as a yule log cake. This chocolate sponge cake has a mascarpone filling and chocolate ganache frosting that is absolutely delicious! The decoration makes this dessert quite festive for Christmas.
5 (13 ratings)

Ingredients

Chocolate Sponge Cake

  • ¾ cup (95 g) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (20 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 large eggs, divided at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (56 g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whipped Mascarpone Filling

  • 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) heavy whipping cream, cold
  • ½ cup (60 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (8 oz or 226 g) mascarpone cheese, softened but still cool

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  • ¾ cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup (6 oz or 170 g) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, (not chocolate chips)
  • Sugared cranberries
  • Rosemary sprigs

Instructions 

Chocolate Sponge Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 17×12 inch rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. This will work best if the parchment paper goes up the side/rim of the pan.
  • Whisk dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
  • Whip egg whites: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and ½ cup sugar on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes. Carefully transfer egg whites to a separate bowl and set aside.
  • Make cake batter: In the same bowl of the stand mixer (no need to clean the bowl), combine the egg yolks, remaining ¼ cup sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Add half the egg white mixture to the egg yolk mixture and using a rubber spatula fold in egg whites until combined. Add half the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Repeat again with remaining egg white mixture, then remaining flour mixture. Avoid overmixing and deflating the egg whites.
  • Bake cake: Transfer cake batter to the prepared pan and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Do not over-bake the cake (it will become dry and crack).
  • Roll the cake: Place the pan on a wire cooling rack. Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan. Place a clean tea towel/kitchen cloth on the counter and dust it with cocoa powder. Invert the cake on top of the towel and remove the pan. Peel back the parchment paper and discard. Starting from the short side, roll the warm cake with the tea towel somewhat tightly. Do this carefully and slowly. Place the rolled up cake seam side down so it doesn’t unroll on the counter. Cool cake completely, about 1 to 2 hours.

Whipped Mascarpone Filling

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat mascarpone on medium-low speed. With the mixer running, slowly pour in heavy cream (mixture will become liquidy). Increase speed to high and beat until soft peaks form (about 3 minutes). Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, then mix on low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to high until stiff peaks form. Cover and chill the filling until ready to use.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  • In a large microwave-safe bowl, add the heavy cream. Microwave for 90 seconds or until bubbling. Remove bowl from the microwave and add chopped chocolate. Let the chocolate sit for 10 minutes, then whisk until smooth. If chocolate isn’t fully melted, add the bowl back to the microwave for another 20 seconds. Let the mixture cool completely to room temperature, about 1 hour.
  • Once the ganache is completely cooled, either whisk it vigorously by hand or use your stand mixer to whisk it until it turns lighter in color. The ganache should be thick enough to spread, about the consistency of icing. Set aside.

Assembly

  • Clear your work surface and have a serrated knife, serving plate and offset spatula close by. Very carefully and slowly unroll the cooled cake. Use an offset spatula to spread the mascarpone filling on the cake, leaving about ½-inch border around the cake. Slowly reroll the cake (without the tea towel) and place it on a serving plate.
  • Use a serrated knife to cut about 3 inches of the cake on a slight diagonal. Place the small log against the side of the larger log. If necessary, use some extra mascarpone filling or ganache to help adhere the smaller log.
  • Spread chocolate ganache over the sides of the log leaving the ends exposed. Use a fork and run it length wise against the ganache to make it look like the bark of a tree. Dust the cake with a little confectioners’ sugar and decorate with sugared cranberries and sprigs of rosemary.

Notes

Pro tip: Use a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients. Sponge cake requires exact measurements.
Roll the cake when it is still warm to prevent cracks. It will cool quickly if left in the pan. Keep the cake rolled up until completely cooled (be patient!) then unroll it slowly.
Sugared cranberries: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Stir until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add 6 ounces fresh cranberries to pot and stir until cranberries are fully coated. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cranberries to a wire rack to dry for 1 hour. Once dry and sticky, roll cranberries in more sugar. Let dry for another hour.
Store cake in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out or absorbing other odors in the fridge.
Freeze cake (frosted or unfrosted) for up to 3 months. Cover tightly in two layers of plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before bringing to room temperature.
Serving: 1slice, Calories: 532kcal, Carbohydrates: 34g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 41g, Saturated Fat: 25g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 188mg, Sodium: 183mg, Potassium: 257mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 29g, Vitamin A: 1308IU, Vitamin C: 0.3mg, Calcium: 110mg, Iron: 2mg

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