For me, enjoying a Bûche de Noël is the highlight, dessert-wise, of the holiday season. I cannot remember when exactly I enjoyed my first Yule Log, but I do know that it was purchased from Your Just Desserts on Park Avenue in West Hartford, Connecticut (sadly, it seems as though they’ve closed). After moving away from Connecticut, I searched and searched for a recipe so I could recreate our holiday favorite at home.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I happened upon Tartine Bakery’s recipe in their eponymous cookbook — the white cake, coffee buttercream and chocolate frosting were all of the elements I’d been looking for. A few versions later, I am thrilled to present a successful and tasty gluten-free Bûche de Noël recipe that is certainly worth the effort (we’re talking hours and hours, plus MANY dishes).
This is the first recipe that I’ve posted that I do not think is well-suited to beginners — it requires precision in both measuring (a kichen scale is immensely helpful) and technique, can be frustrating and is VERY time consuming (I know I keep repeating myself, but you don’t want to be pressed for time when making this). With that said, though, I included a lot of notes that should help the less-experienced bakers out there tackle it successfully.
Bûche de Noël
Preparation Time: 2 hours+
Inactive Preparation Time: 3 hours+
Baking Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 8 – 12
- 57 grams (1/4 cup) hot espresso¹
- 36 grams (3 tablespoons) evaporated cane juice or granulated white sugar
- Dry Ingredients:
- 40 grams (1/3 cup) millet flour
- 40 grams (1/3 cup) garbanzo-fava flour
- 48 grams (1/4 cup) potato starch
- 24 grams (3 tablespoons) arrowroot starch
- 1/2 teaspoon PLUS 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 108 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
- Wet Ingredients:
- 57 grams (1/4 cup) canola oil
- 85 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) water, room temperature
- 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- Whipped Egg Whites:
- 36 grams (3 tablespoons) granulated white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 5 large egg whites, room temperature
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 192 grams (1 cup) granulated white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
- 227 grams (1/2 pound or 16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 57 grams (1/4 cup) espresso, room temperature¹
- 113 grams (4 ounces) semisweet chocolate (not chocolate chips)
- 113 grams (4 ounces or 1/2 cup) heavy cream
For Assembling and Decorations:
Prepare Coffee Syrup:
Dissolve sugar in hot espresso; cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 325°F, line a large, rimmed sheet pan (16 3/4″ x 12″) with a silicone baking mat (you may also cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom exactly, but I don’t recommend it — it moves around too much, making it difficult to spread, and also gets wrinkly from the cake batter’s moisture); set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (millet flour through table salt). In a small mixing bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (canola oil through almond extract). In a small dish, whisk together granulated sugar and cream of tartar. Beat egg whites to soft peaks (in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, mixing bowl with hand beaters or by hand with a balloon whisk). Gradually sprinkle in sugar mixture while whipping egg whites to stiff, shiny peaks.
Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients, just until smooth. Whisk in 1/3 of the whipped egg whites to lighten the batter; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Transfer batter to the prepared pan, smooth into an even layer — a large, offset spatula is really helpful. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until cake is set to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (While you don’t want the cake to be raw, you will have more success rolling the cake later if baked just until the point of doneness, not over baked and dried out.)
Remove pan to a cooling rack, and allow cake to cool to room temperature before removing from the pan (about 30 minutes – 1 hour).
Bring about 1″ of water to a simmer in a small saucepan set over medium heat (I used my 2 quart All-Clad saucepan). In a small, stainless steel bowl that fits on top of the saucepan, without touching the water, whisk together egg whites, sugar and salt (I used my 2 quart stainless bowl by RSVP Endurance). Place bowl with eggs over simmering water; heat, whisking often, until they reach 120°F (about 5 – 7 minutes). Carefully remove bowl to several layers of kitchen towels, dry off exterior very well.
Pour egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, fit with whisk attachment and beat on high speed until firm-ish peaks form (about 5 – 7 minutes). Drop a scant tablespoon of softened butter into meringue mixture, beat on medium-high speed until fully incorporated. (You’re essentially making an emulsification, just like mayonnaise or hollandaise, so it’s important to add the fat very slowly, especially those first few additions. For a while, it won’t look like much of anything, and if it begins to separate (appear kind of chunky-liquidy), just beat beat beat until it smooths out again and then continue adding the butter in smaller pieces, and more slowly than before. Please don’t be intimidated, it just takes patience more than anything else.) Turn off machine. Repeat process until all of the butter is used and the buttercream is smooth and somewhat fluffy. Scrape down bowl, add espresso. Turn machine on low, then gradually increase speed to high as more and more gets incorporated (it looks really scary for a minute, as though the buttercream has been ruined entirely, so don’t worry, that’s normal). Whip until smooth.
Remove Cake from Pan and Roll:
Once cake has cooled, run a thin spatula along the edges of the pan to loosen. Using a fine mesh sieve, sprinkle top of cake with a light coating of confectioner’s sugar. Place a sheet of parchment paper over pan (you want it to cover then entire cake), set another sheet pan on top (as though you were stacking the pans), and invert cake. Carefully peel silicone baking mat away from the cake.
Pour cooled coffee syrup mixture into a small spray bottle. Spray top evenly with as much of the syrup as you like. (I used about 2 ounces, leaving a small amount unused. You can see what mine looked like here). Alternately, you may apply the syrup with a pastry brush.
Spread all of the buttercream onto the cake, leaving about a 1″ border unfrosted along the two long edges.
Slowly roll cake into a tight roll from long side to long side (the log will be 16″ long, not 12″). Once cake is rolled, wipe up any coffee syrup on the parchment paper, and use the paper to wrap up the cake, use tape to secure. Place roll on a baking sheet or tray, seam side down, and refrigerate until buttercream is firm (about 1 – 2 hours).
Once buttercream is firm, make ganache. In a small saucepan, warm cream over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, just until you see a bubble come to the surface. While cream is heating up, place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let it sit for a minute; gently stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Assemble and Decorate Cake:
Remove cake from fridge, unwrap and place on a cutting board. Trim 1/2″ off the edges (treat for the baker!). Using a very sharp knife, cut a diagonal slice about 1″ – 1 1/2″ in off of each end (you will have two trapezoids, not triangles, that are at least 1″ on one parallel side, 2″ on the other — to clarify, see this diagram); reserve slices. Carefully set cake, seam side down, on a cooling rack placed on top of a large, rimmed baking sheet. Slowly pour about half of the ganache over the cake (if it is pouring too freely, allow the mixture to cool a little more), use a spatula to spread it all around the top and down the sides (apply more ganache as needed). Using a cake lifter, transfer to a large serving platter. Cut the less attractive side of the reserved slices into a curve so they will fit snugly against the log. Arrange slices on top and along the side of the log as desired. Apply ganache to the “boughs,” and cover any bare spots along the log (not the cut ends, though, you want exposed frosting/cake swirls to represent tree rings) — you may need to re-use the chocolate that dripped off the log onto the sheet pan. If desired, once the ganache has set slightly, you may make swirls and lines in the ganache to achieve a textured, faux bois effect.
Paint a forest floor (read: “dirt”) on the plate using any ganache drips and a pastry brush — apply extra ganache as desired. Decorate the cake with sliced almonds, fine coconut, etc. Allow ganache to harden at room temperature before serving or storing. To store, cover cut ends with squares of wax paper and refrigerate. Remove from fridge about 30 minutes before serving. Best enjoyed within a day or two.