This Is How We Roll: How to Make a Yule Log Cake

The number one thing that stops people from learning how to make a yule log cake? Fear of rolling. Turns out, the fear of a cracked or otherwise “messed up” cake keeps many people from adding bûche de Noël cakes to their baking and cake decorating repertoire.

Photo of Yule Log Cake Reading "Yule Love it!"

But it’s time to take a deep breath, move past those fears, and roll with it. Because as you’ll find in this tutorial, while there are some time-sensitive steps, as long as you follow the instructions, it’s really not that difficult to roll the cake from a sheet into a roulade.

To ensure perfect results, learn the rules behind baking with the Craftsy class The Wilton Method: Baking Basics. Many of the techniques taught in this course, such as proper mixing and measuring techniques, will help your roll cake turn out with a perfect texture and flavor.

We’ll start out with the recipe for a chocolate roll cake, and then will continue with some optional additions to make it into a bûche de Noël. Let’s get rolling! - Cross Section of Yule Log Cake

Recipe notes

Greasing your pan

Greasing the pan very generously is key in this recipe. You’ll notice that it calls for greasing the pan, lining it with parchment paper, then greasing the parchment paper. It’s really not excessive — you’ll be flipping the entire cake after baking it, so you want to ensure it comes out of the pan easily.

Rolling the cake

You will roll the cake twice: once in a kitchen towel, lined with cocoa, right after baking. This will “stretch” the cake while it is still quite elastic, keeping it from cracking later on. Be sure to use a towel that is slightly larger than your cake pan.

Filling the cake

Don’t like whipped cream? Not a huge problem. It’s easy to fill this cake with whatever you’d like: feel free to substitute chocolate buttercream, or even pudding or custard.

Why do you keep saying “roulade”?

“Roulade” is the French word for “roll,” and that’s the type of cake you use for a yule log. Doesn’t “roulade” sound far fancier than “roll cake”?

How to make a Chocolate Roulade Yule Log Cake (with instructions to make it into a Bûche de Noël)

Serves 8 to 10

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the filling:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 8 oz semisweet baking chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cups whipping cream
  • White decorating icing or buttercream for detailing (optional; Swiss Meringue Buttercream works well)

Step 1:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a jelly roll pan (15x10x1-inch) by generously greasing the bottom. Then, line it with parchment paper; grease the parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray.

Step 2:

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set to the side.

Step 3:

In large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar vigorously, until the mixture is thick and has lightened to a lemony color. Add in the vegetable oil and vanilla, whisking until incorporated. On low speed, beat in the oil and vanilla.

Step 4:

In a separate bowl, using an electric or hand mixer, whisk the egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low and add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Return speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture. Add the flour mixture a little at a time, gently folding until everything is all blended.

Stirring Ingredients for Yule Log Cake

Pour into pan, spreading the batter to the corners (but taking care not to upset the parchment paper).

Baking Cake for a Yule Log Cake

Step 5:

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cake springs back from a gentle nudge in the center.

Step 6:

While the cake is baking, spread out an impeccably clean kitchen towel on a counter space and sprinkle it with cocoa powder.

Coco Powder Sprinkled on Clean Towel

Step 7:

When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. You may even use a spatula inserted down the side of the pan to loosen the bits from the edges of the bottom of the pan, too.

Step 8:

Take a deep breath, and then quickly flip the pan on top of the cocoa-powder-topped towel. Just do it — no hesitation. With care, peel off the parchment paper. If you have crispy edges on the cake, go ahead and trim them off.

Flip Cake in Pan on Coco Powder

Step 9:

Now, while the cake is still warm, gently roll it up using the towel, so that the cake doesn’t stick to itself but is rather rolled up with the towel where filling would be. What you are doing here is stretching the cake while it is still quite springy. It won’t roll as well if you wait until it cools. Tuck the towel under the bottom of the roll; it should stay in place. Let it cool, rolled up, for about 30 minutes.

Rolling the Cake in a Towel

Step 10:

While the cake cools, prepare your whipped cream filling and topping. Start with the whipped cream. In a chilled mixing bowl, vigorously whip 1 cup whipping cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the cake.

Step 11:

Make the ganache topping next. In a medium saucepan, heat 2/3 cup of cream over medium-low heat until it reaches a low boil. Stir every now and again to prevent it from scalding. Once it reaches a low boil, remove from heat. Add the chocolate to the cream mixture and stir until smooth. Let the chocolate mixture stand until it begins to firm, about 30 minutes, before icing the cake.

Chunks of Chocolate for Yule Log Cake

Step 12:

Now, it’s time to assemble your cake. Unroll the cake and remove the towel. Gently cover the surface of the cake evenly with whipped cream, and re-roll. If you choose not to have an iced cake, you can dust this with confectioners’ sugar and call it good.

Step 13:

If you want to ice the cake (do it!), slice off an inch-thick slice on the diagonal from one of the ends of the cake. This will be the “stump.” Using a small spoonful of ganache as “glue,” adhere this to the top of the roll cake.

Adhering "Stump" to Top of Yule Log Cake

Step 14:

Using the rest of the ganache, ice the cake on the sides (and if desired, on the ends, or you can keep them un-iced) and all over the stump. Gently drag the tines of a fork along the surface of the ganache to give it a “woody” appearance. If desired, pipe a spiral of white icing on the stump to give it more definition.

Completed Yule Log Cake, Iced with Ganache - on

Step 15:

Slice into “coins” to serve. Store leftovers, well wrapped, in the refrigerator.

For tomorrow’s installment of Savory Saturday, we’ll share a simple recipe for risotto with Parmesan and mushrooms. Yum!

Have you ever made a roll cake? Do you have any tips to share?

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