Bûche de Noël Layer Cake




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buche de noel layer cake on a cake stand with meringue mushrooms - 2

A bûche de Noël layer cake is a spectacular but do-able holiday dessert.  This woodsy toasted hazelnut cake with chocolate hazelnut frosting tastes divine, and actually gets applause from the table every year. 

buche de noel layer cake with meringue mushrooms

Bûche de Noël layer cake is a scaled down version of the classic Christmas yule log cake

A traditional Bûche de Noël or Christmas Yule Log is a bit of a project, I admit, but a bûche de Noël layer cake is another story ~ it’s got all the drama, and even better flavor payoff, for a fraction of the effort.  Sounds like a deal to me.

buche de noel layer cake on a cake stand with meringue mushrooms - 2

Heads up: this chocolate hazelnut cake is worth making even if you’re not up for the whole Bûche de Noël thing (I get it)

I highly recommend making the cake as a simple layer cake. You won’t regret it! This is one of those desserts that’s pretty AND utterly delicious.

The toasted hazelnut cake is flavorful, moist, and has the most pleasing texture from the ground nuts. And the rich, fluffy, chocolate Nutella frosting? If you’re a chocolate hazelnut fan, you will LOVE it! It’s seriously one of my favorite cakes I’ve ever made, and I’m already thinking of ways to use the cake and the frosting recipe in new incarnations.

 

buche de noel layer cake on a cake stand with meringue mushrooms

A bûche de Noël (yule log in French)

This classic dessert is a light sponge cake covered in frosting and rolled, then carved, re-configured, frosted again, and decorated to resemble a yule log.  According to The History Channel, “the history of the Yule log cake stretches all the way back to Europe’s Iron Age. Back then, Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans would gather to welcome the winter solstice at December’s end. People would feast to celebrate the days finally becoming longer, signaling the end of the winter season.”

Somewhere along the line, the yule log inspired a dessert that became associated with Christmas, and the bûche de Noël has been a holiday tradition since at least the 19th century in many countries.

You might call this cake a ‘stump’ de Noël!

This is an ingenious variation that dispenses with a lot of the fussy bits ~ we’ve pared it down to a basic hazelnut layer cake with, I guarantee, the best chocolate hazelnut frosting you’ve ever had in your life.

buche de noel cake topped with mushroom meringues

What you’ll need:

for the cake

The base of this dessert is an incredible toasted hazelnut cake 

  • butter
  • sugar
  • eggs
  • vanilla
  • baking soda, baking powder, salt
  • half and half
  • flour
  • ground toasted hazelnuts

for the frosting

The rich frosting is a chocolate buttercream enriched with Nutella

  • semi sweet chocolate
  • Nutella
  • butter
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • cream or half and half
  • salt

for the garnish

A few simple details convey the log theme

  • meringue mushrooms ~ recipe here
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • ground toasted hazelnuts

How to create the ‘bark’ effect in the frosting

The sides of the cake are frosted as usual, but instead of trying to make it smooth, use your spreading knife to pave rough swaths of overlapping frosting. See the photos for guidance.

The wood ring effect on the top of this cake is created by dragging the tines of a fork across the top of the frosting in a circular pattern to resemble the rings of a cut log. Start at the outer edge, and, turning the cake stand as you go, create a spiral pattern until you reach the center. Don’t worry about being precise, this is meant to be rustic.

Confectioner’s sugar gives the cake log a snow dusted effect

The next effect is made by patting some ground hazelnuts up the sides of the ‘stump’ to resemble lichen or moss. Then a light dusting of ‘snow’ in the form of confectioner’s sugar brings it all to life. The powdered sugar really enhances the texture of the stump.

meringue mushrooms dusted with cocoa powder

Meringue mushrooms complete the woodland scene

The final touch on this Christmas cake are the meringue mushrooms ~ they’re so much easier to make than you think, and they’re so darned cute. Be sure to make extra because they’re actually crisp little cookies that make fun holiday gifts. You can find the complete recipe for the meringues here.

Assembling a chocolate hazelnut buche de noel cake

Be sure to take a few shots to commemorate your cake before digging in (and tag us @theviewfromgreatisland on instagram!)

a slice of buche de noel cake with fork

More recipes that pair chocolate and hazelnut ~ yum!

 

Taking a bite of a chocolate hazelnut layer cake

buche de noel layer cake on a cake stand with meringue mushrooms - 2
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5 from 8 votes

Buche de Noel Layer Cake

A bûche de Noël layer cake is a spectacular but do-able holiday dessert.  This woodsy toasted hazelnut cake with chocolate hazelnut frosting tastes divine, and actually gets applause from the table every year. 
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Yield 20 servings
Author Sue Moran

Ingredients

For the hazelnut cake

  • 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup (368 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (354 ml) half and half, or milk
  • 3 cups (375 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 grams) ground toasted hazelnuts

For the frosting

  • 6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (222 grams) Nutella
  • 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups (315 grams) confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream (the cream should not be cold)

For decorating

  • a few tablespoons confectioner's sugar for dusting
  • 1 batch meringue mushrooms Get the recipe here
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) ground toasted hazelnuts

Instructions

For the hazelnut cake

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottom of the pans with a circle of parchment paper. Note: make sure your cake pans have full 2 inch sides to accomodate this cake batter.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or with electric beaters, cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy (4-5 minutes).
  • Add the eggs and vanilla extract, and beat for another minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl to get everything incorporated.
  • Add the baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and mix briefly to combine.
  • Next, add the flour in a few stages, alternating with the half and half, mixing until all of the ingredients are combined. Finally fold in the ground hazelnuts. I like to finish mixing by hand with a silicone spatula to make sure everything on the bottom and the sides of the bowl is well incorporated.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans and bake for about 35-40 minutes, until risen, golden on top, and the cake springs back when pressed lightly.
  • Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes or so in the pan, then remove the layers and place on a baking rack to cool completely before frosting. (Cake layers can also be made a day ahead, and wrapped and kept in the fridge until ready to frost.)

For the frosting

  • Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave using short bursts. Stir until smooth and allow to cool to room temperature before adding to the frosting. Note: this is important because you don't want warm chocolate to melt the butter.
  • Cream the butter and confectioner's sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or, if you have a food processor with a large enough bowl, you can use that, too).
  • Add the salt, the cooled melted chocolate, and the Nutella, and beat together until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Add the cream and mix until smooth. Note: adding cold cream can cause the frosting to split, so I like to have it at room temperature, if possible.
  • Frost between the cake layers, and then frost the sides and top of the cake. Pave the frosting along the sides to resemble bark. Use a fork to make a spiral pattern on the top of the cake to resemble the rings of a log.
  • Gently pat ground hazelnuts in patches around the side and bottom of the outside cake, if desired.
  • Dust the frosted cake with a little bit of confectioner's sugar to mimic freshly fallen snow. Place your meringue mushrooms on top and/or around the outside of the cake. Get ready for lots of oooohs and aaaahhhs!

Notes

To toast and grind hazelnuts:
  • Take 1 1/2 cups whole hazelnuts, skins on, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in a 350F oven for 10-12 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times during cooking, until fragrant. Let cool.
  • To grind, put the cooled nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  
  • Measure out 1 1/4 cups for the cake, and reserve the rest for decorating.
 
To make this chocolate hazelnut cake ahead
  • Make the cake layers up to a day ahead. Let the layers cool completely, then wrap in plastic. You can also freeze the layers at this point, but be sure to double wrap well.
  • You can make the mushrooms a day ahead, but if you live in a humid climate, meringue can get soft. I like to keep the mushrooms uncovered, on the counter and they last just fine for me.
  • Make the frosting and frost the cake the day you want to serve.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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18 Comments

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  • Reply
    Judy A Maldonado
    January 5, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    Can this be baked in a 9X13 inch pan? If so what would the time and temperature be? Thanks.

  • Reply
    Jenna Hinds
    December 26, 2020 at 8:35 am

    5 stars
    This was a beautiful recipe and it turned out wonderful. I usually make a traditional Buche de Noel for Christmas but I saw this and loved it. Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 26, 2020 at 9:52 am

      Thanks Jenna, I’m so glad you loved it 🙂

  • Reply
    Mona
    December 24, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    5 stars
    Just baked the cake and will frost tomorrow morning. It smells divine! I did add frozen, thawed and drained cherries, which slightly increased the baking time. Can’t wait for the finished product! The mushrooms are too cute! Made a batch with monk fruit sweetener and, sadly, though they looked just like shiitakes:)), the texture was all wrong! Actually, quite like real mushrooms! But not good for meringue of course! Second batch are in the oven. Followed the recipe to a t, so fingers crossed! I love anything with hazelnuts, so I’m very excited to serve this for xmass dinner! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Rose Cocchiarella
    December 24, 2020 at 11:56 am

    OMGoodness! I just finished frosting this cake and am counting the minutes until dessert. Will I end up on Santa’s naughty list if I dig in before dinner? Merry Christmas, everyone and thank you, Sue, for this lovely recipe!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 24, 2020 at 2:14 pm

      You’re welcome Rose, have a lovely holiday 🙂

  • Reply
    Elaine
    December 7, 2020 at 4:55 am

    Hi Sue, I really want to make this cake. Just wondering if it would be ok to frost it the day before serving? If so, should I refridgerate afterwards or leave out at room temperature? Thanks again!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 7, 2020 at 5:56 am

      Yes, you can frost the day before, that should be fine. You can leave it out at room temperature.

  • Reply
    Susan
    December 4, 2020 at 6:58 pm

    Oh my goodness! This is such a beautiful take on the age-old Bûche, Sue ! Kudos ! Can’t even tell you how inspired I am to try to duplicate this in some way or fashion !

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 5, 2020 at 6:25 am

      I know you’ll have fun with this Susan, I promise it’s not hard, even the mushrooms!

  • Reply
    Elaine
    December 4, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Where in the recipe do you add the ground hazelnuts? I don’t see it mentioned in any of the steps. Also, do you add 1 1/4 cups to the cake and then an additional 1/4 cup for decorating? It’s not really clear. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 4, 2020 at 2:01 pm

      I clarified this Elaine, thanks. You’ll fold the hazelnut into the batter in step 5, and yes, the 1 1/4 cups of nuts go into the cake, and another 1/4 is for decorating.

  • Reply
    Lorie Bowlin Friedmann
    December 4, 2020 at 9:04 am

    Can this recipe be cut in half for a single layer cake? This layer cake would be too much for my husband and I, as well as my waist!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 4, 2020 at 9:16 am

      Yes, and that would be super cute, too.

  • Reply
    Kim Lange
    December 4, 2020 at 8:05 am

    5 stars
    This is stunning Sue! I love everything about your clever beautiful Christmas cake! I’ve got to give this a try!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 4, 2020 at 8:06 am

      The best part is that it’s really not tricky to do.

  • Reply
    Cheryl
    December 4, 2020 at 7:04 am

    Hi Sue, Yummy! I want to definitely make this cake. Can I use/substitute Hazelnut flour? if so, what do you recommend in switching the ingredients/measurements? Wishing you a fa la la holiday!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 4, 2020 at 7:26 am

      Yes, you can substitute hazelnut flour for the ground hazelnuts. I think a coarser flour would be better than a finely ground one. Happy holidays to you too 🙂