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Throw the Yule log on Uncle John

December 23, 2009

In a moment of weakness, I agreed to make a Bûche de Noël for this year’s family Christmas Eve party. I could call it a Yule Log cake, but then I wouldn’t get to use two different accents, so you’re stuck with prentention and a cake name that looks like it’s wearing party hats.

I have only made a Bûche de Noël once before and it was clearly the most spectacular thing I have ever cooked, both in terms of flavor and presentation. But a large time commitment and more than a dozen eggs are required. And many things could go wrong, so I’ve been a little afraid to try it again. But making such a cake is half baking/half sculpture, so it’s a great deal of fun. I will, I think, attempt to document the process here in case anyone else wants to give it a go, but mostly because I did a poor job of taking notes last time and I completely forgot to take a picture before it was devoured by my hungry guests.

I made a sort of hybrid cake, borrowing from several places. I used the Bûche de Noël recipe from Julia Child’s The French Chef Cookbook as a roadmap, but I opted for different recipes for the cake and filling to get some of my favorite flavors. The roulade recipe is one my mother once made for me as a birthday cake filled with peaches and whipped cream. It’s very light, moist, nutty and not too sweet. I can’t remember where the filling recipe came from, although I remember that it’s based on a recipe for tiramisu. My mother may have invented it. Or I may have adapted it myself. In any case, it is so delicious that I’ve considered the possibility that death by drowning in it might be a worthy way to go. I’ll get to the recipes for the decorations (frosting, meringue mushrooms and spun sugar moss) in a separate post, as I’ll probably be doing most of that tomorrow.

Roulade (adapted from Connecticut à la carte Cookbook)


6 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 and 1/2 cups pecans, coarsely ground (may substitute walnuts)
1 tsp. baking powder

• Preheat oven to 350º.

• Cover a 10 and 1/2″ by 15 and 1/2″ jelly roll pan with oiled wax paper (I’m hoping parchment will work, because that’s all I have), extending over the edges of the pan.

• Beat egg yolks with sugar until thick and light.

• Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until it forms stiff peaks.

• Add pecans and baking powder to yolk mix and blend.

• Gently fold yolks into egg whites.

•Spread into prepared pan. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes.

•Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, then fill. If you do not wish to fill it right away, then cover it with a damp towel and refrigerate for up to several days.

•To remove, spread out a sheet of wax paper, sprinkle it with powdered sugar, and turn the roulade out onto it.



4 extra large egg yolks (I’ll be using large and will hope for the best)
4 heaping Tbls granulated sugar
1/2 cup Whole milk (I’ll be mixing some cream with 2%)
3/4 lb mascarpone
2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbls granulated sugar
1 tsp confectioner’s sugar

• Beat egg yolks with sugar until yolks lighten. (See first photo above for what it should look like)

• Scald milk (i.e., heat it slowly in a pan while stirring until it begins to steam; stop just short of boiling).

• Add yolk mixture and mix thoroughly, stirring rapidly as you add the yolks so the mixture doesn’t curdle.

• Bring water to boil in the bottom of a double boiler. When boiling, put the egg mixture in the top of the double boiler. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon.

• Just before it boils, mixture should be thick enough to coat the spoon. DO NOT ALLOW IT TO BOIL. Remove from heat and continue stirring/beating for about a minute to cool it off so it doesn’t curdle. If you screw it up and it gets grainy, mash it through a fine sieve.

• Cool in a bowl for about an hour (or longer). This is called the crema.

• Add mascarpone to crema and, with a mixer or food processor, mix until very smooth, like a light cream. Refrigerate until needed.
[Note: I made it to this point and then refrigerated overnight. While you can make the entire cake a day ahead, save the decorations, I think it’s better to add the whipped cream to the crema toward the end so it doesn’t collapse or soak too much into the cake.]

• Whip cream and sugar as stiffly as possible. Mix into crema mixture.

•Refrigerate at least 30 minutes until you are ready to fill the cake.

Filling the roulade (instructions from Julia Child)

• Spread the filling on the spongecake sheet, and roll up starting at one of the short ends. You can wrap it and chill it at this point if you are not yet ready to frost it. Frosting and decorating details still to come!

Wish me luck!

[N.B. the titled of this post is courtesy of a carol by P.D.Q. Bach that is also my favorite way to demonstrate the importance of correct punctuation and/or observing said punctuation in compositional rhythm. The verse begins innocently enough as “Throw the Yule log on, Uncle John.” But at the end, the comma disappears, with entertaining results, except perhaps for poor Uncle John. Later verses also urge, “Put the pickle down, Uncle John” vs. “Put the pickle down Uncle John” (ew!), “Hear the hall clock strike, Uncle John” vs. “Hear the hall clock strike Uncle John” (ouch!), and query “When will you come to Uncle John?” vs. “When will you come to, Uncle John?” Clearly I go to all the wrong Christmas parties.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. crankygirl permalink
    December 23, 2009 2:26 pm

    I can’t wait to hear how it turns out!

  2. Eleanor permalink
    December 23, 2009 3:32 pm

    Good luck! Love the accent.

  3. December 23, 2009 5:42 pm

    You’re my hero. Please take pictures. Would it be wrong to make a batch of the filling, you know, just to have?

  4. crankygirl permalink
    December 24, 2009 12:30 pm

    wow–that looks delicious!


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