Holiday Desserts: Simple Yule Log

Holiday Desserts: Simple Yule Log

I’ve talked about my aversion to fussy dessert decorations before. I’d rather bake something pretty into a cookie than spread sugary goop on top of it. Still, there are some occasions that call for gussied up desserts – and all of these occasions are holidays. Birthdays aren’t the same unless somebody has gone to at least enough effort to stick a candle into a cake. Christmas is the other big holiday where you might (just might) find me spiffing up a dessert with something festive. This year I’ve tackled the ultimate of elaborately decorated Christmas desserts: The Yule Log. Only my version is a Simple Yule Log that sparkles with just a bit of sprinkles.

I’m sure you’ve seen the extensively detailed Yule Logs I’m talking about. French versions, known as Bûche de Noël, can be purchased in fine bakeries like Pierre Herme for more than 600 dollars. But even home cooks can produce some stunning logs if they have the patience. There are plenty of very impressive cakes adorned with meringue mushrooms and buttercream fern fronds. From snowmen and snails to little elves with axes – the Yule Log can be a woodland delight. I’ve even seen deer tracks dashing through confectioners’ snow and everything up to and including rabbit poop. If it’s adorned a forest floor then it’s been candied and snuggled up next to a log made of cake.

Simple Yule Log

Well my Simple Yule Log isn’t quite that intricate. However, like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, I’ve learned to see the beauty in this cake through its simplicity. It’s made with a very basic chocolate-spice chiffon cake base and standard chocolate frosting. It took me no more time to assemble this Simple Yule Log than a standard layer cake. The decorations I’ve used are festive, but subtle. The frosting is applied in long parallel stripes that form ridges where they meet – resembling tree bark without requiring calipers and modelling tools.

It’s quite possible to use my Simple Yule Log as a starting point for something much more elaborate. If you have the patience, there’s room for a whole forest floor full of winter wonder. As for me, I’m happy with a few sprinkles and a dusting of chocolate curls. GREGHoliday Desserts: Simple Yule LogHoliday Desserts: Simple Yule Log

Simple Chocolate Yule Log Holiday Cake 

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Simple Chocolate Yule Log Holiday Cake


  • 1 cup Dutch process cocoa (divided, plus more for dusting)
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 2 ¼ cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • ¼ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (divided)
  • 1 ½ pound semisweet chocolate (melted and cooled )
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar (divided)
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 large egg white
  • unknown sprinkles and chocolare curls (as garnish)


Make the frosting/filling: In a small bowl combine ½ cup cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved. In a separate large bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed. Raise the speed to medium-high and slowly add confectioners’ sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture. Set aside, covered at room temperature, while you make the cake.

Make the cake: Place oven rack in center position and preheat oven to 375°F. Spray bottom of 15x10x1-inch pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment; spray again with cooking spray. Set aside. 

In a clean large bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually beat in ⅓ cup granulated sugar. Sift flour, remaining ½ cup cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt together; gradually add to yolk mixture and mix well (batter will be very thick).

In a separate medium bowl use clean beaters to beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining ⅓ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until a meringue with stiff peaks forms. Gradually fold into meringue into the large bowl with chocolate batter. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake 10–12 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 5 minutes. Turn cake onto a kitchen towel dusted with cocoa powder. Gently peel off waxed paper. Roll up cake in the towel, jelly-roll style, starting with a short side; cool completely on a wire rack.

Unroll cake carefully, and remove towel. Spread chocolate filling evenly over cake; re-roll cake. Place cooling rack on sheet of waxed paper. Place cake roll on cooling rack; cover cake with one light layer of fudge frosting. Using a small offset spatula, drag more frosting in connected stripes that resemble tree bark, get creative or keep it as simple as you like. Sprinkle top and sides with various types of colors of candy sprinkles and chocolate shavings. Let stand 15 minutes. Transfer cake to serving platter. Store loosely covered in refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.