A Christmas log is the traditional dessert for the French Christmas meal on the 24th of December. It is a rolled sponge / Genoese sponge in the shape of a log, most often with chocolate ganache inside or chestnut cream and icing on the outside to make it look like a log ready for the fire.
The tradition of the Christmas log
In Provence, there is an entire ritual revolving around a wooden log in the chimney that is carried three times around the table by the youngest and the oldest members of the family, sprayed with wine and meant to burn for several nights. It is believed the Christmas log is originated from this custom. The ingredients suggest it’s most likely a 19th-century creation.
Ingredients for making a bûche de Noël
- 4 eggs
- 125g caster sugar
- 75g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 250g good quality unsalted butter
- 2 eggs + 4 egg yolks
- 175g caster sugar
- 50g water
for the Orange/ Grand Marnier log:
50g candied clementines/ orange (+ a few pieces for decoration), 1 fresh orange and 10cl Grand Marnier
or, for the Chocolate and chestnut log:
200g 85% dark chocolate and 1 tin of sweetened chestnut puree (Faugier is a good brand), 10 cl of chestnut liqueur, 125ml double cream.
You will also need a sugar thermometer.
Buttercream “Creme au beurre”
- Make sure the ingredients are weighed out exactly.
- Beat the butter until a smooth, creamy consistency is obtained.
- Put the eggs and extra egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and keep to one side.
- In a saucepan put the sugar and water and heat over medium heat until it reaches 121℃. Take off the heat and when it goes down to 110℃ start whisking the eggs with an electric mixer and whilst whisking non-stop gradually add the sugar mixture in a steady stream.
- Continue to whisk the eggs until the mixture is lukewarm (about 5 mins).
- Add the butter to the creamy egg mixture and whisk for a further 5 mins until a smooth pale creamy mixture is obtained.
- Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge to harden.
- To make this light airy sponge you need to make a bain-marie by placing a large mixing bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 170℃ (less if fan assisted).
- Prepare a swiss roll tin or baking tin with shallow sides with non-stick baking parchment. We used an oven tray lined with paper which worked well, you don’t want it to be too thick otherwise it is hard to roll.
- Weigh out the flour and sieve twice with the salt. Put to one side for later.
- In the mixing bowl put the eggs and sugar and keeping the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water, whisk continually until the mixture is light and creamy and very thick. You should be able to see the trail of the whisk after moving it through the mixture.
- Take off the heat and continue whisking until cool.
- Carefully fold in the flour with a large metal spoon then spread the mixture over the base of the baking tray. The mixture should be about 1cm thick. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
- When it comes out of the oven place the base of the paper on a damp tea towel and cover the top of the sponge with a dry one. This helps ensure that the base stays moist and will be easier to roll.
- When the sponge has cooled you can then add the filling!
Depending on your choice you can do a variety of fillings but in this recipe, we are explaining two options .. you can then invent your own depending on your personal favourites!
Option 1: Grand Marnier and orange
- Drizzle the Grand Marnier over the base of the sponge.
- Add the 50g of thinly sliced candied orange to the buttercream along with the zest of 1 fresh orange.
- Spread some of the buttercreams over the entire sponge, then carefully roll it up, peeling the paper off the back as you go.
- Place the log on a serving platter and then spread the rest of the buttercream over the top and ends.
- Using a fork make swirls so it looks like a log … then decorate the top. We put some extra candied orange, some chocolate swirls and a plastic golden flower to give a nice effect. You can do a variety of things so get as creative as you like!! You could always add dark chocolate shavings inside, or outside to make it a chocolate/ orange combination too.
Option 2: Chestnut and chocolate
- Drizzle the liqueur over the base of the sponge.
- Whip the double cream until thick then fold into the chestnut purée. Spread the chestnut mixture over the base of the sponge then carefully roll it up, peeling the paper off the back as you go. Place the log on a serving platter.
- Melt the 200g of chocolate over a bain-marie and when melted, pour a little onto some non-stick paper to make a plaque of about 10cm by 5cm and place in the fridge. Meanwhile, whisk the rest of the melted chocolate into the buttercream and leave it to cool again.
- Make a simple icing sugar and a tiny amount of water and food colouring to create a thick paste and using a thin nozzle and a piping bag, pipe Merry Christmas “Joyeux Noël” onto the plaque then leave to set again.
When the chocolate buttercream is set, spread over the top and ends of the rolled sponge. Using a fork, make swirls so it looks like a log … then decorate the top. We put some sugar stars, glitter sugar, and Christmas decorations (mushrooms and silver stars) and the plaque on the bûche. There are so many things you can do, so add different sugar to look like snow and anything to create a Christmas feel.
In boulangeries in France, you can get some very contemporary, simple looking bûche and more decorative ones, so it is really up to you what you prefer.
Other flavour variations you might like to try …
- Dark chocolate/ orange with Grand Marnier
- Cherry and chocolate “black forest” with kirsch
- Chocolate and mint
- White chocolate and raspberry
- Lemon (try a lemon curd in the centre and lemon-scented buttercream!)
You can infuse the sponge with different flavours too to add another layer of flavour.