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By Ian Farrell

SAN FRANCISCO, 15 DECEMBER 2015 — A Bûche de Noël (also known as a Yule log) had its origin almost 1000 years ago in Europe. It started as a pagan tradition celebrating the winter solstice, but Christians have continued it as a Christmas Eve tradition that was thought to bring good luck in the coming year. A family would burn the largest log they could find in their fireplace, using ambers from the prior year's log to help light it. In the late 1800’s an innovative French pastry chef replaced the real log with a dessert version. The Bakery turns into a log factory at this time of year to create many of these beautiful dessert centerpieces. I make mine using a white chiffon sponge rolled with chocolate mousse and caramel and frosted with chocolate buttercream.

White Chiffon Sponge


2   Egg Yolks

3  Eggs

3 oz   Sugar

4  Egg Whites
3 oz  Sugar

3 1/2 oz Flour (all-purpose)


In a 5 quart mixing machine with whisk attachment whip yolks, eggs and first sugar until thick.

In a second bowl, whip whites and second sugar until stiff.

Fold yolk mixture into egg white mixture being careful not to over mix.

Fold in sifted flour until just combined.

Spread onto a 9" x 12" baking pan lined with baking paper.

Bake in an oven preheated to 375 F for 10 - 11 minutes

Allow to cool before using. The cake can be frozen at this point until needed for up to 6 weeks. 

Chocolate Buttercream


8  Egg whites

1 lb  Sugar

1 lb  Butter (room temperature)
8 oz   Chocolate


Mix egg whites with sugar in a bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally with a whisk or rubber spatula until sugar is dissolved and hot to the touch, five to ten minutes

Pour into the bowl of a 5 quart mixing machine and whisk until it becomes light and fluffy and cools down.

Start adding soft butter little by little and continue to whip for about 10 minutes until smooth with no lumps of butter

Pour in melted chocolate slowly while still whisking on #3 speed. The chocolate should just be warm, not hot.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue mixing for a few more minutes.

Ian Farrell: Bûche de Noël
Photo: Josephine Leung

Caramel Sauce


4 oz  Sugar

2 oz  Cream

2 oz  Butter


Mix sugar with a half cup of water and cook in a heavy bottomed pan. After 10 minutes or so it will start to caramelize. When it reaches a nice deep caramel color add butter carefully and cook for a few more seconds. Remove from the heat and slowly add cream. Whisk to combine.

This can be made up to two weeks in advance and kept in the refrigerator. It will need to be heated slightly before using.

Chocolate Mousse


7 oz  Dark Chocolate

1 cup   Heavy Cream

3   Eggs

2 oz  Sugar


Melt chocolate in the microwave on a low setting stirring regularly.

Whip cream to soft peaks in mixing machine.

Whisk eggs and sugar in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water until it’s hot to the touch. Be careful not to scramble the eggs.

Mix chocolate into eggs using a whisk.

Lastly, fold in cream.

Allow to set in refrigerator.

Meringue Mushrooms


2  Egg Whites

4 oz  Sugar


Whisk egg whites in mixing machine on speed 3 with whisk attachment until light and fluffy. Make sure that the bowl and whisk are spotless and that there are no traces of egg yolk in the egg white.

Gradually add half of the sugar to the egg whites while still whisking. Continue to whisk on speed 2. Add remaining sugar slowly

When sugar is fully added, whisk for a few more minutes and then remove from machine.

Pipe immediately onto paper lined sheet pan with a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip(about ½ inch). The caps are made by piping round quarter size dollops to resemble mushroom caps. Make stems by piping the meringue straight down onto the pan and then pulling away gradually getting smaller

Bake in oven for 2 hours at 175 F. Turn the oven off and leave meringue in the oven to dry out overnight.

They should be completely dried out and hard.

Make a little indentation in the bottom of the mushroom cap and stick the stem into the cap gluing with a little chocolate.

To assemble, remove the paper from the cake and place the sponge on a fresh piece of paper. The long side should be facing you. Spread a thin layer of caramel onto the cake. Spread a layer of the mousse, about ½ inch thick onto the cake leaving a one inch strip of cake on the long side closest to you. Begin rolling the cake up starting with the long side farthest away from you. Use the paper to help roll it evenly and tightly. Freeze for one hour.

Log decoration

Remove from the freezer and place on the table. Spread the buttercream evenly on the log with a spatula. Cut a thick slice off both ends on a diagonal.  Place one of the cut ends on the log with the nicest cut end facing out. Use more buttercream to smooth out where it’s attached to resemble a cut branch. Use a fork to make marks in the log to resemble bark. Using a sieve dust with cocoa powder and then powdered sugar and sprinkle on some ground pistachios to resemble dirt, snow and moss. Transfer to a serving plate. Color a little marzipan green and red. Roll out the green marzipan using a rolling pin and punch out holly leaves. Make small red balls to make berries. Place the mushrooms, holly leaves and berries on the log and finish with a shard of chocolate.   

A native of Kilkenny, Ireland, Ian Farrell is Executive Pastry Chef at Oracle Corporation where he turns out a line of cakes, pastries and signature truffles for the software giant's campus cafés, French- style patisserie and executive dining rooms. Chef Farrell also offers classes throughout the year on baking and chocolate making.

Farrell Confections Website

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