Cherry-and-Chocolate Bûche de Noël


This classic, show-stopping roll cake from Dominique Ansel is an ideal grand finale for a Christmas meal or holiday dessert buffet.

Close up of a cherry-and-chocolate bûche de Noël decorated with meringue mushrooms, brandied cherries, shaved chocolate, and almond studded shards of caramel.

Michael Turek

Active Time:
1 hrs 10 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 10 mins

Bûche de Noël is a French holiday baking tradition that dates back to the late 1800s. While it looks elaborate, the dessert traditionally consists of a simple, thin sponge cake that is spread with a thick layer of rich pastry cream and rolled up to resemble a Yule log. From there, pastry chefs decorate the top as they like, often with chocolate shavings, meringue mushrooms, and leaves made from almond paste. 

Chef Dominique Ansel's bûche de Noël consists of a flourless chocolate sponge cake, a rich and creamy filling, and whipped cream frosting. The cake has a deep cherry flavor thanks to the kirsch-flavored syrup brushed onto the sponge, as well as brandied cherries that are mixed into the filling. It is lighter than many, thanks to the beaten egg whites in the cake batter and the use of whipped cream in place of buttercream as frosting.

There's no denying that this is a big baking project, but the payoff is an exquisite holiday dessert that will linger on in the memories of those who are lucky enough to enjoy it. To ease prep, you can make nearly all of the recipe components ahead of time. The kirsch simple syrup can be made long in advance if stored in the refrigerator (or one day in advance if stored at room temperature). The sponge cake can be baked and filled a day in advance if refrigerated. One important tip about prepping this cake: Be sure to wait until just before serving to frost it with the whipped cream.



  • 6 large egg yolks, at room temperature

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature

  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Kirsch Syrup

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1 teaspoon kirsch


  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

  • 1 tablespoon cold water

  • 1/3 cup whole milk

  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup pitted brandied cherries, drained


  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for sifting


Make the cake

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 9- by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with whisk, beat egg yolks with 6 tablespoons of the sugar at high speed until mixture is pale and fluffy, and leaves a ribbon trail when whisk is lifted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

  2. Thoroughly wash and dry mixer bowl and whisk. Add egg whites and salt to bowl and beat at moderately high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until whites are stiff and glossy, 2 to 3 minutes.

  3. Using a rubber spatula, stir one-fourth of the beaten whites into yolk mixture, then fold in remaining whites until no streaks remain. Working in two batches, sift cocoa over batter and fold gently until fully incorporated. Spread batter on prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until cake feels springy and dry; rotate pan halfway through baking. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes, then unmold cake and let cool completely.

Make the kirsch syrup

  1. In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to moderate and simmer just until sugar is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in kirsch.

Make the filling

  1. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. In a small saucepan, combine milk with vanilla bean and seeds and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar.

  2. When milk comes to a simmer, discard vanilla bean. Very slowly whisk milk into yolk mixture until thoroughly blended. Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 1 to 2 minutes. Strain custard into a medium bowl and let cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Melt gelatin in microwave for 15 seconds; stir it into custard and let cool. Meanwhile, whip heavy cream until firm. Stir one-fourth of the whipped cream into custard until incorporated, then fold in remaining whipped cream.

Assemble and frost cake

  1. Run the tip of a knife around the edge of the cake. Cover with a clean sheet of parchment and a second baking sheet and invert cake. Remove first baking sheet and peel off parchment. Brush kirsch syrup evenly over cake to soak; reserve any extra syrup for another use.

  2. Using an offset spatula, spread filling evenly over cake. Scatter cherries over filling. Use parchment to carefully roll cake to form a 13-inch-long log with seam on bottom. Fold parchment over log so the ends meet. Place a ruler against side of the cake and squeeze cake in parchment to tighten the roll. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

  3. Just before serving, whip cream with confectioners' sugar until the peaks stand up and hold their shape. Place cake on a piece of parchment paper, and frost with whipped cream. Sift cocoa powder on top (about 2 tablespoons is enough to cover cake). Using two offset spatulas, transfer cake to serving platter. Add additional cherries or other decorations if desired. Slice and serve.

Make ahead

The kirsch simple syrup can be made 1 month ahead of time if stored in the refrigerator or 1 day in advance if stored at room temperature. The cake can be baked and rolled a day in advance and refrigerated overnight. Frost just before serving.

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