Authentic French Bonne Maman Bûche de Noël

Saturday, December 27, 2014

For years I have been trying to make a Bûche de Noël- the traditional dessert that the French serve at Christmas.  When I lived in France, I either bought one from the local bakery, or one of the many French grandmothers I knew made one.  The last time I had a really good one was in 2007 when David and I spent Christmas with my French family  in Paris and Bonne Maman made one.  Since then, I have been trying to replicate the cake without success- until now!  So here's the thing...I SUCK at baking.  I mean, I am terrible at it.  Except bread- I am pretty awesome at baking bread- and cookies.  But cakes? Forget it.  I can never seem to make a good cake.  I think the mistake I have been making all these years of trying is that I have been trying to bake a regular chocolate cake in a jelly roll pan.  So this year, I decided to do some research, I asked some of my French friends and some of my francophile friends if they have a good recipe or if their grandmothers have a good recipe (since most of my friends in France also buy theirs from the boulangerie).  One of my friends was kind enough to ask her "Bonne Maman" (one of the things kids in France call their grandmothers) for her recipe.  I converted it, and it is amazing!  I no longer have to be afraid of making a bûche, and I can permanently make it part of our family Christmas I have so desired for so long!'s the recipe!

Authentic French Bonne Maman Bûche de Noël


  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. almond extract (or you could use vanilla)
  • 1/3 cup + 1/2 cup bakers' sugar (like fine granulated) 
  • 1/3 cup cake flour (or I used Bob's Red Mill pastry flour)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used a mixture of natural and dutch process)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper that is sprayed generously with cooking spray (I use a stone jelly roll pan but you can also use metal- note- this is NOT the same as a 13X9 inch baking dish). Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Beat egg yokes together with almond extract on high speed until thick and glossy- about 5 minutes.  Continue beating on high speed and gradually add in the 1/3 cup of sugar and continue to beat on high another 5 minutes.  Remove egg yolk mixture to another bowl.  Clean your bowl and whisk and dry.  Beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, then gradually add in the rest of the sugar and continue to beat on high speed until thick, glossy, and stiff.  Carefully fold the egg yolks into the egg whites with a rubber scraper, then sift the dry ingredients into the eggs and very carefully fold them together until just mixed- DO NOT OVER MIX! The mixture will resemble mousse. Pour the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan and spread evenly.  Bake 12-20 minutes or until the sponge lightly springs back when touched and a cake tester comes out clean.  Watch it closely, it will appear under done when it is actually ready and will over bake very quickly.  While sponge is baking, dust a clean kitchen towel with powdered sugar.  When the sponge has finished baking, remove immediately from the oven and turn out onto the kitchen towel. Carefully remove the parchment paper- it is ok if some of the sponge sticks to the parchment paper.  Roll up lengthwise in the towel - DO NOT ALLOW TO COOL or else you will not be able to roll it.  Allow the roll to cool completely- this teaches the sponge to stay rolled once it is filled.  Once sponge is completely cooled (at least two hours) unroll and fill with buttercream frosting (recipe follows), roll back up (don't be surprised if your sponge cracks a bit as it is slightly will be covered up so don't worry!) and refrigerate for an hour.  Frost with chocolate ganache frosting (recipe follows) about an hour before serving, and decorate!  In France they decorate usually with little Santa figurines or holly leaves and berries.  I chose to decorate mine simply with powdered sugar and sprinkles.  

Buttercream filling:
  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. almond extract (or vanilla)
  • 3 tsp. heavy cream
Whip the butter on high speed using the whisk attachment until light and fluffy- about 3 minutes.  Lower the speed to medium and add the sugar gradually.  When all the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high again and whip another 2 minutes.  Add the heavy cream and the almond extract until it is soft and spreadable.  

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
  • 4 oz. high quality chocolate (I use the Ghirardelli semisweet baking bar)
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/4  cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
Melt the chocolate, butter, and heavy cream together over medium heat, being careful not to scorch the bottom or the chocolate will seize (keep stirring with a whisk).  Transfer to stand mixer and mix in powdered sugar until well incorporated and smooth.  If the mixture is too thick, you can add drops of water a little at a time until desired consistency.


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