Vegan Yule Log (Bûche de Noël)
I’ve taken my favourite Christmas cake and made it suitable for an egg and dairy free diet! Check out my Vegan Yule Log recipe below.
What is a yule log or bûche de noël?
A yule log was originally just that, a large log, or trunk of a tree that was burnt over the 12 nights of Christmas to keep the family warm. The burning of the log was meant to bring good luck. Whilst the custom goes back hundreds of years and could be seen all across Europe, it is no longer commonly practised thanks to central heating!
These days, the only yule log you will find are cakes! An edible yule log or bûche de noël is made up of chocolate sponge that has been rolled into a spiral shape and filled with either vanilla or chocolate cream.
This spiralled cake is then decorated with chocolate buttercream or ganache and decorated to look like a log. Some people like to add additional decorations like holy or even mushrooms but I keep mine simple by just adding a dusting of snow.
The origins of the cake aren’t clear but it certainly is delicious!
How do you make a vegan yule log?
You’re probably not surprised to hear that there are a lot of substitutions required to make a vegan yule log.
- You need to swap out the eggs and butter for the sponge cake.
- For the filling you need to use something other than whipped cream.
- It will not be possible to use milk or white chocolate for your decoration.
- You will need to use a plant based butter and milk alternative when making the chocolate buttercream.
The good news is that none of these substitutions are difficult to make!
- For the sponge cake I use a non-dairy butter or margarine. I also use baking powder to give the sponge the same rise it would have gotten from the eggs.
- For the filling I simply use more of my chocolate buttercream! If you really want to do a cream based filling, I recommend Elmlea Plant Based Double Cream which whips up amazingly.
- Instead of milk and white chocolate I use dark chocolate as high quality dark chocolate is almost always milk free. (Make sure you’re using a chocolate with over 60% cocoa solids).
- To get a rich a creamy buttercream I use a non-dairy butter or margarine along with dark chocolate and plant milk!
If you want to find out more about making substitutions when baking, I’ve written a guide to dairy and egg free baking.
Top tips for rolling your yule log
Believe it or not, the hardest part about making a vegan yule log is not substituting the dairy and egg. Instead, it’s rolling the sponge cake into the perfect spiral!
Here are my top tips for making sure you get the perfect spiral without your sponge breaking.
Prepare your surface
Before you even think about getting the sponge out of the oven you need to make sure you’ve prepared the surface you are going to tip it out on to.
I lay a clean tea towel on to my work surface. Then, I cover this with a large piece of grease proof paper. Next, I sprinkle over some caster sugar. I’m now ready for my sponge cake.
Don’t be afraid!
This advice applies first when you tip the sponge cake on to your grease proof paper. Be brave and just go for it!
It then applies when you start to roll. Do not hesitate, stick to your guns and just keep rolling it as tight as you can. If you fiddle around you’re more likely to end up with cracks in your sponge.
Roll it really tight
If you want a good spiral you will need to roll the sponge quite tight. You will be worried that, in doing so, you will cause cracks to form. This is especially worrying with the first few rolls but as they will be on the inside of the cake they don’t really matter!
Be patient and let it cool
You might be tempted to unroll the cake before it has cooled completely. If you do this, it will not keep its shape as well. You’re also more likely to get carried away and try to fill it while it’s still warm. This would be a disaster so do not attempt!
It might take a little longer to cool than a regular cake due to it being wrapped in grease proof paper and a tea towel but it will be worth the wait. I promise.
Don’t be over generous
This is one tip I’m guilty of ignoring and I always kick myself after. You will see that the recipe says to avoid spreading the filling right to the edge. This is because the filling will spread out further as you roll the cake back up. If you ignore this advice you will have filling squirting out of the sides and making a mess!
Keep the decoration simple
I like to keep my decoration very plain and simple. Why? Because I like it to reflect the humble origins of the yule log, burning to keep families warm all those years ago.
I also like that it doesn’t let people know there’s a delicious, boozy, cherry surprise hidden in the centre!
Experiment with flavour!
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to add your own twist. Chocolate cake is a great vehicle for all sorts of flavours. I add boozy cherries to the centre of my yule log but why not consider one of these flavour twists:
- Add rum and coconut to the filling and icing for a tropical twist. Dessicated coconut is also a great alternative for snow.
- Instead of cherries why not use another winter berry like cranberry or red currants.
- Chocolate orange is a classic combination. Add orange zest to the sponge and filling for a citrus hit.
Set out below you will find my recipe for a Vegan Yule Log (or bûche de noël) made with a chocolate sponge cake filled with dark chocolate buttercream and cherries then decorate with yet more lashings of dark chocolate buttercream and a dusting of snow.
Vegan Yule Log
- 33 x 23cm Swiss roll tin
For the sponge cake
For the buttercream
For the cherry filling
- 3-4 tbsp cherries in syrup
- Begin by preheating you oven to 180C / 356F / gas mark 4 and lining a 33 x 23cm Swiss roll tin with grease proof paper.
- Before you begin baking, whisk together the apple cider vinegar and plant milk and let it rest for 5-10 minutes until it curdles to form vegan buttermilk.
- Next add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking sugar to a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- Melt the non-dairy butter and add to the dry ingredients along with the vegan buttermilk.
- Whisk the wet and dry ingredients until they are well incorporated and the cake batter is smooth.
- Pour the cake batter into the tin and smooth out with a palette knife.
- Place the tin into the centre of the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until it is smooth on the surface.
- Remove from the oven and leave it to cool for 5 minutes before attempting to turn it out.
- While the cake cools, lay out a clean tea towel then cover this with a large piece of grease proof paper. Sprinkle the grease proof paper with a little caster sugar.
- Turn the sponge out on to the sugared grease proof paper then peel off the grease proof paper that was used to originally line the tin.
- Take the grease proof paper which the cake is sitting on and tightly curl it, and the sponge cake to form a tight swirl. Wrap it in the tea towel and leave to cool completely.
- Once the cake has cooled, add the icing sugar, non-dairy butter and plant milk to a mixing bowl and beat until it has made a smooth, soft buttercream.
- Gently melt the dark chocolate over a bain marie or in a microwave stirring every 10 seconds.
- Slowly pour the dark chocolate into the buttercream while whisking to ensure it is incorporated completely.
- Carefully unroll the sponge (try not to worry if there are cracks!)
- Spread half of the icing over the sponge using a palette knife, leaving a small border around the edge of the sponge (except for the shortest end which you roll up from).
- Add a row of cherries at the short end where you roll the cake up from and drizzle some of the cherry syrup over the rest of the icing covered cake.
- Using the grease proof paper to help, carefully roll the sponge cake back up and place on to a cake board or cake that you will use to serve.
- Beat the buttercream to ensure it's still smooth and spreadable. Cover the cake with the remaining buttercream. There's no need to be precise in covering the log as the rough look is ideal.
- To create a bark like patter use a fork to create narrow grooves and knots.
- Dust with icing sugar immediately before serving.
More Christmas treats
Vegan Mince Pies