You might know it as a traditional Christmas cake in Europe. But the Yule log, or Bûche de Noël, has become a beloved holiday dessert in other parts of the world, too. It’s a Swiss roll style sponge cake that’s filled with icing and topped with a ganache or dusted with powdered sugar. Most versions are rich with dairy cream and butter, but this is a dairy-free Yule log recipe. It’s also flourless, making it naturally gluten-free, nut-free, and even soy-free, if you wish!
This Dairy-Free Yule Log is Butterless, Flourless, Chocolate Decadence
There are many variations of Bûche de Noël. Some are made with a yellow sponge cake, some with chocolate. They might be filled with a whipped cream, vanilla icing, buttercream, or chocolaty frosting. This is a wonderful chocolate version – through and through. It’s a flourless chocolate sponge cake filled with your choice of chocolate frosting or whip, and optionally frosted with ganache, too! I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com, and have added the FAQs below to help you achieve the best results.
When is a Dairy-Free Bûche de Noël Served?
It’s shape represents the Yule log traditionally burned on Christmas Eve, so this is a natural Christmas dessert. But some people believe it also brings good luck when served on New Year’s Eve. And we think it’s also a pretty cake for Thanksgiving or just a special winter night.
Can You Freeze this Dairy-Free Yule Log?
You can! Wrap the completely cooled and filled cake (without outer frosting or garnishes) in a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. You can freeze it for up to three months. The day before serving, allow the dairy-free Yule log cake to defrost in the refrigerator. Before serving, decorate it.
What is “Unsweetened” Cocoa Powder?
Technically, all plain cocoa powder is unsweetened. But ones labeled as “unsweetened” or “natural” are a little more bitter in taste. They haven’t been processed with alkali to remove the bitterness, like the Dutch-processed varieties. Unsweetened brands are common, and include Hershey’s, Nestle, and various generic brands.
Can I Use Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder?
Dutch-processed should work fine, and will make a slightly sweeter, darker cake.
My Filling Melted or is Too Thin. What Happened?
If making the whip, follow the instructions carefully. You must start with a very, very thick coconut cream. Coconut cream does not thicken or become more voluminous like dairy cream because it’s mostly fat and lacks the proteins in dairy cream. The cocoa powder will help thicken it a bit, but basically, what you see is what you get. Also, make sure your cake is cooled to room temperature to avoid melting the whip. Alternately, use the frosting, which is more firm.
Do You Have a Dairy-Free Buttercream Option for the Filling?
I do! If you want a contrasting vanilla filling, you can use my Dairy-Free Buttercream Frosting Recipe.
How Can this Dairy-Free Yule Log be Flourless? Can you Taste the Egg?
The eggs and cocoa set up to create a fluffy, tender cake that holds its shape when rolled. We’ve tried versions with flour, but people preferred this flourless dairy-free Yule log cake. It won’t taste like egg as long as you whip both the yolks and the whites very well. The yolks must be very pail, almost a cream color, and the whites must be whipped to stiff peaks.
My Cake Fell. What Happened?
Flourless cakes are a bit like soufflé. They puff up a bit as they bake, and will deflate as they cool. But the end texture should still be fluffy. If it’s flat, more like an omelet, then the yolks and/or the whites weren’t whipped well enough. Or the whites were too vigorously mixed in with the yolks. You must lightly fold them in, usually with a spatula or wooden spoon. You don’t want to lose the air that you whipped into them before baking.
My Cake Isn’t Baking Through. What’s Wrong?
This is the same issue as noted above. It usually means the yolks and/or whites weren’t whipped well enough, or the whites were too vigorously mixed in with the yolks. Well whipped eggs fluff the cake up, in place of leavener, and help it fully bake through more quickly. Use patience when whipping and folding for the best results!
Is it Possible to Over Whip the Eggs?
It’s hard to over whip the yolks. They contain fat that tempers the whipping. But it is possible to over-whip egg whites, which can break them down. If you’re worried about over-whipping, you can add ¼ teaspoon cream of tarter to the egg whites before you begin whipping. This helps them to hold the whip a bit better.
Should I Use a Stand Mixer for the Eggs?
A stand mixer is helpful for these longer whipping times, but I typically use a hand mixer without a problem. Just be sure to use clean beaters when whipping the whites. You don’t want even a drop off fat from the yolks getting into them. While it is possible, I don’t recommend using just a whisk to whip the eggs. This would take longer and is quite the arm workout!
How Can I Make a Coconut-Free Dairy-Free Yule Log Cake?
I would say to make the frosting for the filling, but most butter alternatives do contain coconut. You can use organic palm shortening to make the dairy-free milk chocolate frosting. You could alternatively make the whipped dairy-free chocolate ganache for the filling, and substitute 1/3 cup palm shortening plus 2/3 cup of your favorite dairy-free milk alternative in place of the coconut milk. The ganache will set up more firmly when refrigerated.
What is Powdered Sugar?
It’s is also known as confectioners’ sugar or icing sugar. Some brands contain cornstarch, so be sure to look for a pure sugar version if you need a corn-free option. To use it, sprinkle it through a fine mesh sieve or flour sifter onto your cake. It will fall like snow onto the top.
Special Diet Notes: Yule Log (Bûche de Noël)
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and vegetarian. Just be sure to choose the ingredients that meet your dietary needs.
For an egg-free Bûche de Noël, see Kirsten’s Vegan Yule Log Recipe. I don’t recommend using an egg substitute like aquafaba in this recipe. It would result in a cake that’s too dense. If you confuse eggs with dairy, you’re not alone! See this post: Are Eggs Dairy?
- 6 eggs, room temperature
- ½ cup + ¼ cup white sugar, divided
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Powdered sugar for dusting (see below for other topping options)
- Prepare the cake filling in and refrigerate it.
- Preheat your oven to 375º F.
- Grease the bottom of a 10x15-inch jellyroll pan. Line it with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper.
- Separate the eggs into 2 large mixing bowls, one with the egg yolks and one with the egg whites.
- Add the ½ cup sugar to the egg yolks. Beat them until very pale in color, about 5 to 6 minutes. They should be light and frothy. Don’t skimp on the time. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and salt, and blend to combine.
- With clean beaters, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Immediately and gently fold the yolk mixture into the whites. They should be fully combined, but it’s okay if you still see a few white streaks.
- Spread the batter evenly into your prepared pan.
- Bake the cake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly touched.
- Dust a clean tea towel (a flat one – not one with rivets) or a very flexible silicone mat with confectioners' sugar.
- Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan, and in one swift move, turn the warm cake out onto the dish towel. Carefully peel off and discard parchment paper.
- Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel (think of the towel as “filling”).
- Let the cake cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- Unroll the cake, and spread the filling to within 1 inch of the edge.
- Carefully roll the cake up with the filling inside.
- Place the cake seam side down onto a serving plate. Cover and refrigerate it until it’s time to serve. The cake and leftovers will stay fresh for up to five days in the refrigerator.
- Just before serving, dust it with powdered sugar (to look like “snow”), or use another topping or decorating option from below.
Branch Option: Cut one or both ends off the dairy-free yule log cake before frosting. Affix the end(s) with the cut / neat side out on the side of the cake like cut branches. Frost the outside of the log and branches.
Decoration Ideas: You can make these adorably edible Meringue Mushrooms for decorating. Or you can use red berries combined with sprigs of rosemary or mint to give a “holly” vibe.