Bake a Yule Log

Looking for an alternative Christmas cake recipe this year? Try making our rich and luxurious Yule Log recipe. This traditional Christmas ‘cake’ is simple and fun to make with children.

History of the Yule Log

Before it became a chocolate-covered Christmas Cake, the Yule Log was a perfect piece of firewood that was part of the Winter Solstice celebrations. As winter arrived, people (usually men) would go out and collect an attractive log for firewood. It would be brought indoors and kept in a prominent position before being burned to provide heat and light on the shortest day (Winter Solstice).

Various European countries adopted the tradition, which became part of their Christmas celebrations. In some households, the log was decorated for a number of weeks before Christmas, and believed to grant wishes! The log would finally be burned, with great ceremony, on Christmas Day.

Years later, a New York entrepreneur, wishing to adopt the yule log tradition, started showing a video of a log fire on the TV channel that he owned. His idea was to bring a real wood fire into apartments and lofts in New York that didn’t have their own fireplaces! The tradition was interpreted differently in France, too, where bakers started to bake Yule Logs with cake batter and buttercream. This, of course, is what we now know as the Yule Log.

Chocolate Orange Yule Log

We have adapted this recipe from Nigella’s classic Buche de Noel in ‘Nigella Christmas’. It is rich and chocolatey with an orange flavour. If you didn’t want orange, you could use vanilla, cinnamon or even rum to Spice Up the Icing. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a plain chocolate Yule log – we could eat this any which way!

Chocolate Orange Yule Log

This Yule Log is quick to make and bake – use a Standing Food Mixer, electric whisk, or food processor. Be ready with the icing when it comes out of the oven.


  • Butter and greaseproof paper
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 150g (5oz) caster sugar
  • 50g (2oz) cocoa (choose a good cocoa such as Green & Black’s)
  • Zest of one large orange
  • 125g (4½ oz) dark chocolate
  • 185g (6½ oz)icing sugar, sifted
  • 165g (5½ oz) butter, at room temperature
  • Juice of one large orange

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a Swiss Roll tin (about A4 size) with greaseproof paper. Butter the paper and then sprinkle lightly with cocoa.

Put the egg whites into a food processor or large bowl and whisk to soft peaks. Add 50g (about 2tbsp) of the caster sugar and whisk again until the egg whites are quite stiff. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the orange zest and remaining sugar until they are light and the whisk leaves a trail. Sift over the cocoa and stir it in gently (the mixture will look a bit claggy but don’t worry, it comes together).

Put a spoonful of egg white into the yolk mixture and stir it in gently. Then add the remaining white in three additions – fold very gently, so you don’t lose any air. Pour and spoon the mixture into the lined tin and, when the oven is heated, put in for 20 minutes.

Now rinse out the food processor bowl (or clean the whisking blades) and sift in the icing sugar. Add the butter and beat for a few minutes, until soft and creamed. Add the orange juice and whisk again.

Weigh the chocolate into an ovenproof bowl. When the roulade comes out of the oven, switch off the oven and put in the chocolate for a minute or two to melt. Turn the roulade onto a rolling board and peel off the parchment. Retrieve the melted chocolate and add it to the butter mixture, then pulse until well combined. Spread a thin layer of the icing onto the roulade and, while it’s still warm, roll it up to make a log shape.

Put the log, seam-side down, onto a serving plate. Leave it to cool for a few more minutes, then cut off one end and arrange it as a branch. Cover the log with icing, rippling with the end of a knife for a log effect.

Finally, decorate with pine cones, bay leaves, fresh cranberries, icing sugar and snowmen figures!

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