Simple Chocolate Yule Log

simple make ahead christmas dessert recipe

For the first time in many, many years, I’m not hosting a main holiday meal over Christmas. I am, however, always in charge of dessert, and I’ve decided to make the easiest, most delicious thing I can think of for my family. While I love experimenting, I’ve chosen this particular dessert for a few reasons:

  • It’s incredibly easy to make, despite looking ultra-impressive on the plate.
  • It requires only 10 ingredients from start to finish, all of them easy to source.
  • It’s super kid-friendly.
  • It can be made in advance (for my test run, I kept the cake covered in the fridge for four days and it still tasted great.
  • It SHOULD be made at least a day in advance for the best flavour.
  • It’s festive! And almost only ever seen at Christmas.

Have I convinced you yet? Although I kept my version very simple in its decorations, for the holidays I plan on adding some fresh greenery and berries to the cake plate. I may also plop a few small woodland animals on the ‘log’ to create a fun festive scene.

Tell us, what desserts are you planning to make this holiday season?

P.S. Don’t be discouraged by the number of steps in the recipe. I’ve broken them down into single actions so it’s very clear on how to make the cake, but also in case you want to give this project to an older child to keep them occupied while you’re wrapping presents, cooking other food, etc.

Minimally adapted from Jane Hornby’s ‘What to Bake & How to Bake It’

Serves 8-10

You’ll Need

  • For the cake
  • Butter
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup + 2 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder
  • For the filling and frosting
  • 7oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ½ cups whipping cream (35%)
  • ¾ cup Nutella
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar, for dusting

Prep and Cook

  • Generously grease the bottom and sides of a 10x15-inch jelly roll pan or rimmed baking sheet with butter. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk with an electric mixer at medium speed until thick, pale, and doubled in volume, 5-7 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt and ½ cup cocoa powder in a bowl. Sift them over the whisked eggs and fold them in using a rubber spatula in order to preserve some of the air bubbles trapped inside the batter. It may take a few minutes to full incorporate and create an even-coloured batter.
  • Holding the bowl just above the prepared baking pan pour in the cake batter. Tilt the pan slowly from side to side, letting the batter run into the corners.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until the centre of the cake is puffed and the corners pull away from the sides of the pan. Loosen the cake with a knife or spatula now in case it has stuck a little.
  • Spread a sheet of parchment paper on the work surface. Sift the remaining cocoa powder over it. Flip the cake onto this sheet, remove the pan and cover the cake with a clean dishtowel.
  • Working with the long side of the cake, roll it up (with the towel still on) into a log shape and allow to cool completely.
  • Make the filling: chop the chocolate into small pieces. Heat 1 ¼ cups of the whipping cream in a pan until it begins to bubble along the edges. Take off the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate, Nutella and vanilla. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the icing is smooth, then set aside until it cools. It will still be fairly runny.
  • Pour the remaining whipping cream into a bowl, add ½ cup of the Nutella ganache, and whisk until thick but not stiff.
  • When the cake has cooled, unroll it and remove the towel. Trim ½-inch off each edge with a serrated knife. Spread the filling over the cake, then re-roll it, using the parchment paper to make a tight roll.
  • Cut about 4 inches off one end at an angle. Transfer the large piece to a cake board or serving platter, then nestle the shorter one against it to make a branch. Alternatively, leave the cake in a large roll and place it on a cake board or serving platter. Spread the remaining nutella ganache all over the cake. Using the tines of a fork, add texture to the icing to a wooden log. Chill for 1 hour and up to 3 days.
  • Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving. Dust with confectioners sugar and decorate with greenery and or small animal figures. Serve.



  1. Leila Travlos on December 21, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Is the butter in this recipe used solely for greasing? There is no indication of amounts.

    • Heather Dixon on December 21, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      Yes! I believe it’s just as much buter as you need to grease the pan.

  2. Kate Kennedy on December 20, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    Can i make this without the nutella? Can you suggest a substitution? Thanks – looks delicious!

  3. Jan Scott on December 21, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    Hi Leila,

    Yes! The butter is only for greasing the pan. This is a sponge cake, which contains no butter or oil. 🙂 I’ve updated the recipe so hopefully it makes more sense. Thanks!

  4. Zoe Ritchford on December 22, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Only 1TBS of flour? That seems low for a sponge cake.

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