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Gluten Free Buche de Noel

gluten free buche de noel

Gluten Free Buche de Noel

by Jennifer Lee Robinson

I’ve been working on a gluten free Buche de Noel for some time now. And once again, my trusty Joy of Cooking (mine is the 1997 edition, given to me as a wedding shower gift) yielded up a recipe that I could convert to gluten-free. I’ve pretty much given up on using gluten-free recipes from allergy magazines and the like, as they turn out too heavy, pasty, grainy, tasteless, etc.. for my taste.

Now many people dismiss The Joy as being outdated and boring, but as you can see from the picture here, this is my cooking bible in the kitchen. My favorite pages are covered with food splashes and notes scrawled in the margins. It’s what I’ve continually reached for over the years to remember how long to cook rice, make measurement conversions, find ingredient substitutions, learn about flavor profiles, the history/traditions behind a certain dish, and figure out how long to cook a cut of meat. It’s got information on everything from pies to stocks and sauces. In fact, I’ve donated many of my other cookbooks because I simply don’t use them and find I can use the space on my shelf for other items. And yes, if I was stuck on a desert island and could only have five things, I would take my Joy, along with red wine, my favorite chef’s knife, garlic, and a pregnant goat.

But I digress. My first gluten free Buche de Noel was a total disaster. Chocolatey, yes…edible, no….But I’ve finally landed on a sponge that is really quite lovely- slightly dry, and well..spongey. La Tartine Gourmand, (If you haven’t read her blog, you should- great recipes, and exquisite photos) who periodically posts gluten-free recipes, has a nice write up about buches. I really appreciate reading that in France, there’s not just one way to present a buche. I think that often in this country we get caught up in the ‘right way’ to present something, when in reality, there are a myriad of different options for creating a dish. Traditionally, we think a (gluten free) Buche de Noel isn’t a buche unless it’s filled with buttercream and topped with marzipan mushrooms. That simply isn’t the case. And I for one am grateful.

I haven’t yet mastered the art of making buttercream- maybe some of you decorating geniuses who read this can give me a step by step tutorial over the phone, because my buttercream is sitting in the fridge a hardened, grainy mess. *sigh* So, in going with my strengths, I went with flavored whip cream filling. It makes for a softer buche, as the heavier fillings help the log hold its round shape. But, should you fill it the way I did, you’ll find the taste to be equally satisfying. A buche demands company, so why not celebrate the fruit of your labors with a few friends, a beverage of your choice, and a few hours of good company? Cheers!

A Quick Update: My FIRST EVER guest post is now live at Lindsey Evenson’s Fresh Air + Fresh Food If you’ve never been to her site, you should hop on over and check things out! Not only for the delicious, gluten-free Thanksgiving Recipes in my post, but because Lindsey has some great recipes, life advice, and most importantly- a great sense of humor!

Gluten-Free Buche de Noel

Makes one rolled log (10-12 slices)

Chocolate Sponge Cake


1/4 cup potato starch

1/4 cup tapioca starch (also called Tapioca Flour)

1/4 cup unsweetened chocolate powder

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1/4 cup milk

2 tbs butter

3/4 cup sugar

5 large eggs


Bring eggs up to room temperature by sitting on the counter, or by placing eggs in a bowl of warm water. Preheat oven to 350. Grease the sides of a half sheet jelly roll, and place parchment on the bottom. In a small bowl, mix together the potato starch, tapioca starch, chocolate and xanthan gum. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat butter and milk until butter is melted. Remove from heat.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (a hand mixer is ok, but this part will take 10-15 minutes) place the eggs and sugar. Whisk on medium for 3-4 minutes. The eggs should triple in size, be very pale yellow, and fluffy and creamy. When you lift the whisk from the mixture the batter should fall from the whisk in a ribbon, stay momentarily on the surface and then get reabsorbed.

Take the dry ingredients and pour 1/3 of them into a sieve, and sprinkle the flour over the egg mixture. Gently fold in. Do this 2 more times, gently folding the dry ingredients each time. While you are doing this, reheat the milk and butter mixture until it is steaming, but not boiling. Pour the hot milk in last, all at once, and fold gently until well combined. Turn sponge onto the jelly roll, spread evenly and bake for 8-10 minutes- until sponge springs back when lightly pressed, and a toothpick comes out clean. You will also see the sponge pulling away from the sides. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then, place a second piece of parchment over the top of the cake, and flip the cake onto the new parchment. Gently peel the top (what used to be the bottom) parchment off the sponge and allow to cool.  There are differing opinions here as to what to do. Some say to roll the sponge, refrigerate, in roll form and then unwind to add the filling. Others say to completely cool, add filling, then cool. I did the latter- I think either would work.

While the sponge is cooling, you can work on your fillings. Here are mine- feel free to use fillings and ingredients that inspire you!

Buche Filling 


1 10 oz bag of frozen cherries

1 cup  + 4 tbs sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

1/2 cup red wine (preferably a wine rich in fruity/jammy notes like a zin)

2 cups heavy whipping cream

4 tsp almond extract

1 cup slivered almonds


Mix cornstarch with 1 cup of sugar. Add to a medium sauce pan along with the cherries and red wine. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Mixture should thicken slightly as it cools.

In your stand mixer bowl, or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream, almond extract, and remaining sugar. When cream has formed stiff peaks, remove half the cream to a second bowl- this will be your topping.

Take mixture from saucepan and using a pastry brush (silicone works best) brush the liquid onto the cooled spongecake. It’s ok if a few of the cherries end up on the cake. Take the remainder of the liquid and cherries and fold into one bowl of the whipped cream mixture- turning it pink. Using a wide spatula, start at one of the short ends of the sponge cake and leaving a one-inch perimeter on the long sides, smooth about a half-inch of filling across the cake. Leave a 2-3 inch space at the other short end of the cake. This will get naturally filled in as you roll the cake.

This next part is a little tricky, and I found it goes better with a second person helping you. With the short end of the sponge cake (the one with the one inch filling-free space) facing you, pull up on the parchment below, and pull the sponge over on itself. The middle may want to bulge out, and it helps if a second person can help tuck the middle part under. Once you’ve accomplished this, keep rolling gently, trying to keep a tight roll without breaking the cake. When you’ve gotten to the end, roll the log so that the free edge is on the bottom. You’ll notice that the filling should have squeezed through most of the empty space around the edges. With a serrated knife, cut each of the ends at an angle. You can enjoy these now, or use them to create a ‘branch’ which you can then cover with your topping. Some people will refrigerate the buche at this point to allow the filling to set up. I recommend doing this with a heavier filling like buttercream or marzipan. If you do this, keep the parchment securely around your buche log, as it can help the log set in its new position.

When you’re ready, you can cover with powdered sugar, buttercream, or like I did, with the remaining almond flavored whipped cream and slivers of almonds.

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  • lazaro
    November 22, 2010

    Your hard work and determination paid off with a flawlessly executed dish. Presented beautifully.


    • November 23, 2010

      Thank you so much! I really appreciate the encouragement! I’ve had a couple requests for buches at a few holiday gatherings coming in December, so I’m going to plunge forward and attempt a buttercream filling, or possibly a marzipan filling. Ever onward and upward!

  • November 22, 2010

    Thanks so much for the awesome guest post – had a bunch of visitors and friends that have passed your post on to their gluten free friends. Way to spread the holiday cheer with a side of stuffing! Thanks again Jennifer for all your great recipes!

    • November 23, 2010

      Thanks Lindsey! That is great to hear! And seriously, it was my pleasure! I had so much fun making those stuffings for you! I can’t wait to hear what your Thanksgiving guests thought! Hope you have a fabulous celebration- all 3 of them!!

  • Pingback:A Cake Fit for a Princess « The Adventuresome Kitchen

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