This revisits a great classic of French pastry, tarte au citron meringuée lemon meringue pie baked as a swiss roll cake for Christmas.
A lemon tarte, with or without meringue, is always a hit. So why not have it in a bûche de Noël yule log cake ? The same unique flavors presented differently? Ideal for Christmas or for any fancy dinner if you want to please or impress your guests.
The recipe is not very complicated, made with four main preparations: swiss roll lightly imbibed with flavored syrup, filled with smooth lemon cream, and dressed with Italian meringue. Cake and syrup must have cooled down and lemon cream set to assemble the log. Therefore those three preparations must be done in advance, even the previous day. This is quite convenient as you will only have to prepare Italian meringue and dress a few hours before dinner.
The main parts of this Christmas cake
Swiss roll – gâteau roulé
The recipe for a swiss roll, explained step-by-step in photos (link here). The quantities of ingredients differ slightly from here, but you can use either one. Note that the crucial trick for success is to roll out the swiss roll in a moist cloth right out of the oven. It will give the shape to your cake. The cooled cake might crack when you roll it if you don’t.
Swiss roll is called gâteau roulé in French which literally means rolled cake. Often imagined for sophisticated cakes, swiss roll part of French home cooking, filled with jam or pastry cream and served for dessert or children’s 4:00 pm snack. My mum used to bake some and fill them with homemade red fruit jam (strawberry or raspberry), it’s a pleasant memory, I’ll have to share her recipe with you.
Lemon curd – crémeux au citron
Lemon curd is not very French but is the perfect filling here. An intense lemony flavor and smooth texture without being runny. This is due to the amount of butter that you might find important. It helps lemon curd set (without using gelatin) and gives a decadent taste and texture.
Syrup – sirop de punchage
For the sirop de punchage (imbibing syrup) which will be used to imbibe the swiss roll, I only use a little vanilla and Cointreau so as to not overwhelm the lemon. I use Cointreau as it might be my dad’s favorite alcohol therefore I always have Cointreau at home but you may replace it with Brandy, Kirsh…
This syrup also needs to be prepared in advance as we want it to cool down before imbibing the cake.
Italian meringue – meringue italienne
Italian meringue is then applied to the cake using a pastry bag. You can also use a spatula and smooth the surface, as you would for an omelette norvégienne (Baked Alaska). And then more or less reproduce the bark of the log as has become the custom at Christmas (have you read my article on the origins of the bûche de Noël?) You can also use a kitchen torch to give it a bit of a scorched effect, a bit of color.
Ideally, plan on a bit of time between making the elements (cake, syrup, and lemon curd) and assembling it, and again between assembly and the finishing touches of icing and decoration.
Bûche de noël – tradition of Christmas yule log in France
Bûche de Noël is a widely spread tradition in France, not only among Christians. They are often homemade. Bakeries sell fantastic logs, cakes, and frozen as well. You’ll also find some in supermarkets. I try to bake a different yule log cake each year, so there aren’t many on the blog.
You can find French Chef Pierre Hermé’s (known for his macarons) milk chocolate and passion fruit Christmas log. I still have to translate in English the others that you can find on the French version of this blog.
I also wrote for you a complete article on the story and traditions behind the Christmas yule log. So if you’re interested in learning about gastronomy or French lifestyle, I’d recommend reading it.
Lemon Meringue Yule Log Cake
Swiss roll cake
- 5 eggs
- 100 gr sugar
- 60 gr flour
- 60 gr cornstarch
- 150 ml water
- 50 gr sugar
- 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Cointreau
- vanilla extract
- 3 lemons for 150 ml lemon juice + zest of 1 lemon
- 1 lime for its zest
- 180 gr sugar
- 4 eggs
- 180 gr butter at room temperature
- 180 gr sugar
- 50 ml water
- 3 egg whites
Prepare Swiss roll cake
- Preheat your oven to 185°C / 350°F.
- Separate egg whites and egg yolks.
- Mix the egg yolks with the sugar until you get a light yellow color and foamy texture. Add flour and cornstarch (ideally sifted) gradually, stirring regularly.
- Whip the egg whites until stiff. Then gently add whipped egg whites to the batter.
- Spread the batter evenly on your baking sheet covered with baking paper. You want to have a rectangle about 1 cm thick.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Take it out of the oven and immediately roll it up lengthwise in a slightly moist cloth.
Prepare lemon cream
- Flavor the sugar. Make very thin zests with 1 lemon and 1 lime (ideally using a Microplane grater) and combine zests with sugar. Let stand 10-15 minutes so that the sugar absorbs the flavors of lemons.
- In a saucepan, pour whole eggs and flavored sugar. Combine. Add the lemon juice and heat, stirring constantly. The preparation will gradually thicken (if you have a kitchen thermometer around 82°C / 180°F).
- Then set aside in a bowl and let cool down. When the temperature has dropped (around 40°C / 104°F), incorporate the cubbed butter. You can use a handheld mixer mixing to get a smooth texture but be careful not to incorporate too much air. Cover with plastic wrap (touching the preparation so that a crust won't appear) and set aside in the refrigerator.
- Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Let boil for a few minutes, then set aside to cool down.
Prepare Italian meringue
- Bring the water and sugar to a boil and let it boil until the temperature reaches 121°C / 250°F.
- When sugar and water start to simmer, start whipping the egg whites. First slowly, then at a higher speed. Sugar syrup should be ready when egg whites become foamy.
- While whisking egg whites at high speed, pour hot sugar syrup. Keep whisking until the meringue has cooled down (about 5 minutes, it's over when you can touch the bowl without having a hot feeling.
- Roll out the cake and remove the cloth.
- Using a brush, cover cake with a bit of syrup (the idea is to flavor the cake and soften it without soaking it).
- Then spread the lemon cream over the entire surface (leave a few centimeters without lemon cream on one length, the part that will be rolled at the end). Then gently roll the biscuit garnished with lemon cream. Place on a plate and place in the refrigerator.
- Cover the log with Italian meringue, either using a spatula or a pastry bag, giving the look of your choice. Give a nice golden color using a blowtorch (this is optional). Leave in the refrigerator before serving.