For dessert, Christmas in France means a classic Bûche de Noël or yule log. This ice cream log takes the stress out of preparation, as it's made in advance and tastes divine with typical French holiday flavours of chestnut and clementine oranges.
Without the need for any sponge base, serve it simply as plain ice cream in a log. Either add in candied chestnuts and orange peel. Don't have a special log mould like we easily find in France? No worries! Just use a loaf tin and coat in meringue for a snowy log effect.
What is Ice Cream Cake Called in France?
There are two kinds of ice cream cakes in France: the most popular throughout the year served for special occasions is the Vacherin ice cream cake. It's basically vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet on a meringue base and topped with more meringue.
The most popular French ice cream cake served around Christmas and New Year, however, is the Bûche de Noël Glacée, or ice cream yule log. We see them in the freezer cabinets, pride of place, in most pâtisseries but they're just as easy to make at home - from the most simple to dressed up to party!
Why a Yule Log at Christmas?
The tradition of the yule log comes from France. It was customary to light a wooden log on Christmas Eve following mass, accompanied by members of the family in front of a festive meal, when religious songs would be sung. By lighting the log in the chimney, this ritual protected the house and its family members. The ashes were dispersed in different areas to protect the family from illness and bring prosperity. Gradually over time, this tradition was transferred to an edible yule log.
For more, see a little French history around our Joyeux Noël traditions.
Do I Need a Special Mould to Make an Ice Cream Log?
Don't have a special yule log mould? A loaf tin and meringue can be used to recreate a log mould. Just place in a non-stick loaf tin, add the extra candied chestnut and orange filling, top with more ice cream, then coat in meringue (or pipe meringue in strips).
Although easier to work with using some kind of mould or tin, it's also possible to roll just plain ice cream up in cling film and roll it to shape. It depends how much time you have.
Ice Cream Log Recipe
This recipe is inspired by the ice cream yule logs we see everywhere in France around Christmas and New Year: from our patisseries' frozen showcases to the frozen sections in French supermarkets and specialist stores.
Make it as basic or as fancy as your creativity and time can spare. Either keep it the most simple with plain ice cream in a log - and, dare I say, you could even cheat and use your favourite bought ice cream! This ice cream log is made with our favourite chestnut vanilla ice cream recipe, then filled with a mixture of orange curd with candied chestnuts and orange peel.
Plus, if you have more time and want the snowy effect, top with the meringue.
To make the homemade chestnut ice cream, you'll need 8 egg yolks for the custardy base. This means there will be a lot of leftover whites; ideal to use a couple for the meringue and the rest can either be frozen or used over the next 5 days to make coconut macaroons, financiers or chocolate mousse, for example.
Follow the instructions to make the ice cream. If you like yours a bright chestnut colour, then add a touch of caramel powder, but totally optional.
Place the tin on a baking tray (to make it easy to transport to the freezer). Once the ice cream is churned, spoon immediately into the tin. Half way up, add a few finely chopped candied orange peel and/or candied chestnuts then top with more ice cream.
Alternatively, half way up, add orange curd with the extra zest of 2 clementine oranges to make the filling zing compared with the sweet chestnut ice cream.
No time to make the curd filling? Just use a good quality orange marmalade (even better, mix in extra zest). I used a special insert (I froze this beforehand) but it's not necessary.
Top with cling film and freeze immediately for at least 2 hours at -18°C to -20°C. Then unmould when ready to serve.
Ice Cream Yule Log Topping
This can be made as simply as you wish. Last Christmas we served it plain - directly with the chestnut ice cream and decorated it with candied clementines on top.
Then again, we simply topped it with broken candied chestnuts, known as marrons glacés - the ultimate festive luxury in France.
For Meringue Topping - When You Can Eat Orange Snow!
To make the extra meringue topping, first prepare the meringue so that everything is ready to work with quickly. Whisk up 2 fresh egg whites with the sugar in an electric mixer and add the zest of an unwaxed clementine or half an orange.
Then take the ice cream log out of the freezer. Remove it from the tin directly onto a baking sheet and quickly spoon over the meringue.
To make a baked Alaska style ice cream yule log, toast it with a blowtorch. This is so popular in our patisseries just now. Then place the log back in the freezer until ready to serve.
See all your different possibilities?
Ice Cream Yule Log with Chestnut and Clementine
- yule log mould or large loaf tin
- 1 litre (1 quantity) chestnut and vanilla ice cream See RECIPE BELOW
- ¼ quantity orange curd Optional (Recipe in notes below) or marmelade
- 4 candied chestnuts broken
- 1 candied clementine (or 6 orange peel sticks) chopped into slices/little cubes
Clementine Meringue Topping (optional)
- 60 g (from 2 eggs) fresh egg whites pasteurised and organic
- 90 g (3.5oz/ ½ cup) sugar
- 1 organic clementine zest finely grated
- Follow the instructions to make the chestnut ice cream below.Place the tin on a baking tray (to make it easy to transport to the freezer). Once the ice cream is churned, spoon immediately into the tin. Half way up, add a few finely chopped candied orange peel and/or candied chestnuts - or mix these with marmalade or orange curd (recipe in notes below) then top with more ice cream.
- Freeze for at least 2 hours then unmould from the tin, decorate and serve immediately.
Clementine Meringue (optional)
- If topping with meringue, whisk up 2 fresh egg whites with the sugar in an electric mixer until firm. Add the finely grated orange/clementine zest.Unmould the ice cream and place on a baking sheet. Spoon over the meringue and toast with a blowtorch then place back in the freezer until ready to serve.
Chestnut Vanilla Ice Cream
- 8 egg yolks
- 100 g (3.5oz) caster sugar
- 2 (7oz) small 100g tins of sweetened chestnut spread
- 400 ml (14 floz) whole milk
- 200 ml (7 floz) whipping cream
- 1 vanilla pod
- pinch of caramel powdered colouring optional
- a handful of broken marrons glacés or whole ones if you're feeling posh
- Cream together the egg yolks, sugar and sweetened chestnut vanilla spread in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
- Heat the milk and cream in a heavy-based pan with the vanilla pod, cut in two lengthways. Add the powdered colouring, if using. Bring to the boil, and turn off the heat for the vanilla to infuse in the creamy milk for 5-10 minutes. Scrape out the seeds from the pod and add to the cream.
- Pour the creamy milk onto the egg mixture whisking continuously. Return the mixture to the pan on a medium heat, whisking constantly until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the vanilla pod and set the mixture aside to cool.
- Once cool, place in the fridge for 1-2 hours before pouring into an ice cream maker to churn. Then follow ice cream maker's manufacturer's instructions. Freeze for a minimum of 2 hours.