This gluten-free, no-bake gingerbread buche de noel is an icebox cake yule log that’s beyond easy to make and tastes amazing. No one will guess you didn’t even turn on your oven!
A few years ago when I spent my first Christmas with Ben’s family in Chattanooga, we started a tradition of making a yule log cake. These cakes are the modern-day version of an actual yule log, a giant piece of wood that for centuries was placed on the hearth and burned for all of the 12 days of Christmas in many European households. Since we don’t have a hearth or even a fireplace and since I really like cake, I’m glad this tradition went the way it did.
Every year for the past three years we’ve made this Chocolate Peppermint Roll from Joy the Baker, but this year I laid eyes on her Chocolate Peppermint Icebox Yule Log Cake. My ears perked up, because “icebox cake” means no baking is involved. I like to make Christmas cakes with my three nieces and while they all love baking, it’s a lot of work to bake both the cake and the meringue mushrooms while making sure everyone gets a turn to do everything at each stage of the process. I wanted to roll with the icebox idea but change up the flavor profile, so I created this no-bake gingerbread buche de noel.
Icebox cakes are made with cookies stacked with whipped cream, and I knew just what cookies I wanted to use–my very favorite gluten-free ginger zinger cookies from Tate’s Bake Shop. They’re irresistibly buttery and crunchy with chewy pieces of crystallized ginger strewn throughout. They do become softer as they’re chilled with the whipped cream filling, but the taste is still just perfect.
The process of making an icebox log is simple: just put dollops of whipped cream on all but one of the cookies, smoosh them together into little stacks, and unite all the stacks on a big piece of parchment to form the log. Then freeze the log for at least a few hours to make it easier to work with.
We’re using a gingerbread whipped cream for this buche de noel. It’s basic whipped cream with the addition of mascarpone, which helps the cream stay stable and fluffy for several days in the fridge or freezer. This means you can use the same batch of whipped cream to form the log one day and frost the log a couple of days later. Molasses, cinnamon, ginger, and a hint of allspice and cloves give this whipped cream characteristic gingerbread flavor. There’s also a little cocoa just for color, so that our log will be dark enough to resemble an actual log.
Part of the log gets chopped off and stuck on top (or on the side if you prefer) to form the base of another branch. This is key to making your log look authentic!
You of course won’t get the characteristic yule log swirl when you slice into this no-bake gingerbread buche de noel, but if you slice it on the diagonal you can get a nice pattern of stripes. The cookies will have softened a bit because of the whipped cream, so this really does taste like lots of thin layers of a nice, tender ginger cake with billowy cream in between. The bits of crystallized ginger get quite hard in the freezer, which is why it’s important to leave the cake out at room temp for a while before serving.
I like to decorate the cake with fresh rosemary, which looks just like pine sprigs, along with berries for color and meringue mushrooms to make the log look extra woodsy. A little powdered sugar snow is a nice touch, too!
This no-bake gingerbread buche de noel is easier and much tastier than a gingerbread house, so it’s the ideal dessert project to tackle with your family this holiday season. I hope you give it a try!
- 2½ cups heavy whipping cream
- 8 ounces mascarpone
- 1 cup powdered sugar (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon (a couple pinches) fine sea salt
- 32 Tate’s Bake Shop Gluten Free Ginger Zinger Cookies (you’ll need 3 bags)
- Meringue mushrooms, berries, fresh rosemary, and powdered sugar, for serving
- ***NOTE: Prep time listed is active time and does not include chilling time. The cake will need to be frozen for at least 5 hours before frosting and 2 hours after frosting. The preparation can be spread across several days.***
- Beat the cream, mascarpone, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, molasses, spices, and salt in a very large bowl with a whisk or mixer until soft peaks form.
- Make sure you have 32 cookies. You'll need to leave one plain to form the end of the log. Place a heaping tablespoonful of gingerbread whipped cream on each of the other 31 cookies, and use a spoon to spread it out a little. You should have about half the whipped cream left--cover and store it in the refrigerator for use later.
- Form 8 stacks of four cookies each, using the plain cookie on top of one of the stacks. Lay the stacks on their side on a long piece of parchment, gently pushing them together to form one log with the plain cookie at the end. Wrap the log loosely in parchment and freeze for at least 5 hours or up to three days.
- When you're ready to frost the buche de noel, briefly re-whip the gingerbread cream with a whisk if it looks thin.
- Transfer the frozen log to a serving platter and cut a three- to four-inch piece off of one end. This will be your bump. Cover the log in whipped cream, add the bump on the top or side, and frost the bump as well. Use the tines of a fork to create a bark-like pattern along the length of the log. Return the log to the freezer for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
- Let the buche de noel sit at room temperature for 40 minutes before serving. Garnish with meringue mushrooms, berries, and fresh rosemary if desired. Slice on the diagonal into pieces about an inch and a half thick and serve right away.
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