Traditional Christmas sweets like Panettone from Italy or German Lebkuchen have made it into supermarkets across the world. Others are less known beyond borders, although they deserve the same attention. One of those is a French Christmas staple that goes by the name of Bûche de Noël. Not only its delicious taste but also the carefully decorated appearance make it a great addition to any Christmas table.
Bûche de Noël is a rich sponge cake roll filled with chocolate butter cream. To create its distinct, log-shaped look, many recipes call for cutting off a piece of the roll and attaching it to the side of the “stem”. Bark-like patterns on the chocolaty surface perfect the sweet illusion. The decoration of icing sugar to resemble snow, candied fruits, marzipan mushrooms and proper evergreens create a proper, cozy winter feeling.
As the festive decoration indicates, this type of chocolate roulade is only eaten during Christmas season. More specifically, Bûche de Noël is the traditional dessert served after Christmas dinner in France. But why does the Génoise-based cake resemble a tree log?
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Bûche de Noël before it became a cake
The original tradition behind Bûche de Noël had nothing to do with a cake or any kind of food as such. The French name simply translates to “yule log”. Until the 19th century, this was a big piece of wood that families in France would burn in their chimneys during Christmas season. They would spread the ashes on their fields in order to thank god and wish for a fruitful harvest in the following year. This ritual was not only common in France but also in many other countries across Europe. However, as the big wood-fired ovens continuously disappeared, the tradition got lost in most of those countries.
Fortunately, a clever Parisian confectioner had the idea to come up with a cake that would resemble the initial wooden “Bûche de Noël”. Over time, the new dessert grew in popularity with families in the whole of France. By the beginning of the 20th century, it had become such a wide-spread tradition on Christmas that the name “Bûche de Noël” was finally transferred from the log itself to the Christmas dessert.
Below you can find our authentic recipe for the classic version of Bûche de Noël. Enjoy this original or use it as a base to add other aromas according to your liking. Variations with coffee-flavored cream, mousse or even ice-cream have been becoming more and more popular in France. You can also experiment with the typical Christmassy condiments. After all you can’t really go wrong with cinnamon, cardamom or cloves! And especially when it comes to the decoration, you can let your creativity run wild!
Photo by Eric Sonstroem