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!
1 pinch salt
250 g sugar
100 g flour
200 g butter
100 g dark chocolate
2 tsp cocoa powder
Candied fruits for decoration
Seperate 6 eggs. Beat the egg whites together with a pinch of salt until stiff while adding 30 g sugar
Blend the egg yolks with 70 g sugar until creamy. Add the egg foam and the sieved flour and fold in carefully
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C
Line the baking tray with baking paper. Spread the dough evenly on the tray and bake it for about 12 minutes
Slightly dampen a kitchen towel and besprinkle it with a bit of sugar. Turn out the sponge cake onto the towel and use it to roll in the cake base. Let it cool down
In the meantime, mix butter and 150 g sugar in a bain-marie until the sugar has dissolved
Break the chocolate into small pieces and let it melt in another pot in the bain-marie
Blend the melted chocolate with the cocoa powder and fold it into the butter mix. Add 4 egg yolks and blend in a full egg afterwards. Let the mix cool down for about 20 minutes before continuing
Roll out the sponge cake and spread half of the chocolate butter cream. Leave out about 2 cm on the long side and form a roll again
Cover the entire roll with the rest of the chocolate
Replicate the pattern of a wooden log on the chocolate surface either with a fork or by using a specific pattern pad. Let the cake down in the fridge over night
Before serving, decorate the cake with candied fruits and ideally with some fir branches
Photo by Eric Sonstroem