November 30, 2011

Bûche de Noël

The log-shaped bûche de Noël is a traditional cake dessert served at Christmas in France and many other countries in Europe.  Legend has it that the origins of this holiday treat are linked to ancient traditions of celebrating the winter solstice with a bonfire.  Large tree trunks would be gathered and burned as an offering of thanks for the rebirth of the sun.

It is said that over the years the tradition was carried on in the form of cutting down a tree or ‘yule log’ each year to burn in the fireplace where Christmas supper would be prepared.  One story suggests that the actual yule log was replaced with the bûche de Noël Christmas cake at a time when houses no longer had fireplaces and the real yule log could not be burned.

Bûche de Noël is typically made of rectangular-shaped slices of layered sponge cake, spread with butter cream in between, then rolled to form a log.  The cake is also covered with butter cream, which can be either applied from a piping bag or streaked with a fork to create the look of tree bark.  A portion of the cake can be cut and placed on top or to the side to resemble a tree stump. 

Many variations are possible whether the sponge cake is chocolate or yellow, or the butter cream is flavored with chestnut puree, chocolate, or espresso.  All sorts of decorations can be added to enhance the presentation in the form of marzipan green holly leaves, red candy berries, mushrooms made of meringue, or a dusting of powdered sugar snow.

Although many people order their yule log cake from their local patisserie, more and more people are making their own.  And there are as many ways to make and decorate a bûche de Noël as there are cooks who prepare them. 

So dear readers, what are you making for your Christmas dessert?

WICE cooking class

Join the WICE cooking group, led by our gracious (and easy-to-follow) instructor Françoise Meunier, on Wednesday, December 7 to make bûche de Noël, along with a special dish of scallops with apples and shallots for your Christmas table. 

For more information click here.