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Sweet Traditions: Bûche de Noël

Dark Chocolate Buche de Noel Yule Log Cake
Bûche de Noël (French for Yule Log) is a classic French Christmas dessert that dates back to 1870, when the medieval custom of burning a yule log that was said to bring good luck to the family in the New Year began going out of style. In its place, Pâtisseries (French for pastry shop) evolved the tradition and began creating a cake in the same shape. Today, Bûches de Noël fill the windows of nearly every pâtisserie in Paris until the New Year, when they make way for the Gateau du Roi (French for King's Cake).


Bûche de Noël is basically a thin sponge cake rolled and filled with such treats as pastry cream or chocolate with nuts and various flavorings, which is then decorated to look like a log. Some recipes actually call for decorating the log with real branches, but others dismiss this as "not aesthetically pleasing". Tastier decorations include small baked meringues shaped like mushrooms and leaves made of chocolate.

Milk Chocolate Buche de Noel with French Buttercream Yule Log Cake

In Charleston, SC (home to our Lavender Hill Designs boutique), Bûche de Noël is available at specialty shops, such as the local cafe Saveurs du Monde. However, if you're feeling more adventurous, love to bake, or simply don’t live here, you can make your own!

Julia Child published several recipes for Bûche de Noël as she introduced American cooks to authentic French cooking. Dorie Greenspan, the American James Beard award-winning cookbook author who lives in Paris for much of the year, has her own versions, including one with a gingerbread sponge cake (you can find many of Greenspan’s wonderful recipes in her cookbooks such as Around My French Table). You can also try Molly Wilkinson’s traditional recipe found in French Pastry Made Simple, which features a rolled Génoise cake with a milk chocolate French buttercream filling and a chocolate ganache for the top.

Happy Baking, and Joyeaux Noël!

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