History of the Delicious Buche de Noel and How it is Made

Buche de Noel
Popular as one of the best traditional French desserts, Buche de Noel, also known as yule log cake, is a great dessert for the Christmas eve.
Buche de Noel, one of the traditional Christmas cakes, is popularly known as Yule Log cake. The cake is French in origin and its name in French (Buche de Noel), means Christmas log, which is derived from the age-old practice of burning yule logs during the Christmas eve. As the name rightly suggests, the cake is designed in the shape of an yule log. Though, it is French in origin, this cake is now popular in other parts of the world too.
One of the famous stories about this French dessert is associated with the great Napoleon Bonaparte of France. He issued a proclamation, as per which, the people of Paris were ordered to close the chimneys of their houses, during winters. It was thought that entry of cold air into the houses was causing spread of illnesses and the proclamation was aimed at prevention of such diseases. It was during this time that Buche de Noel or yule log cake was invented in Paris. As use of hearths was prohibited, they needed some sort of traditional symbol that can be enjoyed with family and friends during the festive season that falls in winter. Thus, this cake became a symbolic substitution around which the family could gather for storytelling and other holiday activities.

The origin of this well-known French pastry is also linked with the ancient Celtic tradition of celebrating the winter solstice. On this shortest day of the year, the Celts would search for a large trunk of oak, beech, elm or cherry and burn it as a symbol of rebirth of the sun. During the Middle Ages, the ceremony of burning logs became more detailed. The logs themselves would be decorated with ribbons and greenery. Then the youngest and the oldest member of each family would carry the log to the hearth and set it in flames that will burn for the whole night. The vestiges would be collected the next day, to be used throughout the year. It was thought that these logs help cure various sicknesses and protect the house from the wickedness of the evil spirit. With time, the practice changed and people started representing the practice with a log-shaped cake that was served as dessert to the guests.

Buche de Noel is well garnished and so well presented like a log that is ready for the fire. This traditional dessert is generally made from Genoise or other sponge cake, filled with butter cream. Sometimes, even chocolate cakes are used for this purpose.
Traditionally, Buche de Noel is made of Genoise cake that is baked in jellyroll pan. Buttercream is spread on top of a rectangular piece of Genoise cake. It is rolled in a cylindrical fashion so that the cake resembles a log. The outer part is covered with chocolate buttercream, in such a way that the surfaces look like that of yule bark. This yule log cake is decorated with powdered sugar (that resembles snow), spruce sprigs, meringue mushrooms, fresh berries, etc.
You can prepare this cake at home, without much difficulty. In order to make this flour-less Buche de Noel, you need the following ingredients.
  • Confectioner's sugar - ½ cup
  • White sugar - ½ cup + ¼ cup
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder - ½ cup + ⅓ cup
  • Heavy cream - 2 cups
  • Eggs - 6
  • Vanilla extract - 1+1½ teaspoons
  • Salt - 2 pinches
How to Make?

▶ First of all gather the ingredients.
▶ Separate the egg yolks and keep them in a different container.
▶ The next step is to make the filling with cocoa powder (½ cup), heavy cream, confectioners' sugar (½ cup) and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Whip these ingredients in a bowl, till they reach a thicker consistency. Once done, refrigerate the mixture.

Now, you have to prepare the cake with the eggs, sugar, cocoa and vanilla.
▶ Firstly, beat the egg yolks with ½ white cup sugar, till the mixture gets fluffy and creamy.
▶ Add ⅓ cup cocoa powder and the remaining vanilla extract (1½ teaspoons) and salt to the mixture and combine them well.
▶ Take the egg whites in a bowl and beat them till, soft white peaks are formed.
▶ The next step is to add the remaining white sugar (¼ cup) to the egg whites and beat, till they form stiff peaks. Now, gently fold in the yolk mixture and the whites.
▶ Take a jellyroll pan (with a size of 10 x 15 inch) that is lined with a parchment paper. Spread the prepared mixture in this pan and bake it in the oven that is preheated to 375°F. Once the cake is baked for 12 to 15 minutes, take out the pan and use a knife to separate the edges of the cake from the sides of the pan.
▶ Turn the pan onto a clean dishtowel dusted with confectioner's sugar. Once the cake is on the dishtowel, remove the parchment paper and roll it along with the cloth. While rolling the cake, make sure you start from the side that has less width.
▶ Let the roll cool for around half an hour. After that, apply the filling on the inner surfaces and roll the cake once again. Place it on the serving plate, with the seam facing downward. Refrigerate this roll for at least 30 minutes or more.

Before serving, cut a two-inch piece from one end of the roll. Place it on top of the roll and cover the whole roll, including the top extension with the filling. Use a fork to make some streaks on this covering, so that the surface of the cake looks like the bark of yule tree. Your Buche de Noel is ready to serve. Do not forget to decorate it with powdered sugar, holly leaves (can be made with marzipan), berries, etc.

Now you know how to make Buche de Noel or yule log cake. So, this Christmas, enjoy this cake with a French touch!