Buche de Noel

For many of us, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the buche de Noël, or yule log. This dessert is traditional throughout France, Buche de Noel, the traditional French Christmas dessertin Quebec, and anyplace else with a concentration of highly trained and artful pastry chefs.

No one knows exactly when the tradition started. We tend to think of it as Medieval in origin—perhaps because the complexity of the recipe recalls an earlier era when people had enough time on their hands to create a culinary tour de force, and a dessert at that. In reality it probably dates to the 19th century, when the intricate marzipan and meringue decorations on the buche de Noël were just another kitchen task.

You could make it yourself, of course, but you would need to be either a culinary school graduate or a devotee of the impossible dream. First, you would have to bake a chocolate genoise cake soft and pliable enough to roll. This would be followed by the coffee buttercream and the coffee-flavored simple syrup. Assuming you could put the body of the log together, you would then proceed to the marzipan and meringue decorative accents.

In other words, leave the job to the professionals—your guests will appreciate it far more than if you had made it yourself. So where to buy it? If you’re lucky enough to have a traditional French bakery or restaurant nearby, you might be able to snag one close to home. If not, there are online options:

  • Nieman-Marcus is selling a 13” long yule log for $110 that serves 12-24; available until January 1 (niemanmarcus.com);
  • The Kansas City Steak Company offer a smaller 6” version for $49.95, or $34.95 on orders of $59.95 or more (kansascitysteaks.com).

Can you get it before Thursday? Possibly, but remember that the Twelve Days of Christmas extend to January 6, and a slice from a yule log is a festive offering for your guests. If you don’t have guests, so much the better.


Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); for more information, go to amazon.com

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