The traditional French dessert at Christmas is the bûche de Noël, known in English-speaking countries as Yule log.
Usually prepared on Christmas Eve, this light sponge cake roll is garnished with either chocolate, mocha or chestnut filling (my favourite!).
It is then covered with chocolate icing, raked with a serrated knife or fork to give it a “woody” texture and decorated with candied fruit and nuts.
Bûche de Noël has an interesting history. As early as the 12th century, it was customary on Christmas Eve in many European countries to bring home a very large piece of firewood that would be sprinkled with oil, salt and wine and placed in the hearth, where it would burn over several days.
In those days, fireplaces were huge and the ashes from this special log were thought to protect the home from lightening and evil spirits. In France and in Quebec the custom was still practiced until the latter part of the 19th century.
As large hearths were slowly replaced by stoves these fires died out and the bûche de Noël was replaced by the “edible” version known today.
Typically prepared on Christmas Eve, bûche de Noël is served throughout the holiday period. Making it at home remains an annual tradition for many, but pastry shops also make luxurious versions of this elegant chocolate dessert.
Bûche de Noël
This recipe was handed down by my grandmother Noëlie (who was born on Christmas day!).
- 5 eggs
- 160 grams (6 ounces) of flour
- 250 grams (9 ounces) of sugar
- 18 grams (1 tablespoon) of baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 2 1/2 cups of icing sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
- 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) dark chocolate, finely chopped
- Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale, about 5 minutes at high speed. Add flour one tablespoon at a time and continue to beat well.
- Dissolve baking powder in two tablespoons of milk and add to mixture beating well.
- Pour the batter into a large baking tray lined with parchment paper and spread evenly. Bake at 160 degrees C (325 degrees F) for 20 minutes or until done.
- Turn out onto a cloth or sheet of parchment paper and roll lengthwise into a log. This preliminary rolling helps prevent cracking by giving the log some shape.
- To make the filling, place the chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring until melted. Cream butter, alternating additions of icing sugar and a little milk until desired consistency is obtained. Add melted chocolate and beat until completely mixed.
- When the cake has cooled, carefully unroll it and peel off the cloth or parchment paper.
- Carefully spread one half of the chocolate filling over the surface and roll the cake lengthwise. Spread the rest of the chocolate icing on the outside of the log using a flat knife. Then use a serrated knife to make lines along the length of the log. Decorate with candied fruit and nuts and sprinkle with a little icing sugar.
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