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Friday, December 19, 2008

What is a Buche de Noel?

I never heard of a Buche de Noel until I moved to the DC area. I'm not sure where I've been that I never heard of this delicious Christmas delicacy, but there you are. Actually the exact place I learned of it was le Madeleine's restaurant in Alexandria. If you haven't been to one they have the most fantastic tomato-basil soup that I've ever tasted.

Buche de Noel means "Yule Log", a cake, which is one of the best served traditional French desserts.

According to, basically the history of the Buche (as it is fondly referred to), is that the great Napoleon Bonaparte of France issued a proclamation stating houses in Paris to keep their chimneys closed during the winter because of the cool air that caused medical problems. This prohibited Parisians to use their fireplaces. But ingenious French bakers then invented this dessert as a symbolic substitution around which the family could gather for story-telling and other holiday happiness.

The origins of this most well-known French pastry can be found in 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 either oak, beech, elm or cherry and burn it as a symbol of the rebirth of the sun, they also offered their thanks to the sun for recurring to the earth.

During the middle Ages the logs and the ceremony of the burning log 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 for the whole night. The vestiges would be collected the next day to be used for the whole year. They were thought to help cure various sicknesses and protect the house from the wickedness of the evil spirit. As days past it changed to small logs and then served as a dessert to the guest.

Buche de Noel is well garnished and so well presented like a log just to be ready for the fire. This traditional desert is generally made from other sponge cake, filled with butter cream. Sometimes, even chocolate cakes are also cherished. Bûches are often served with cake cut off from one side, set on top of the cake to resemble a chopped off branch and bark-like texture is often produced in the butter cream for further realism. Tree branches, chorus, mushrooms made of meringue, fresh berries, and powdered sugar to have an effect of snow are most commonly used decorative style with traditional value.

Here is the link to a Buche recipe. Looks like a lot of work. Think I'll get mine at le Madeleine's!


Kim @ What's That Smell said...

That looks and sounds so good!

Kimber said...

Looks delicious.

Liz (Loving Mom 2 Boys) said...

I'm not hungry...but now I really really want one!! The pic you posted looks like chocolately goodness!!