This Fiery French Yule Log Will Warm Your Dessert Heart

The Bûche de Noël is a creamy French cake beloved by Francophiles.

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This Fiery French Yule Log Will Warm Your Dessert Heart

Servers carry Bûche into the party at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) Members’ Holiday Party

Still not sure what sweet you’re serving after your holiday feast? Pourquoi pas un Bûche de Noël? The Bûche de Noël is a French and Belgian holiday tradition gaining popularity in the U.S.

The confection is named after the Yule Log, a large log burned on Christmas night or logs burned over the 12 days of Christmas. The tradition, probably Germanic and pagan in origin, was celebrated in different ways across the European continent and in England, but leave it to the French to use it as fuel for a culinary creation.

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The Bûche de Noël created for the FIAF party by François Payard

Technically speaking, the Bûche de Noël is a roulade or rolled cake. What makes it fête worthy? A Bûche covers all the bases with delicious flavor, creamy texture and an impressive presentation. Anyone who’s ever baked cupcakes or a basic birthday cake knows that cake can be light on flavor. With the wrong recipe or too much time in the oven, it could get even worse – dry. But the roulade circumvents these potential pitfalls by offering the option to lace the absorbent sponge cake with syrup, rum or cognac before it is rolled with flavored buttercream or mousse. The process creates a soft, luxurious texture and allows for satisfying flavor combos.

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The Bûche de Noël created for the FIAF party by François Payard

If you’re French, there’s the added nostalgia factor. Yes, you can find all sorts of eggnog flavored, peppermint, or cinnamon spiced confections, but going old school offers something truly comforting. If you’ve never tried it and don’t have a go-to dessert, this is a fun and decorative option that’s a heck of a lot easier to eat than a gingerbread house.

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The Bûche de Noël created for the FIAF party by François Payard

Once you’ve executed the roulade you can let your imagination run wild. There’s no wrong way to decorate it and no limits to the flavor combinations. Get crafty and surround your chocolate bark-covered Bûche with some marshmallow snowmen and fake plastic trees. Here’s a mushroom sprouting pistachio log available from Andrew Carmellini’s Lafayette bakery in NYC. Or go modern for an upscale adult gathering, like these Bûche from Francois Payard that were served at the French Institute Alliance Française member’s holiday party. A side note: the Bûche was such a big deal at this event that attendees were allocated one ticket each for a slice. Evidently the threat of the Bûche obsessed sneaking extra slices is real. It’s that good, people.

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A server carries a lit Bûche to guests at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) Members’ Holiday Party

Admittedly, a Bûche de Noël can be a bit tricky (and time consuming) to bake at home on the first try. It’s common in France to purchase your Bûche from the local patisserie, so consider this permission to go store-bought and focus on nailing the main and sides. If you’ve got an especially big get-together, offering two different flavor combos can appease the chocoholics and allow for a fruity alternative.

If your curiosity is piqued, put your order in and check another holiday task of your list. Many French and European style bakeries offer a pre-order option. If you’re going DIY, keep it fresh by baking one or maximum two days ahead. Joyeux Noël et bon appétit!

Katie Le Seac’h is a freelance writer and sommelier living in Brooklyn. She writes about wine, food and parenting.

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