From the Midnight Mass to the Créche (Nativity scene) and the Calendrier de l’Advent (Advent calendar)… there are plenty of Christmas traditions in Paris and they are all related to Christian religion. All of them? Not really and, for once, I am not referring to the Christmas tree. There is a very old tradition that goes back to an ancient time when pagan rites were still alive and merging with the new Christian ones. I am talking about the Bûche de Noël, the French Christmas dessert in the shape of a wooden log made of a light sponge cake usually eaten after the Christmas banquet.
Let’s travel back in time, to the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages. In winter, around the solstice, families used to bring home a big log of wood, the biggest they could find and possibly from a fruit or a special tree to guarantee fertility and good harvest. It was the Yule log, being Yule a midwinter festival of pagan origin celebrated before the christianization of Europe. After sprinkling it with wine, salt, holy water and different ingredients depending on the family’s origins and traditions, the log was placed in the hearth, the physical and symbolic center of the house and all its activities, and set on fire. It had to burn for at least three days to bring light and good luck right into the next year. Its ashes and coal were used in healing potions and provided protection for the new year to come.
In time, when the hearth disappeared from the house, the big log became a small log used as a decoration on tabletops and eventually the cake in the shape of a log we all know now.
To be honest, the current incarnations of the Bûche de Noël are way more sophisticated and in many cases they don’t even resemble a log, especially the ones you can find in high-end pastry shops in Paris. where even the cylindrical shape – which is still quite popular – is being abandoned in favor of more creative and surprising figures.
https://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/paris/hotel-plaza-athenee/ – https://www.christophemichalak.com/noel/buche-signature-fleur-de-pistache-collection-noel-2021- https://philippeconticini.fr/collections/buches-buchettes
As you can see, the Bûche de Noël is still evolving and comes in all shapes, colors and flavors.
My favorite one this year is the Bûche de Noël by Francois Perret (Ritz). How can you resist to this glossy and delicious Christmas tree?
Second favorite: the Bûche de Noël Isatis by Yann Couvreur, adorned with one of his adorable foxes
To see the best Bûche de Noël gallery – and be amazed – follow this link!
If you are planning to do your own Bûche, well it is not that difficult. Start with a jelly roll cake, add buttercream, roll it up and top it with a chocolate ganache. Online you can find endless recipes: from simple home-made cake to elaborate 3 Michelin-stars versions. Just pick your favorite one and go for it! It will be a perfect way to spend some family time.