Bûche de Noël, an homage to the yule log in velvety rich chocolate form, is a welcome if not essential holiday treat in many homes. A thick and luscious layer of dense chocolate sponge cake is wrapped around a layer of mouse or chantilly cream, dusted with cocoa powder, and often finished with chocolate ganache and meringue or marzipan mushrooms. Decadent doesn’t even begin to describe the dessert and we’re fortunate that this sort of a treat is a once-a-year affair – reserved for the solstice or for Christmas.
For years upon years, generations celebrated the changing of the seasons. At the winter solstice when the darkness shrouded the world and daylight waned to but a few grim hours, families and tribesmen would venture out into the bleak and bitterly cold winter to harvest the yule log. They’d light it afire, beckoning the return of the sun on the darkest day of the year. The tradition of the yule log, of mistletoe, and of the Christmas tree is, perhaps, the last vestiges of ancient winter rites still celebrated, albeit quietly, in modern times. Of course, the Bûche de Noël is a totem to the once-popular yule log – a chocolate treat rolled and formed to resemble to resemble the rough bark, rings, and knots of a log.
In this Bûche de Noël recipe, we omit flour altogether for an intensely rich sponge cake that resembles a souffle in texture and ingredients. Cocoa (or carob) powder pairs with pastured eggs, unrefined cane sugar, vanilla, and orange for a decadent winter treat. As rich and complex as the dessert may seem, it’s easy to prepare. This weekend, as I spooned cocoa into egg yolks, neighborhood children gathered in my kitchen with my son – each anxious to dip a finger into the chantilly cream or to help roll the cake. If you have small children, you’ll enjoy the time spent making this dish with them – forging new holiday traditions in your home.