We’ve been TEAM missionaries in France for 13 years, and my husband also spent the first 18 years of his life here. So, Christmas in our home has become a unique blend of American and French traditions.
We put out stockings like our American family and friends, not slippers like our French friends. We open our gifts the morning of the 25th, whereas most French children open theirs late into the evening of the 24th. We make American Christmas cookies — but we also always have a good supply of French candies, including chocolate papillotes and pâte de fruit. And no matter what we eat for dinner on Christmas Day, we always have a traditional French bûche de noël for dessert!
The bûche de noël (literally meaning “Christmas log”) was historically a large log that families burned in their fireplaces at Christmastime. Sometimes it was so large that it burned continually for several days. Over time, as fireplaces were largely replaced by more modern heating methods, the large log was replaced by a decorative slice of wood. Finally, it came to be known in its present dessert form of a rolled cake.
These days, you can find bûche de noël made out of just about anything sweet — cakes, mousses and ice cream being the most common. The bûche de noël that I like the best is a traditional rolled chocolate sponge cake with almond filling and a little marzipan. It takes a bit of time to make but it’s really not complicated — and definitely is delicious!
Bûche de noël is a French Christmas tradition we’ve adopted that I think we’ll keep regardless of where we live!
Here’s how I make bûche de noël!
Ingredients for cake:
- ¾ cup confectioners sugar
- ⅓ cup cocoa
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¼ tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- Butter, for the pan
Ingredients for filling:
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ cup marzipan, cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¼ tsp almond extract
Ingredients for ganache:
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa
- ⅓ cup 2% milk
- 1 4-oz. bar semisweet chocolate
Directions for cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 F and butter a 9×13 jelly roll pan or line it with parchment paper.
- Whip flour, cocoa and salt in small bowl.
- Separate egg yolks and egg whites. Use an electric beater to beat egg yolks with vanilla and ¼ cup sugar about 4 minutes or until thick and pale.
- In a separate bowl, use electric beater to whip egg whites into soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Gradually add ½ cup sugar and beat until whites form stiff peaks, about 3 minutes more. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Gradually fold in dry ingredients. Spread batter into prepared pan with a spatula.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
- Dust a clean dish towel with confectioners sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Starting on a short side, roll up the cake with the towel and allow to cool.
Directions for filling:
- Meanwhile, bring milk to a boil in medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Whisk egg yolks and sugar in small bowl until well blended. Whisk in flour. Add milk into egg mixture and whisk.
- Return mixture to saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until custard thickens and boils, about 1½ minutes.
- Transfer to food processor. Allow to sit until room temperature, about 1 hour.
- Add marzipan and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Blend in butter, one piece at a time, then add vanilla and almond extract.
- Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours to 2 days.
Directions for ganache:
- Combine sugar, cocoa and milk in medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Then cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth.
Directions for assembly:
- Gently unroll cooled cake on flat surface.
- Spread filling evenly over cake, except for 1 inch from one of the ends. Gently re-roll cake and place seam on bottom.
- Frost exterior of cake with chocolate ganache and use fork to make wood texture markings. If desired, dust lightly with powdered sugar.
- Cover and chill. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving.
Amid all their beautiful traditions, the people of France are longing to know their Savior. Discover short-, mid- and long-term opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus in Europe!