Gingerbread men and candy canes might be everywhere you turn these days, but there’s another sweet holiday tradition that’s making spirits bright: bûches de Noël.
The history behind yule logs is as foggy as a certain Christmas Eve, but the rolled cakes apparently can be traced to medieval times, the travel site Frenchly tells us. A pagan rite required that a log of wood, usually from a fruit tree, would be brought home and placed in the hearth, which then was the heart of the home.
The log would be sprinkled with salt or splashed wine or holy water before being lit on the night of December 24. It had to burn for at least three days in order to bring good luck. People used its ashes as protection against lightning strikes and its coals in healing potions.
As homes became smaller and hearths shrunk or disappeared altogether, people put smaller logs on tabletops as a decorative memento of the Christmas ritual. From there, who wouldn’t be inspired to make a cake resembling the little log? (Insert thinking-face emoji here.)
Things have come a long way since the days of the rolled cakes being laden with chocolate-buttercream icing that had a fork dragged through it to mimic the look of bark.
Here are few places in Metro Vancouver to find creative takes on this holiday classic. Plus a tip: call first, as some spots require ordering in advance.
1. Chez Christophe (4717 Hastings Street, Burnaby)
This season’s bûches de Noël come in four flavours (from $35.95). La Chocolatée is showcases the classic trio de chocolat, featuring three layers of dark, milk, and white chocolate mousse with a heart of raspberry confit on a Black Forest sponge while Santa’s Coffee Break combines a chestnut sponge, cappuccino mousse, cinnamon nameleka and chocolate shavings with a chestnut puree.
The Slippery Slope has matcha namelaka, matcha chiffon, lemon yuzu mousse, and white chocolate sesame crunch. And coconut Kringle combines coconut mousse, lychee confit, coconut sponge, raspberry curd, and coconut crunch.
2. Thierry (1059 Alberni Street)
Master chocolatier and pastry chef Thierry Busset has come up with multiple flavours this year, and they’re available in three sizes: small ($34.95), medium ($45.95), and large ($55.95).
The chestnut bûche has hazelnut sponge, chestnut mousse, candied chestnuts, and chocolate ganache while lime-raspberry consists of light lime mousse, lime cremeux, raspberry gelée, and coconut sable.
Then there’s coffee-toffee (with coffee-infused sponge, coffee-white-chocolate cream, buttery toffee, and milk chocolate mousse), chocolate-orange (with chocolate sponge, orange cremeux, dark chocolate mousse, and chocolate sable), and maple and pralines, which consists of maple mascarpone mousse, pumpkin sponge, and pecan pralines.
3. Giovane Café (1038 Canada Place Way)
This is the second year that Giovane Café, in the Fairmont Pacific Rim, is carrying holiday bûches ($55) created by the hotel’s executive pastry chef, Jeffry Kahle.
The malted chocolate bûche consists of chocolate porter cake, malted cocoa crumble, orange gelée, and malted milk chocolate mousse; a cranberry pistachio creation has light pistachio sponge, vanilla Bavarian cream, cranberry compote mousse, and pistachio crème brûlée.
4. Ladurée (1141 Robson Street)
The Vancouver outpost of the luxury French pâtisserie dating back to 1862 is offering large bûches de Noël ($72) as well as personal—bûchette (from $11)—sizes.
In addition to pistachio macaron, there’s rose and raspberry Marie-Antoinette, which has rose mousseline cream, raspberry jam, and lychees.
The Louise features soft milk-chocolate biscuit, mousse, and cream milk chocolate, while Fleur Noire has Sacher biscuit, chocolate feuilletine, vanilla cream, and Caribbean chocolate mousse, all topped with a dark chocolate leaf and petals.
A bûchette is also included in Ladurée’s winter brunch ($45 per person), which comes with macarons, mini viennoiseries, and Croque-Monsieur or French Toast; and finish with one of the new Bûchette de Noëls (personal size bûche de Noëls). For an additional $10, guests can also select a Ladurée cocktail or Gardet champagne to toast to the season.
5. Mon Paris Pâtisserie (4396 Beresford Street, Burnaby)
Pastry chef Elena Krasnova has three flavours on offer: Chocolate orange ($37, orange marmalade and crème brûlée with chocolate biscuit and dark chocolate mousse); pistachio raspberry ($37, raspberry confit with pistachio cream, crunch, mousse, and biscuit); and redcurrant almond ($42, redcurrant confit and cream with almond biscuit and amaretto mousse).
6. Origo Club (6888 River Road, Richmond)
Pastry chef Remi Ho has come up with two versions of the traditional dessert: bûche à la noisette (gianduja bavarois, creamy dark gianduja ganache, apricot coulis, praline noisette, gluten-free chocolate sponge) and bûche japonnaise (Orelys Valrhona chocolate mousse, matcha bavarois, passionfruit coulis, mango curd, white chocolate sponge). They’re $60 apiece.
7. Temper Chocolate and Pastry (2409 Marine Drive, West Vancouver)
Chef Steven Hodge has a trio of yule logs available, each priced at $38: salted caramel, chestnut, and Black Forest, with classic chocolate and cherry flavours.