Every year, gourmands gather round the Yule log to warm…their bellies. The celebratory cakes with a French accent are only made during Christmastime, so act quickly if you want enjoy this delicious tradition. Here are 10 très bien Bûche de Noël to make your season merry and bright.
Bastille, Alexandria, Virginia
Co-owner and pastry chef Michelle Poteaux usually crafts her Bûche de Noël with dacquoise cake, but chose to use chocolate soufflé cake instead this year. The rich, tender pastry is rolled around chocolate mousse and iced with fudgy ganache. Arcs of chocolate and candied lemon peels add festive flair. Make a reservation at Bastille.
The BLvd, Los Angeles, California
You’ve never seen a Bûche quite like this. Instead of the usual log, executive pastry chef Chris Ford crafts a trio of colorful Christmas bulbs. The cheery spheres hide a delicious peppermint chocolate core. Make a reservation at the BLvd.
Benoit, New York, New York
Pastry chef Thomas Padovani didn’t want to slog through a standard log. Taking inspiration from calissons – a traditional diamond-shaped French candy made from candied fruit and ground almonds – he created a modernist-minded, ivory white log that hides those flavors instead. Make a reservation at Benoit.
Left Bank Brasserie, San Jose, California
Served only on Christmas Eve, chef Joel Guillon begins with a sheet of white génoise sponge cake, which is slathered with the guest’s choice of chocolate, hazelnut, or Grand Marnier mousse. Rolled into a log, the sweet treat is enrobed in chocolate buttercream, dusted with confectioners sugar and cocoa powder, and completed with a meringue mushroom and sprig of candy holly. Make a reservation at Left Bank Brasserie.
db Bistro Moderne, Miami, Florida
This is what winter in Miami looks like. Packed with passion fruit crémeux, macadamia nuts, and pineapple sorbet, the chartreuse colored cylinder is bookended with sheets of white chocolate. Definitely not your average Bûche. Make a reservation at db Bistro Moderne.
L’Auberge Chez François, Great Falls, Virginia
The restaurant’s founder, Franҫois Haeringer, brought the handwritten recipe for Bûche de Noël with him from Alsace when he moved to the States over a half century ago. Though he is no longer with us, his son Jacques continues rolling them out every holiday season. Chocolate génoise cake is filled and frosted with mocha buttercream and finished with a snowfall of confectioners sugar and is truly magnifique. Make a reservation at L’Auberge Chez François.
Petit Louis Bistro, Columbia, Maryland
It’s a winter wonderland. The cheery landscape features whimsical meringue mushrooms, dainty snowflakes, and cookie crumb dirt. The log of chocolate sponge roulade is packed with sweetly tart raspberry jam and rich French chocolate buttercream. To score one, place an order by December 17 with a pickup between December 20-24. Make a reservation at Petit Louis Bistro.
Woodward Table, Washington, D.C.
Whatta beaut! Pastry chef Antonio Lisbino wraps espresso mousse and salted caramel ganache with Valrhona chocolate sponge. He completes it with chocolate coins, rings, and threads, as well as meringue buttons. To get one, you must pre-order it 48 hours in advance. Make a reservation at Woodward Table.
Bouchon, New York, New York
So you beautiful you almost don’t want to eat it. But then you come to your senses and dive right in. It includes layers of caramel mousse, white chocolate crunchies, sea-salt-sprinkled caramel jam, and dark chocolate cake, which are set in chocolate mousse and then glazed with – you guessed it – more chocolate. Make a reservation at Bouchon.
Le Diplomate, Washington, D.C.
King of pastry Fabrice Bendano possesses the power to transform humble sugar, butter, and flour into regal desserts. Case in point is his annual Bûche de Noël, which he never repeats. This year, he’s making Bûche Pomme Caramel with coconut dacquoise, roasted apple caramel cremeaux, and mousseline, and a Bûche Chocolate-Praline with dark chocolate mousse, milk chocolate cream, hazelnut dacquoise, and praline. Make a reservation at Le Diplomate.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Pierre Monetta (Benoit); Evan Sung (db Bistro Moderne); Deborah Jones (Bouchon).