’Tis the season for France’s most popular Christmas cake, the bûche de Noël – or yule log – a chocolate roulade gâteau that’s traditionally decorated with buttercream frosting, kitschy meringue mushrooms and marzipan holly. Newer versions, however, are becoming ever more refined and adventurous in terms of both design and ingredients. Here are a few to kick the holidays off in celebratory style…
Holiday Roulade Cakes – Epicerie Boulud Lyonnaise chef Daniel Boulud brings Noël to New York with five different made-to-order Christmas cakes. Among the more original selection are the Exotique, an almond, pineapple, coconut, passionfruit, lemon and banana mélange; the Candy Cane, comprised of yoghurt, vanilla, and raspberry purée; and the St Honoré Pear, a whiskey, pear, chestnut purée and cream confection. Serves 6-8; $42; +1212-933 5330; epicerieboulud.com.
Yule Bundle – Hôtel Plaza Athénée In Paris, pastry chefs Angelo Musa and Alexandre Dufeu (the former a world champion in the field) have taken an au naturel approach and created a rough-hewn bundle of six sections comprised of cocoa biscuit, almond and hazelnut crisp, chocolate cremeux, and cocoa mousse with subtle hints of banana and ginger jelly. Serves six; available from December 1; €110; +331-5367 6597; dorchestercollection.com.
Bûche de Noël Cristal – Le Royal Monceau An alpine interpretation recalling snowcapped mountains and sleigh bells comes from the “Picasso of pastry” Pierre Hermé. The wintry white explosion has a crunchy chestnut shortbread base, a moist cake layer, fillings of chestnut mousse and rose mascarpone cream, and is topped with sugar shards and silver leaves. Serves six; available on December 17-31 by reservation 48 hours in advance; €126; +331-4299 9850; leroyalmonceau.com.
Christmas Log – Ritz Paris Santa Claus meets a traditional yule log in pastry chef François Perret’s playful creation that gives a white log a Santa hat. Each of the limited edition marble cakes is filled with vanilla mousse and chocolate-chip-studded caramel. Serves five; by special order from December 1; €110; +331-4316 3274; ritzparis.com.
Bûche de Noël – The Peninsula Paris More adventurous design can be found at The Peninsula Paris, where Cantonese aesthetics transform the traditional yule log into a white chocolate dim sum basket filled with a fruity confection. Dominique Costa’s limited edition cakes are comprised of almond biscuit, honey mango, and a jasmine tea mousse with hints of grapefruit. Tuck in with dark chocolate chopsticks… Serves 10; available on December 18-31 by reservation 48 hours in advance; €98; +331-5812 2888; paris.peninsula.com.
Bûche Veneto – Park Hyatt Tokyo Over in Tokyo, the approach draws on Italian flavours for a yule log that takes its cue from tiramisu. The Bûche Veneto is a coffee-soaked sponge cake with a mascarpone mousse and coffee-cream centre – all festooned with a dark chocolate ribbon. Also available are a strawberry-infused Bûche fraise and a Bûche noisette composed of hazelnut and yuzu and coated in milk chocolate ganache. Serves 3-4; about £30; +813-5323 3462; restaurants.tokyo.park.hyatt.co.jp.
L’écorce – La Réserve Paris Inspired by the chestnut trees that line Avenue Gabriel, two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Gabriel executive chef Jérôme Banctel and pastry chef Marc Lecomte have created a lifelike log made of chestnut-flavoured biscuit, light vanilla mousse and candied chestnut – enlivened with notes of caramelised pear and birch syrup. Serves six; available on December 15-24; €110; +331-5836 6060; lareserve-paris.com.
Holiday Rubik’s Cake – Le Meurice Award-winning pastry chef Cédric Grolet presents a wintry twist to his signature technicolour Rubik’s Cake, in five flavours ranging from the traditional, such as chocolate truffle and chestnut, to the unexpected, such as zingy lemon-mint and almond-coriander. Serves 6-8; orders from December 6; €220; +331-4458 1044.