Christmas is coming, which means it’s time to dive into one of our favorite holiday treats—Bûche de Noël! A mainstay of Belgian Christmas celebrations, the Bûche de Noël—French for Christmas log—has a history as rich as its taste.

Usually a layered genoise sponge cake, this classic pâtisserie is made with chocolate buttercream and formed into the shape of a log. To give the cakes their log-like appearance, bakers traditionally adorn them with forest-inspired toppings like mushrooms, leaves or holly made from marzipan or praliné.

However, modern interpretations of the yule log – and its adornments – range from from traditional to quirky and festive! At Le Pain Quotidien, we bake two versions – a Belgian chocolate and a Praliné, with an almond genoise sponge cake base and topped with dark chocolate almond bark and festive figurines.

While we always welcome a reason to bake up something special for the holidays, where did this tradition of celebrating Christmas with a yule log come from? Check out its history below!

From Celtic Celebration to Christmas Table

  • In Europe’s Iron Age, Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans would gather in late December to welcome the winter solstice and celebrate the end of winter. At these celebrations, Yule logs were burned to symbolically cleanse away the previous year and welcome a fresh season. The log’s ashes were kept as lucky charms against evil and misfortune—like illness or lightning, a big threat at a time when houses were mostly wooden!
  • After the birth of Christianity, Christians adapted the Yule log tradition. While some families still burned Yule logs on Christmas Eve, this was impractical for most families who were only equipped with petite hearths. Instead, they used their hearths to bake Yule log inspired cakes!
  • The cake gained popularity in the 19th century, when Parisian bakers became known for their signature, elaborately decorated Yule log cakes. Traditional cakes featured a rolled sponge cake base, frosted with chocolate buttercream to resemble Yule logs. Bakers made their cakes look even more convincing by frosting them in rigid, bark-like patterns and adorning them with decorations like meringue mushrooms and marzipan holly sprigs!

Starting December 16, you can order your own chocolate or praline bûche de Noël from your local LPQ. Then, use these facts to impress guests as you indulge together!

Happy celebrating!