There’s something about the dessert at the end of an incredible meal that always feels a little bittersweet (pun not initially intended): The meal isn’t over yet, but it was so good, and it’s almost over, and you don’t want it to end!
That gratified melancholy can seem so amplified on Christmas, the last holiday of the year, leading us to put massive stock into the quality of the meal, especially as it’s ending and you wish it weren’t—making the stakes for dessert on Christmas very high.
For this reason I’m of the opinion that the bûche de Noël—a showstopping creation made of sponge cake that’s flattened and layered with cream or ganache then rolled into a sweet roulade and decorated meticulously, usually to resemble a woodsy winter wonderland—is the quintessential Christmas dessert.
Also known as the Yule log because of its supposed genesis as a European pagan harvest ritual during the Yuletide season, the bûche de Noël as a dessert is believed to have originated in Medieval Europe sometime around the 17th century, before being popularized by the French in the 1900s. It eventually grew in popularity throughout Western Europe as well as in regions colonized by France, like Canada and Lebanon, which has made space for many delicious and exquisite interpretations in the decades since.
The combination of its impressive presentation and rich history makes the bûche de Noël the perfect antidote to that end-of-meal-meets-end-of-year wistfulness that tends to come with Christmas.
If you’re anything like me, though, making your own would likely yield a Nailed It–worthy outcome. But lucky for us here in NYC, many local patisseries and bakeries produce gorgeous bûches (and are still taking orders for Christmas! Note: Most bakeries require 48 hours notice for orders).
89 E. 42nd St., Midtown
Plus two Brooklyn locations
Bien Cuit’s bûche features flourless chocolate almond cake swirled with a rich chocolate bergamot mousse, topped with a glossy chocolate glaze and a pinecone made of toasted almond slivers.
864 Madison Ave., Upper East Side
398 W. Broadway, SoHo
Choose from half a dozen options (available in both individual and six-serving sizes) at Ladurée, including a Marie Antoinette–inspired cake made with a macaron base, rose-infused buttercream, and raspberry and lychee jam.
2131 1st Ave., East Harlem
La Tropezienne, a 30-year-old uptown patisserie offers chocolate, vanilla and mocha bûches in five different sizes, each yielding between six and 14 servings.
14 Delancey St., Lower East Side
While Ceci Cela’s chocolate, vanilla and Grand Marnier bûches are each delightful, their pistachio flavor really takes the cake. Select from individual, 6-inch (4–6 servings) and 8-inch (6–8 servings) sizes.