It took me 22 Years to make Bûche de Noël

It took me 22 Years to make Bûche de Noël
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Bûche de Noël is a French Christmas cake shaped to look like a Yule Log

Way back in the mid 90’s I was the French Club president of my high school. I sometimes tell people this just to get a few laughs — the only think dorkier to be at that age might have been being Latin Club president. In all honesty, I got the role because no one else wanted it. I didn’t raise my hand in class to nominate myself and when no one else showed interest another student suggested that I should take the role. Then everyone said that I should. I didn’t say no and secretly I was really pleased that my peers thought I’d make a good President. There’s a 99% chance that I was blushing at the time.

You’d think that after becoming little miss French club that I would definitely have had the chance to make a cake for class. I vividly recall learning about Bûche de Noël, a French Yule Log cake, and our teacher suggesting that a student make one for Christmas. Twenty-two years on I also remember the opportunity was only offered to the boys. Our teacher told us that the French believe that men are the best chefs and so a boy should try making it.

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It took me 22 Years to make Bûche de Noël

Sexism and Christmas Cake

All those years on and I still feel the weight of that decision. I love baking and making desserts and the idea that I couldn’t was heartbreaking to my teenage self. I’m sure that our teacher didn’t think that the exercise would be remembered, let alone affect any of the students for years to come. It must have been her way of trying to shake things up and get a male in the kitchen. I wonder if it ever crossed her mind that her way of reversing our own society’s gender roles was by by using the sexist tradition of another’s. The irony.

I’ve delayed making Bûche de Noël

Even though I really wanted to try, I’ve delayed making a Bûche de Noël ever since. It sounds silly but I felt like maybe I couldn’t do it. Actually I think the feeling was more like that I shouldn’t. I write those words and know they sound ridiculous.

I’m trying to work out in my own head why it affected me so much and I think this is it. The girl who was too shy to volunteer herself for club president would have happily raised her hand to try making this cake. My hand stayed lowered in one case out of insecurity and it stayed lowered the next time out of sexism. A seemingly harmless exercise kept a sensible adult woman from making a silly cake for over two decades.

I’ve finally made one

I started writing today because I finally made the cake. I worked from this recipe, adapting it a bit, and when the cake was finished I felt pleased enough to share a photo on Facebook. From it I had a few requests to share the recipe and this is how my fingers started typing today. I suppose the bigger idea that was still going on in my mind was why I made the cake rather than how. It somehow seemed like a hurdle — albeit a slightly fussy and chocolately one. Now that I’m over it, I wonder why it took me so long.

It took me 22 Years to make Bûche de Noël

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5 Discussion to this post

  1. The bark looks very realistic. The whole thing looks delicious!

  2. Lu Ann says:

    Was it particularly delicious? It took me nearly 40 yrs to make my *second* buche de noel, also due to a school incident!
    In 7th grade we were asked to bring a dessert to a ‘potluck’ for the holidays. My mom worked but I figured I could do this on my own. I actually did really quite well with methodically measuring the ingredients beforehand, pre-heating oven, and using the required utensils. However, I could not believe that the recipe was correct when it called for Baking Soda. I mean, there was a box of it in the bathroom for my mom’s teeth! gross! So, I replaced baking soda with baking powder, sure it was an error. Yes, you imagined correctly. I was able to get the cake rolled up because it was still warm from the oven, as instructed, but by the morning, it was as hard as … a log! I was mortified to hand it in the next day but I had worked so hard and wanted a grade on it. Fortunately, there was so much food on the table, it went without much notice.
    Although I’ve baked many cakes since, all without similar incident, it was only just the Solstice before last that I could bear to try it again. I very methodically measured out all ingredients, followed all instructions meticulously, and rolled it very gently. You know what? That was the best damn cake I ever made!

    • lovelygreens says:

      Oh lawd…we’ve all done something similar. Salt instead of sugar, baking powder instead of bicarb… I’m so glad you had a ‘Phew’ moment when you were able to disguise your log among the other cakes. I’d have totally felt the same 😀 How funny that you decided to give the ole Yule Log another go the same year as me. Something was in the air!

  3. Lisa Marie Lindenschmidt says:

    What a work of art! Such a beautiful cake. I love that you turned your fear into food. : )

    • lovelygreens says:

      I’m so glad too! It took such a long time to really feel motivated enough to try though. It’s hard to unlearn some lessons…

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