A French Tradition in a Kumquat Bûche de Noël — Une tradition française pour une bûche de Noël aux kumquats

Tradition, tradition! Do you smell something special? You have about ten days left to decide what to make for dessert! As to me I already know….

Christmas is just like this. Every year, I think that I have plenty of time to think about the following year, and about two weeks before D day, I always realize that I am really left with tons of unfinished things in my hands. Things that I want to cook and prepare. Some years, we spend Christmas in France with my family, like last year, and sometimes we spend it in the US with P.’s family, just like this year. I am perhaps the one cooking or not. Whatever the scenario, there is one thing that does not change, no matter what. I cannot let Christmas go by and not have a bûche de Noël. Not in France? Not the culture in the US? Tant pis! (too bad) La bûche de Noël is just that special.

Let me explain. When we were kids, the entire Christmas meals revolved around the type of bûche that my mum was going to buy. Or make. But to tell the truth, there were so many fantastic-looking bûches in every single pâtisserie that most years, we would end up buying one. Until I became older and wiser (I thought so!) and decided that it was much more fun to say “C’est moi qui l’ai fait” (I made it) if anyone asked about la bûche. What kind of bûche ? With crème au beurre, crème pâtissière, mousse, chocolat, fruits, marrons (chestnuts). The variations are endless. Yet, one thing does not change: the shape of the bûche.

Macerated Kumquats and Vanilla Cream

Brushing the Sponge Cake with Kumquat Syrup

Rolling the Bûche

In French, Bûche means log. The tradition is old and dates back to the time when a log used to be burned in the fireplace during Christmas Eve, especially in the French regions of Provence and Alsace. It soon was to be replaced by a traditional cake with the exact shape and looks of a log, introduced by Parisian pastry chefs by the end of the 19th century. La bûche de Noël was born.

The How-To Guide About the Bûche de Noël

The principle to make a bûche de Noël is simple but requires organization and time. There are a few components:

  • Le gâteau roulé, (the rolled cake)
  • La crème (the cream to make the filling)
  • Le glaçage et la décoration (Icing and decoration)

The Rolled Cake is a basic sponge cake made with eggs, flour and sugar. Not difficult by any means, this cake however needs to be handled with care after it is cooked. To give it the shape of a log, the cake is rolled in a wet dish towel.

The cream is often going to be a crème au beurre (buttercream), or a crème pâtissière. Pastry chefs go wild with new ways to make les bûches lighter and original, hence the use of fruit mousse of all types. I can still remember a raspberry mousse bûche that we had one year, or this delicious white chocolate mousse with passion fruit. A delight, they were melting in the mouth.

As to the icing, there are many options: ganache, chocolate icing, or simply powdered confectioner’s sugar are just among a few.

Once the rolled cake is filled with cream and garnish, it sits in the fridge for 12 hours, after which time it can be iced. At this point, the cake will have to rest for a variable amount of time once more, depending on the type of icing chosen.

I have made this particular bûche twice and every time, I like to add one thing to enhance its looks and taste. What I particularly enjoy in this recipe is the association of delicately marinated kumquats with a vanilla cream. Kumquats do not need to be cooked as the sugar takes care of this for us. Over a richer crème au beurre (buttercream), I prefer crème pâtissière, making for a lighter dessert, especially after a Christmas menu. The icing stays simple with a sprinkled thick coat of confectioner’s sugar on top. Airy and light like snow. Candied kumquats are then arranged on top of the cake with cacao nibs. Fresh raspberries mixed with the kumquat syrup are served on the side.

The ideas abound and you should really feel confident to try one, two, three or more bûches. I know that Christmas is still two weeks away — I know my Maths — but as we had a couple of friends over for dinner last night, I thought that it would be a good place to practice my bûche skills. I am still waiting to try more fancy ones, of course. There is always a good excuse to have a few Christmas celebrations, and eat more bûches than just the yearly one! Besides, I do not live where pastry shops are lined up the ones next to the others to tempt me with their fantastic creations. I better learn quickly!

Kumquat Bûche de Noël

(for 8 people, takes 2 days to make), recipe adapted from an old copy of the magazine Cuisine et Vins de France.

Note: I followed pretty much the instructions of the original recipe except for a few things. I added a vanilla bean to the cream, and added less water to the syrup. I also made the candied kumquats as the recipe does not give any instructions as to how to make them.

For the Kumquat Garnish:

  • 7 oz kumquats
  • 3.5 oz candied kumquats*
  • 3.5 oz fine sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar

For the Cake:

  • 3.5 oz flour
  • 3.5 oz fine sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Vanilla Cream:

  • 1 + 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 2/3 oz fine sugar
  • 1 oz cornstarch
  • 1 oz butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 vanilla pod


  • Start with the preparation of the fruit. Wash the kumquats and slice them thinly. Remove the seeds if any. Sprinkle with the sugar and let macerate for 12 hours.
  • For the cake, preheat your oven at 350 F.
  • Separate the egg yolks from the whites.
  • In a large bowl, add the sugar to the egg yolks and beat until white in color.
  • Add the flour and vanilla extract.
  • Whip the egg whites firm and fold them carefully in the previous preparation.
  • Pour the batter (0.5″ thick) on a baking sheet covered with a piece of parchment paper.
  • Cook for 10 mns.
  • Wet a dish towel, squeeze the excess water out and place it on the counter top. Flip the cake on top of it. Remove the parchment paper and roll the cake and the dish towel together. Keep.
  • For the cream, pour half of the sugar in a pot and add the cornstarch. Pour the milk slowly, add the vanilla pod and vanilla seeds, and mix well. Place on the heat and bring to a boil. Remove.
  • In a bowl, beat together the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar. Beat until the preparation is white in color. Pour the milk slowly without ceasing to beat. Place back on heat and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 to 4 mns. Remove the cream from the heat and let cool down a bit.
  • Add the butter and mix well.
  • Strain the kumquats. Keep the juice and add 5 cl water.
  • Dice the kumquats and add them to the cream.
  • Open the cake flat and brush it with this syrup. Spread the fruit cream on top and roll the cake again. Place it tight in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 12 hours.
  • When you are ready to serve, take the cake out and sprinkle with a thick coat of confectioner’s sugar. Add candied kumquats* and cacao nibs**.

*To make candied kumquats, wash the fruits and slice them coarsely. Boil water in a pot and cook the fruit 2 mns. Rinse and repeat two more times. Mix together 2/3 cup water with 2 1/4 oz sugar and cook the fruit on low heat until almost transparent, about 15 mns or so. Strain and keep.

**Cacao Nibs are cocoa beans covered in chocolate, great for decoration and as a snack. I used Scharffen Berger.

Le coin français
Bûche de Noël aux kumquats

(pour 8 personnes, préparation sur 2 jours), recette adaptée d’une ancienne copie du magazine Cuisine et Vins de France

Remarque : J’ai suivi les instructions de la recette d’origine à l’exception de quelques détails. J’ai ajouté une gousse de vanille dans la crème et j’ai ajouté moins d’eau au sirop pour imbiber le gâteau. J’ai aussi réalisé la recette des kumquats confits moi-même car la recette ne figure pas dans le magazine.

Pour la garniture aux kumquats :

  • 200 g de kumquats
  • 100 g de kumquats confits*
  • 100 g de sucre
  • Sucre glace

Pour le biscuit :

  • 100 g de farine
  • 100 g de sucre
  • 4 oeufs
  • 1 càc d’extrait de vanille

Pour la crème à la vanille :

  • 35 cl de lait
  • 4 jaunes d’oeuf
  • 75 g de sucre
  • 30 g de maïzena
  • 30 g de beurre à temperature ambiante
  • 1/2 gousse de vanille

Étapes :

  • Commencez par préparer les fruits. Lavez les kumquats et coupez-les en tranches fines. Saupoudrez-les de sucre et laissez macérer pendant 12 heures.
  • Pour le biscuit, préchauffez votre four à 180 C.
  • Séparez les jaunes des blancs d’oeuf.
  • Dans un saladier, ajoutez le sucre aux jaunes et fouettez jusqu’à ce que le mélange blanchisse.
  • Ajoutez la farine et l’extrait de vanille.
  • Battez les blancs en neige ferme et incorporez-les délicatement à la préparation précédente.
  • Versez la pâte sur une plaque à pâtisserie recouverte de papier sulfurisé (sur 1 cm d’épaisseur).
  • Enfournez le gâteau pendant 10 mns.
  • Mouillez un torchon, essorez-le et étalez-le sur le plan de travail. Renversez le biscuit dessus. Retirez le papier sulfurisé et roulez le gâteau et le torchon ensemble. Réservez.
  • Pour la crème, versez la moitié du sucre dans une casserole et ajoutez la maïzena. Versez le lait en mince filet en tournant avec un fouet et portez à ébullition, avec la gousse de vanille fendue et grattée. Retirez du feu.
  • Dans un saladier, mélangez les jaunes avec le reste de sucre. Fouettez jusqu’à ce que la préparation blanchisse. Versez le lait chaud en filet sans cesser de fouetter. Remettez le tout dans la casserole et portez à ébullition pendant 3 à 4 mns. Retirez la crème du feu et laissez-la tiédir.
  • Ajoutez le beurre et mélangez bien.
  • Égouttez les kumquats. Réservez le jus et ajoutez 5 cl d’eau.
  • Coupez les fruits en petits bouts et ajoutez-les à la crème.
  • Étalez le gâteau et imbibez-le de sirop avant d’étaler la crème. Enroulez-le et enveloppez-le de film alimentaire. Mettez au frais pendant 12 heures.
  • Au moment de servir, saupoudrez de sucre glace et servez avec des kumquats confits* et de graines de cacao enrobées de chocolat.

*Pour faire les kumquats confits, lavez les fruits et coupez-les en tranches épaisses. Faites bouillir un peu d’eau dans une casserole et plongez-y les tranches de kumquats pendant 2 mns. Égouttez et recommencez 2 fois. Mélangez 15 cl d’eau avec 65 g de sucre et cuisez les fruits à feu doux dans ce sirop pendant environ 15 mns, jusqu’à ce que les fruits soient translucides. Égouttez-les et réservez.

Posted in Cakes, Dessert, French Inspired, Fruit


  1. ah oui mais non j’avais prevu de faire une diete de salades bon tanpis je vais faire une diete de buches de noel….et je vais commencer par celle-ci en plus j’ai ramene cet ete de la liqueur de kumquats de corfou…

  2. C’est amusant Bea, c’est celle que j’ai faite l’an dernier, je crois bien que la recette venait de ce magazine. Elle etait loin d’etre aussi jolie que celle de ta photo, mais tres bonne en effet.

  3. It’s always more fun to be able to say: I made it myself.
    How I wish the pastry shops were lined up one after the other like in France.
    Béa, I look forward to seeing your next practice attemps in the next 10 day and the big one at the end!! Your lucky guests.
    This one looks wonderful. Kumquats are so fun, even the name is fun I think.

  4. Si tu as du mal à la finir n’hésites pas à me garder quelques reste. La seule idée de ces kumquats emprisonnés dans cette bûche me fait frétiller !

  5. cette version revisitée de la tradition me laisse sans voix! quelle merveille! et voilà qui me donnera l’occasion de découvrir les kumquats que je ne connais pas encore!

  6. J’adore les kumquats et depuis quinze jours j’en achete pratiquement tous les jours!
    Ta buche est magnifique! C’est toujours a moi qu’en revient la fabrication le 24, le 25 et le 31! Je n’ai pas encore decide quels parfums mais tu m’a donne des idees!

  7. The photos are so beautiful, I could almost smell the kumquats. I have a small kumquat tree that’s very productive, so you would think I’d use them in baking. But, I haven’t. Now you’ve inspired me!!!!

  8. Elegant! I’d always thought buche de noel had to be chocolate. The kumquats are a lovely touch.

  9. Je suis toujours béate devant tes photos! Mais comment fais-tu? C’est superbe, et cette version de buche est bien appétissante! 🙂

  10. That’s very interesting. The bakery I worked at in high school produced a very decadent buche de noel that was heavily frosted in buttercream and sculpted to look like a real log. The problem was, it was so rich that you couldn’t eat much of it. Your’s looks light and delicious, and the tart flavors of the fruit probably help refresh the palate.

    – Chubbypanda

  11. Superbe réalisation et j’aime beaucoup le “concepte” qui change de la bûche traditionnelle. Un grand BRAVO


  12. Bea, I come here in a regular basis but was always too shy to comment. I have to start now: this dessert is fantastic!!

    I’ve made bûche de Noël twice already, but I used dulce de leche as filling and chocolate ganache to cover it.
    I even made once little marzipan mushrooms (they were the first things that got eaten – lol)

    Your recipe is a keeper, I’m sure I’ll try it sometime!

    Regards from Brazil,

  13. I feel your Kumquat Buche de Noel particularly fimilar, I guess it’s because kumquat is our Chinese New Year fruit. Its flavor is so intense that I may not like to eat it everyday, but in a special occasion I just want that taste, and they are so pretty to look at isn’t it?
    Your recipe is so well-written and enlighten us some good decoration/baking tips! These days I see you experimenting different shots that taken from the top, it takes some good sense in graphic and layout, needless to say, you accomplish it beautifully Bea!

  14. What a lovely post – I feel all Christmassy now! And what a fabulous dessert. Being from a country where Christmas falls in the middle of summer, I am always on the lookout for special puddings that will work well in a warm climate (I made baked Alaska once…) and this certainly qualifies as a show-stopper. I have never made anything with kumquats but this looks like a great place to start.

  15. Every time I visit your blog, you impress me so much with your food and pictures.
    I really do admire you. You can even create nice pictures with broken egg shells.

  16. Hi Bea,
    your buche looks unusual yet gorgeous.
    And i’ really fond of the idea of eating buche before Noel. Sounds so good to me!

    – fanny

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  18. I think the fruit in it is better then the one with the chocolate and creme. It puts a nice twist on the meal

  19. You make the meals look as if you could reach out and grab it. The arrangement of the food is nice. I would like to make this some time

  20. Bea, I have never done a bouche du noel and am looking forward to trying it next week. how can i do this for more than 8 people? would i need to make 2 separate ones? Also, how far in advance can i make this? can i break it up? i.e. freeze the cake in the towl? or would that not be a good idea?

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