"Buche de Noel is the French name for a Christmas cake shaped like a log.
This is a traditional French dessert served after the main Christmas dinner, a roll of light sponge cake, covered in chocolate or coffee butter cream textured to resemble bark as an evocation of the ancient tradition of burning the Yule log.
The origin of the tradition comes from the rather enormous and very dense log that was burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Christmas celebrations. It sometimes consisted of an entire tree trunk with one end burning inside the hearth while the rest of the trunk stuck out into the room. The log was specially selected for the occasion, originally to mark the winter solstice, and carried in the main room to provide maximum lasting and reassuring warmth. It must have been quite an event.
Nowadays every French home will have its Bûche de Noël in the form of the traditional cake made from a Génoise or sponge cake, generally baked in a large, shallow pan, then rolled into a cylinder, frosted and decorated. Many variations of this cake are now available including some that are not cakes at all but made of sorbet, ice cream or elaborate confections and come in a multitude of flavor combinations.
Ingredients for 12 servings
On Sunday there was a Christmas Fair that I wanted to go to at the Steiner School, somewhere in the woods beyond Campagne; but after crossing the village I got lost, or rather I should say, I got found. What should have been a five minute trek became a twenty-five minute meandering through an unknown countryside, along a narrow road passing the occasional farm, fields dotted with cows, or overshadowed by tall trees. At first I drove hesitantly, expecting at every turn to see the old manor house surrounded by cars, children playing through the gardens. Once I realized that I had made a wrong turn I settled into the land, allowing myself to be pulled into the discovery and mystery of it all I was wearing my new moss-green sweater and the copper-coloured leaf pendant sent by the children over my heart. The day was glorious, brilliant sun over a wild yet subtly domesticated countryside, with colours that only manifest on the threshold of seasons; young, green grain quivering in the fields, sunlight shafting through the small woods to etch the trees dressed with the last golden leaves hanging like delicate Christmas ornaments. Around and around through the little woods I drove; now up, now down opening to sunlit fields where brown-spotted cows lay in the sun against a background of trees with leaves matching their own colour. All this lifted me up, made me sing out loud, “I love it, love it’, wanting the ride to last forever.
Thus I allowed myself to become lost in the labyrinth, pulled forward along the road, yet thoughts and eyes extended to all beyond. I saw not a soul and no vehicle passed. The autumn sun beat through the open window framing the painted countryside lying wide on either side, and warmed me.
And so it happened….
Rounding a sharp corner the narrow road rose from the sunlit fields, straight up a steep hill towards a dense wood. Upon reaching the top the road dipped abruptly, plunging me into the midst of a cool, shadowy world through which not a glimmer of light shone. The road along which I was carried; for now I was no longer driving the car but somehow outside of it, outside of myself; this road had become a tunnel of trees beneath which ran a ribbon of luminous green moss. I was carried forward, the green of my sweater pulled into the green ribbon ahead of me, copper leaves falling from the trees to settle in my hair, upon my heart.
Where am I? Who am I? This I know not, only that I have been here before.
And a sound like a deep, soft sigh joins my own breath, then overtakes me to fly above the green ribbon, out of the tunnel into the autumn sunlight upon the brown hawk’s taught wings.
Somewhere near Campagne, Ariege.
Sandra's family members are dear friends of the Alliance Francaise des Bermudes and founding members of l'Alliance. Sandra is a talented poet, well known for her numerous poems in French, English and Portuguese.