As 2016 comes to an end, so does the 15-year-old tradition of baking Bûche de Noëls, or Yule Log cakes, at Palo Alto High School. This tradition, treasured by students and staff, was started by French teacher Carla Guerard. In a win-win situation, students in French language courses were offered the optional opportunity to bake a Buche de Noel, a classic French holiday cake, in exchange for 10 extra credit points on their final.
Where the cakes end up, however, truly spread the holiday cheer.
“Kids bring it in and it’s their gift to the staff,” Guerard says. “We would then afterwards deliver it to all those teachers in the departments on campus and to the district office.”
Not only does this tradition bring chocolatey cakes to staff departments, it also brings French culture directly into the classroom.
“It [the tradition] was a way to incorporate a cultural aspect of France into the curriculum,” Guerard says. “It was also something fun for the kids to do, and since we don’t have a full on kitchen available to us because of scheduling, kids would have the option to make a yule log cake and have the experience of making it.”
However, schedule changes that meant fitting in finals week before winter break placed a strain on the 15 year long tradition.
“The school calendar has changed in the past that the semester ends before winter break,” Guerard says. “So, I feel like there is more of a crunch time, while as when I started this a long time ago, the semester ended in the middle to end of January.”
In memory of this beloved, but, unfortunately, now dead, tradition, Verde documented the entire process of baking a Buche de Noel.
BUCHE DE NOEL CAKE
Commonly known as the Yule Log cake, the Buche de Noel cake is a traditional holiday dessert that is popular in areas such as Belgium and France. The spongy flourless cake bursting with chocolate cream is rolled up to resemble an actual Yule log and is commonly decorated with fondant leaves, and mushrooms
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 egg whites
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- In a large bowl, whip cream, 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until thick and stiff. Refrigerate.
2. In a large bowl, separate egg yolks from the egg whites. Place the egg whites in a separate bowl for later steps.
3. Blend in 1/2 granulated sugar into the egg yolks. Then, add 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt to the egg yolk mixture.
4. In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks
5. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
6. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
7. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Remove and discard parchment paper. Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. Cool for 30 minutes.
8. Unroll the cake, and spread the filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Roll the cake up with the filling inside. Place seam side down onto a serving plate, and refrigerate until serving. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Recipe modified from AllRecipe member Tyrachelle’s Buche de Noel.