Caramel-Pecan Bûche de Noël


We have enjoyed many celebrations and meals over the past four days and I managed to take a break from recording every detail of everything that we ate and drank (for your sake and mine).  The abundance in our lives was apparent by the bounties under the tree.

We are so blessed to host so many family members for dinner that I could not fit everyone into a single picture and even then, I neglected to get Daughter #2 and my 86 year old Mom to squeeze in.  They sat to the far left and right (and D was still in the pantry opening wine).

Of all the baking and roasted meats and gravies, I think the crowning glory was Sister #3’s traditional Christmas dessert that she made especially for The Frenchman (but we all got to enjoy).  If you get “sugared out’ over the holidays, this is a lovely alternative as it is rich and meaty with nuts and butter but not overly sweet.


Caramel-Pecan Bûche de Noël
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 16
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted, cooled
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup plus ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • Frosting and caramel sauce
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1¼ cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • Fresh bay leaves or lemon leaves
  • Powdered sugar (for sprinkling)
  1. For Cake:
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Line 17x12x1-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment; butter paper. Pulse nuts and flour in processor until nuts are finely chopped (not ground). Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in very large bowl until foamy.
  4. With mixer running, gradually beat in ¼ cup sugar, beating just until stiff peaks form.
  5. Using electric mixer, beat yolks with ⅓ cup sugar and bourbon in large bowl until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add yolk mixture to egg-white mixture.
  7. Sprinkle nuts over; gently fold until almost incorporated.
  8. Add butter; fold gently just to blend.
  9. Pour into prepared baking sheet, spreading batter gently to form even layer.
  10. Bake cake until edges begin to brown and cake is firm to touch, about 14 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.
  11. For frosting and caramel sauce:
  12. Stir 1¼ cups sugar and ⅓ cup water in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  13. Increase heat; boil without stirring until deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes (time will vary, depending on size of pan).
  14. Remove from heat; immediately add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk in butter, bourbon, and salt.
  15. Stir over medium heat until any caramel bits dissolve.
  16. Transfer 1 cup caramel sauce to small pitcher.
  17. Add chocolate to remaining caramel in saucepan.
  18. Let stand off heat 5 minutes; whisk until smooth.
  19. Transfer to bowl.
  20. Let frosting stand until spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
  21. Spread 1 cup frosting over cake in even layer.
  22. Beginning at 1 long side and using parchment as aid, roll up cake jelly-roll style.
  23. Starting 1 inch in from each end of cake, cut off 3-inch-long diagonal piece from each end.
  24. Arrange cake, seam side down, on platter. Spread cut side of each 3-inch cake piece with some of frosting.
  25. Attach 1 cake piece, frosting side down, to top of cake near 1 end. Attach second piece to side of cake near opposite end.
  26. Cover cake with remaining frosting.
  27. Run fork in concentric circles on cake ends.
  28. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead.
  29. Cover loosely with waxed paper and let stand at room temperature.
  30. Garnish platter with leaves.
  31. Sprinkle cake lightly with powdered sugar.

Kath’s quote: ” . . . réveillon, this word says it all; it is just as well that it comes only once a year, on 25 December, between two and three o’clock in the morning. This meal. . . is designed to restore the faithful, who are exhausted after a session of four hours in church, and to refresh throats hoarse from singing praises to the Lord. . . . A poularde or a capon with rice is the obligatory dish for this nocturnal meal, taking the place of soup, which is never served. Four hors d’oeuvres, consisting of piping hot sausages, fat well-stuffed andouilles, boudins blancs au crème, and properly defatted black puddings, are its attendants. This is followed by ox (beef) tongue, either pickled or (more likely) dressed as it would be at this time of the year, accompanied by a symmetrical arrangement of a dozen pigs’ trotters (feet) stuffed with truffles and pistachio nuts, and a dish of fresh pork cutlets. At each corner of the table are two plates of petits fours, including tarts or tartlets, and two sweet desserts, which may be a cream and an English apple pie. Nine more desserts round off the meal, and the faithful – thus fortified – retire to their devotions at the early morning Mass, preceded by Prime and followed by Tierce.”-Grimod de La Reyniere

This single blossom appeared on a south facing window sill this week.

Love-that is all.


6 Comments to

“Caramel-Pecan Bûche de Noël”

  1. Avatar December 27th, 2012 at 9:22 am Victoria Says:

    Beautiful photo of J and J’s home and tree. So glad you are family!

  2. Avatar December 27th, 2012 at 9:28 am Kathryne Says:

    My family thought that it was so wonderful to be able to sit all together at a Christmas table. This is the first time that we have ever been able to seat this many people.

  3. Avatar January 2nd, 2013 at 1:06 am Jacqueline Says:

    Wonderful photos and wonderful descriptions as always Kath, but what I want to comment on is your “note”…

    Réveillon. The word alone conjurs up the most vivid memories of Christmas past for me. Being the youngest child of a large French-Canadian family, réveillon was traditionally our biggest holiday celebration and meal – all in the middle of the night – and the one my mom and her mother before her and her mother before her – spent months preparing for. Everyone, except maman and I when I was too young, attended Midnight Mass at La Cathedrale de Saint-Boniface’s wonderful basilica. Exhilirated by the walk home afterwards on frigid Winnipeg nights, we’d open all our presents and then sit down – sometimes more than 20 of us – in the big kitchen and ate the sumptuous meal of turkey (usually a thirty pounder!!!) stuffed traditionally with a ground meat and mashed potato farce. There was always tourtiere, homemade cranberry sauce, fresh veggies (rare in those days), meat balls, pork hock stew, etc., etc. And the desserts!! Oh my! Apple and beef suet pie was the highlight but there were others. Not a mandarin orange was eaten before Christmas Eve, but afterwards, after Midnight Mass, it was a feast!

    I’ve gone on for far too long but as I said, the word “réveillon” brings that all back to me.

  4. Avatar January 2nd, 2013 at 1:11 am Jacqueline Says:

    After the clean-up was finally accomplished, we toddled off to sleep. For poor maman, that was only a few hours as she had to go to Christmas mass at 10:30 a.m.

    No wonder at at one point – I think in her 70th year – she announced to my brothers and sisters-in-law: “It’s your turn now. I can’t do it anymore. I expect to be invited to your places for réveillon from now on.” And so she was…

  5. Avatar January 2nd, 2013 at 7:28 am Kathryne Says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal memories here. I have long thought that a collection of Christmas dinner stories would make good reading (including recipes of course). Perhaps I could start the collection with your memories of “revellion”….

  6. Avatar January 2nd, 2013 at 4:44 pm Jacqueline Says:

    I have her recipes Kath and I’d be happy to share them with you. Somehow no one can make them taste as good as maman made them.

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