Tuesdays With Dorie: Gingerbread Bûche de Noël


This year, Christmas is more melancholy than most, as G’s family experiences the first Christmas after his mother, my sweet mother-in-law, died from cancer at the end of May after a year-and-a-half journey with the disease.

My grief, muted and tolerable in the ensuing months, hit like a polar vortex these past few weeks. When the acute sadness washes over me, I give in to tears, and allow myself to feel the weight of an incredible loss, and the journey to that loss. As anyone whose life has been touched by cancer can attest, that journey is filled with unexpected turns, moments of hope, and, in our case, an irrevocable loss.

And so it was with a heavy heart that I donned my holiday apron, fired up my mixer, Blossom, and undertook Dorie’s gingerbread Bûche de Noël. I found comfort in the many steps, from making pralined pecans, to baking and rolling the cake, to creating the marshmallowy Italian Meringue frosting. I recalled last year’s Christmas creation–a chocolate peppermint ice cream cake baked in my vintage tree shaped pan, reminisced about our last Christmas all together, and looked ahead to spending time with my in-laws.


We ate, talked, drank, shared gifts, and found joy and comfort in being together, despite our shared sorrow.

My mother-in-law loved decorating for Christmas, and writing thoughtful notes in personal cards sealed with stickers. My father-in-law carries on these traditions.

The Bûche de Noël, also known as a yule log, symbolic of the large logs that generate warmth and light during long December night, was the perfect dessert for this long season of darkness.

Here in Wisconsin, daytime is short, and sunshine eludes us many days. And still, we celebrate the light…life…love.

Happy holidays to you and yours, whatever celebration you honor.

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18 responses

  1. I’m sorry that this particular holiday season has been tough for you and your family. I can see how baking is a bit soothing for the soul and both the cakes look fantastic. Happy holidays to you and I hope you enjoy the beauty even among the sorrows.


  2. Wow, your Buche came out great! I’m sorry for your loss. Loved ones pass and we show our love by carrying on traditions that keep them alive in our hearts. I’m glad you are surrounded by friends and family.


  3. Cooking and baking was always a comfort to me in difficult times. And so it goes….
    Your cake is quite lovely. I am sure you MIL would have been proud.


  4. The happiest times can also be the sharpest reminders of our grief. I think about my grandmother nearly every time that I work in my kitchen and more than 10 years after her death it can still be difficult. Thanks for this post, may happy memories carry you through.


  5. I am sorry to hear that the holidays were difficult for you. Losing a loved one is never easy.
    I have always found a certain kind of peace in the kitchen – there is something magical about the transformation of ingredients that works magic to soothe the soul.



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