Christmas decor is more than mere decoration. For me growing up, it was, most importantly, about spectacle and fantasy. My siblings and I used to make "displays"--theatrical assemblages of toys, knick-knacks and hand-made props imitating window displays at downtown department stores. (One year, we constructed elaborate scenes from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol with Star Wars action figures and Barbie dolls as stand-ins for Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future).
Perhaps that personal history will explain why I am so enamored with Bûches de Noël, a traditional French dessert for the Christmas season. This theatrical, cream-filled cake roll is decorated to resemble a yule log. As far as a taste goes, some Bûches recipes are better than others. (Some can actually be quite good: moist, light chocolate sponge cake alternating with layers of raspberry sauce or cream). But the real genius of this traditional French Christmas-dessert has to do with its visual extravagance: Scarified icings that resemble bark, marzipan lichens and candied chocolate toadstools. The opportunities for scene-making are unlimited: fairy kingdoms, decaying wood piles overrun with insects, a botanical collection of fungi under a glass cloche...
We enjoyed making this one with the kids. You might consider adding a Bûche de Noël to your list of fun holiday projects. As far as scenic content: The sky's the limit. Just use your imagination...
Photo by Zhen Hu on Unsplash
Photo by Vidar Kristiansen on Unsplash
Photo by Ramamoorthy Kumar on Unsplash
Edible logs not your thing? Try another representational dessert. Leaf through Pastry Paris for inspiration. (This is a fun album of photo-pairings that demonstrate the dialogue between Parisian pastry chefs and the visual environment of Paris).