A Delicious Countdown to Christmas

Christmas 2020 is pushing master pastry chefs and chocolatiers into creating some wonderful yule logs that are a delight to look at and to also bite into. Here we share with you our top picks of 11 delicious reasons to start counting down to Christmas from now.

Matthieu Carlin, the head pastry chef at the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, has created an enchanted forest on the outside and a black forest cake on the inside for the hotel's bûche, the traditional French yule log. Complete with a castle "nestled" in the forest, the delicious dessert is made with vanilla mascarpone mousse, creamy chocolate and is filled with cherries and roasted almond flakes.

France's "Pastry Picasso", Pierre Hermé, has transformed his signature creation, the Ispahan, into a bûche for the festive season. An exotic combination of rose, raspberries and lychee swirl together above a macaron base and through the heart of a cream-covered cake to bring a refreshing bite to conclude a festive meal with sweet delight.

Firewood in the fireplace is the inspiration for the Prince de Galles hotel's Christmas gift to us with layers of creamy caramel, fir honey-infused cake and puffed rice creating a flavour explosion of different textures. Each bite of the firewood-shaped treat, covered with an airy mousse, bursts with a pop, crackle and smoothness, a fitting celebratory morsel for the festive holiday.

The Cour des Vosges hotel in Paris, where a 17th century private mansion once stood, has tapped into its history and translated 17th century France into a Christmas tree-shaped bûche decorated with voluminous ribbons of crème caramel cream atop a golden pastry base. Recalling the baroque fashions, the bûche resembles the exquisite corsets worn at the time, complete with pearl detailing created with smooth vanilla cream.

Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini has opted to go down a more traditional bûche path, both in form and in flavour, for Christmas 2020. Reinterpreting the traditional butter cream and coffee filled sponge cake, Marcolini has layered a moist sponge cake with coffee-flavoured butter cream and added a delightful almond chocolate cream layer, making for a rich mocha cake that will please both chocolate and coffee connoisseurs alike.

Lenôtre is serving up a black forest cake in the shape of an adorable house designed with traditional architecture of the Alsace region in mind. Behind and inside the edible Alsace-influenced walls a gingerbread house is found with layers of chocolate, vanilla panna cotta, kirsch-infused biscuit and of course cherries.

French chef Guy Martin, the talent behind the culinary institution Le Grand Véfour, is really pulling out all the stops with his creation this year. Celebrating everything that is noble, his festive offering is a chocolate and truffle delight with specks of gold. The very subtle truffle flavour is mixed with the chocolate sauce and ganache that fill the chocolate cake, which is decorated with smooth chocolate-filled black truffle shells with shavings of truffle.

For a taste of Italy, Eataly is serving up a scrumptious variety of the traditional Italian cake, panettone. The classic dried fruit stuffed sweet bread is of course on the menu, however, this year there is also the delicious pistachio cream from Vincente panettone with the cream swirling and twirling around the heart of the brioche-like cake, adding a je ne sais quoi to the traditional treat.

For our gluten-free readers, Christmas can still be celebrated with sweetness courtesy of festive chocolate. Patrick Roger's edible chocolate Christmas tree is worth the sweet calories with the crunchy tree made with chocolate-covered caramelised almonds, candied orange peel and raisins.

Over at Edwart Chocolatier, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is given the chocolate makeover with the famous reindeer sculpted with dark chocolate and filled with chocolate-covered hazelnuts.

And over at La Maison du Chocolat it is a cracking Christmas with a dark chocolate bar in the shape of a Christmas cracker covered in crunchy caramelised almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios.

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© 2020 Sandra Iskander