Monday, December 22, 2014

Postmodernist bûche de Noël

postmodernist buche de noel

Postmodernist. That fancy, arty term, conjuring images of all-white canvases and ugly sculptures and Lady Gaga. What does it mean, anyway?

Well, I’m no art graduate. I can’t really tell you just by skimming through the Wikipedia article, which featured more than a few walls-o-text that could make even the most patient scholar’s eyes glaze over. I do think, however, that it has something to do with being, like, above modernism. It’s kinda upper-level.

As Calvin and Hobbes will tell you.


And as this little graphic I found via an image search will tell you.


And as this isolated slide will tell you.


The whole idea of “define your own reality” and “fuck da police” reminded me of Haruki Murakami, that literary darling who writes books that nobody understands but we all love anyway (or I don’t know maybe some people understand his writing but of the couple of short stories and the one novel I have read of his I can say that I do not). And what do you know? He is, actually, very much recognized as a symbol of “postmodern Japan”. Whatever that means.

In my cursory research, I also happened upon this inspirational quote by Robert Venturi, which is considered another facet of postmodernism.

less is a bore quote
I'll take this over bullshit "minimalism" any day. source

This is coming from a man who designed this house.

???? source

The conclusion of this research project is summarily that I am still very confused and also why is the stream-of-consciousness novel form not more popular among adolescents because it seems like we would be very good at that?

In this particular philosophical theme, I also got to thinking of whether this “bûche de Noël” I have made is modernist or postmodernist. I do know it is not pre-modern. You will notice

postmodernist buche de noel
Yes we do notice.

that it is somewhat out-of-line with the traditional idea of a bûche de Noël, also known as a yule log, which typically connotes a roulade cake with decorated with marzipan acorns and meringue mushrooms and powdered sugar snow and such. Here, all of these traditional ideals are upsetted. The whole concept is the brain child of Heather Baird, author of the Sprinkle Bakes cookbook. As she states in the recipe’s introduction, it is “a tongue-in-cheek take on the classic yule log cake, based on the shape of a Duraflame log”.

Well. I don’t think mine came out nearly as photorealistic as hers. 

Not that anything I make looks that good, period. source

With detailed instruction and several photos, she shows the reader how to use a bit of food coloring and a bit of fondant and oh yeah a wood comb and a culinary brush too to create a gorgeous wood-grain feel. I did not feel like making fondant, however, so I just stuck with homemade marzipan. Nor did I feel like using food coloring, so I used chocolate ganache I had on hand (basically, equal parts melted chocolate and coconut cream). Nor did I have any graham cracker crumbs and crème de cacao, so I just used a mixture of almonds and raisins. Nor did I feel like trying to make a third batch of vegan genoise with Ener-g egg replacer after two batches of absolutely disgusting cardboard-esque cake, so I ended up just whipping up a batch of my favorite chocolate cake.

You see where this is going?

Suffice it to say, the end product was quite different from the pictures in the cookbook. And that’s okay. Because it’s postmodernism (I think?) and you can, like, define your own reality, or something.

postmodernist buche de noel
Haha I don't know.

You may notice that the marzipan is a bit thick on here. That is because the first time I tried covering the already-frosted cake with marzipan, I ended up tearing it all over the place and so I ended up making another half-batch to smooth it over. The moral of the story? More frosting (or marzipan) fixes all flaws. That is a constant in my baking philosophy.

I’ve done enough talking. Here’s the recipe.


Postmodernist bûche de Noël

Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes and this cake


Chocolate cake


188 grams • all-purpose flour • 1 ½ cups

200 grams • granulated sugar • 1 cup

15 grams • Dutch-processed cocoa powder • 3 tablespoons

4 grams • baking soda • 1 teaspoon

2 grams • salt • ¼ teaspoon

Pinch nutmeg

1 gram • orange zest • 1 teaspoon

85 grams • coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons

14 grams • apple cider vinegar • 1 tablespoon

6 grams • vanilla extract • 1 ½ teaspoons

244 grams • cold water • 1 cup


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a quarter sheet pan and line with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and orange zest. Make a well in the middle and add coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, and cold water. Beat on medium-low speed until smooth.

Pour batter into baking pan and smooth over with a spatula. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely on a wire rack.




226 grams • coconut oil, softened • 1 cup

420 grams • powdered sugar • 3 ½ cups

60 grams • nondairy milk • ¼ cup

2 grams • orange zest • 2 teaspoons

4 grams • vanilla extract • 1 teaspoon


Place coconut oil in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat until smooth. With mixer on low speed, gradually add powdered sugar until combined. Add remaining ingredients and beat on high speed until light and fluffy.




80 grams • orange marmalade, melted • ¼ cup

1 recipe marzipan

Chocolate ganache, to taste

143 grams • almonds • 1 cup

120 grams • raisins • ¾ cup


Cut cooled cake into four equal strips, cutting the long way across. Place one layer on a cutting board or other frosting surface and brush with about 1/3 of the melted marmalade. Cover with a few tablespoons of frosting and top with another layer of cake. Repeat until all four layers are stacked—do not frost the top layer. Chill cake for about 30 minutes.

Cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Next, roll out marzipan and drape over cake; cut off excess pieces and use to patch up any holes that may have formed. Use a fork to create wood-like textures and brush chocolate ganache over the marzipan for variations in color.

Place almonds and raisins in a food processor; grind until the mixture consists of small grains and is somewhat chunky. Spoon mixture around the cake as garnish. Ta-da.


postmodernist buche de noel
*drowns in frosting and marzipan*

The cake is not only a visual showstopper (I’d like to think) but also pretty damn delicious. The interplay of the spices and the orange and the chocolate is perfect for a Christmas-themed dessert. Which leads me to wonder—why is orange a winter flavor when it is a warm-weather fruit? Candied orange, maybe?

I think that’s a question for another time. Before you leave, some other fun nontraditional (if not postmodernist) desserts for your winter celebrations.

Momofuku-inspired carrot cake. Definitely an overhaul of the traditional view of carrot cake.

Frito cheesecake layer cake. What happens when you get too creative.

Chocolate layer cake with chili and coconut. Spicy chocolate will always keep me warm. 


  1. We used to source our oranges domestically, and they ripen in places like Florida in late fall / early winter. I love your writing!

    1. Ah, that makes sense! Thanks for stopping by! :D

  2. I've been seeing buche de Noel cakes everywhere online this season, taunting me with their difficulty levels. I am so much NOT a decorator. :) Someday I will make the attempt. You did a nice modern (or was it post-modern?) version. Very cool.

  3. Thank you for teaching me the meaning of postmodernist - lesson of the day :D

    The yule log looks fantastic! In Scandinavia, it is common to cover the top of sponge cakes with marzipan sometimes, so I could totally see this being super tasty :D And it looks so nice with the layers inside too :D x

    1. Thanks! The marzipan works really well, I can see why it would be a tradition :) I'm definitely going to do this more often!


  5. Can't wait to try this one at home! Your recipe was chosen as one of our favorites in our Sunday Recipe Wrap Up Linky Party