PHOTOS: Bûche de Noël offers fierce French competition

Contestants had to get serious about sweetness if they wanted a shot at first place.


Evelynn Lin '25

The winning matcha-flavored Bûche de Noël cake featured meringue mushrooms, sugar-coated cranberries, and chocolate ganache with rosemary and powdered sugar seasoning.

Mackenzie Murray '23, Contributor

On Monday, Dec. 12, the French room was full of people crowding around the long row of desks topped with the nine log-shaped cakes. 

The French dessert Bûche de Noël has origins dating back to the 1870s with the traditional lighting of a Yule log. The French Club has been hosting this competition for years as a marker of the holiday season. 

Club presidents, Aissata Koné, Winnie Kenney, and Emma Wei were nervous about the crowds disrupting the beauty of the cakes before the judges could evaluate, but the popularity of this competition was expected. 

Precautions were taken for food safety, making sure to ask the bakers about allergens and separating the serving utensils to prevent cross-contamination. One cake went unclaimed, but most bakers were open and honest about their ingredients. Many flavors were traditional chocolate and vanilla, but some were a bit more bold: hazelnut, chocolate-berry, red velvet, and matcha. 

Despite the judge’s tendencies to pick traditional flavors, having a bold flavor paid off.

“This year we went with a bold, colorful cake that decided to take a risk, do things a little differently,” the judges– English teacher Ms. Mimi Drew, history teacher Mr. Richard Foulk, and German teacher Herr Alex Paul– announced.

Excited murmurs arose about the red-velvet shark-shaped cake; it certainly took a risk with its bright blue frosting and being the only cake that had teeth. However, the winner was actually the matcha cake with its bright green frosting and red berries. It pushed the boundaries, but it didn’t go too far. 

The shark cake was “too silly, like something that should be at a pool party,” according to Foulk, who has been judging the contest for 20 years. 

All the judges agreed that the matcha taste was polarizing. French teacher Madame Suzanne Stadnicki even predicted that response from the judges when discussing the cakes earlier in the day. However, its detailed, fully-edible presentation could not be beat. Most cakes went with a nature theme of mushrooms and pine trees, but they were just not up to par with the meringue mushrooms adorning the first prize winner baked by Winnie Kenney, Eden Kaplinsky, Claire Lowry and Rhys Hals. 

The winners of last year’s competition—juniors Jordana Jasner, Kaira Odenigbo, and Julia Gaudette—left with only third place this year. 

“It was a lot harder than last year… we went in too confident and comfortable, but we’ll be back next year and plan more in advance,” the defeated champions said.

As parting words of wisdom, Foulk delved into fond memories of his all-time favorite Bûche de Noël, the tiramisu flavor—hint-hint to all the hopeful bakers next year.