It was over 35 years ago when I first started making the classic Bûche de Noël at Susan Lawrence. In those days I was the lone baker, starting my day at 5:00 in the morning. The first few hours were devoted to baking breads and rolls. Mid-morning was spent creating cakes and then on to cooking soups, salads and entrées for the remainder of the day.
We were a tiny little store back then, with just some family and friends working around the clock to help fill all the holiday orders. What I remember most, and certainly will never forget, was the night before every Christmas, when Susan would join me in the pastry kitchen. Together we would make 100 Bûche de Noëls. It was a blur of activity as spongecake rolls were filled with chocolate ganache and mountains of French buttercream were fashioned into rustic bark topped with marzipan decorations, meringue mushrooms and holly leaves. Susan always brought her contagious energy, good cheer and enthusiasm to what seemed like an impossible task for just the two us. By the end of the night our aprons were covered with chocolate, and she would always joke about the “glamour” of it all. It was exhaustingly hard work, but for us both, truly a labor of love.
Today, we have a wonderful crew of talented pastry chefs who re-create that miraculous French Yule Log Cake. It is made with the same fine ingredients and loving care just as we have done for the last three decades. For those who have their own memories of Susan, I hope you find joy in the continuance of this tradition. For everyone, I wish you a Merry Christmas full of delicious memories, peace and hope.
- Mark Kramer