Yule Log Murder Released!

by Barb, who’s in Boston visiting her daughter and brand new granddaughter

Hi All. I’m thrilled to announce the release of Yule Log Murder, the latest collection of three holiday novellas by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and me. All three stories take place in Maine, and all three involve a Bûche de Noël, the traditional French yule log cake.

I admit I was completely daunted when Kensington asked me to write a tale of Christmas mayhem centered on a complicated dessert. When they asked me to write for the previous collection, Eggnog Murder, I had an eggnog anecdote I’d been sitting on for years. For a Bûche de Noël, I had nuthin’. Plus, my baking is confined to a) fruit pies, b) Christmas cookies, and c) the very occasional bread (pumpkin, cranberry, etc.) or coffee cake. Note there are zero frosted cakes on that list, much less anything that gets rolled up.

But I love the holiday season and I love writing in the novella length, so there was no way I wasn’t going for it. I enjoyed doing the research, especially watching the famous video of Julia Child making a bûche.

The best part is when she flings the caramel at a broomstick to make the spun sugar moss (which starts about about 24:25 in the video).

Speaking to my niece Julia, who makes a Bûche de Noël every year, did nothing to assuage my fears. She strongly recommended making the cake over several days. Lots of the recipes I was looking at said the same. For example this excellent blog post improves Julia’s recipe by clarifying it. A mere 40 steps!

My protagonist Julia isn’t the baker in her family. Her sister Livvie is. So the idea of Julia learning to make the bûche over several days, while also learning about and solving a mystery, began to take shape. Who would teach her? Her mother’s elderly neighbor, Odile St. Onge. And why would Julia want to learn? To honor her boyfriend Chris’s family’s French Canadian heritage. After keeping mum about his family forever, Chris finally began to open up about them in Stowed Away and tells even more in Steamed Open (coming December 18, just in time for…).

So that’s the story. Making each part of the cake–the base, the filling, the icing, the meringue mushrooms, and the spun sugar moss–is entwined with a part of the mystery Julia uncovers at Mrs. St. Onge’s house.

I do include Mrs. St. Onge’s recipe at the end of the novella. However, in order to make the story last, I picked the most complicated recipe I could find for each element–and then added a few twists. Therefore, if Yule Log Murder makes you pine for a  Bûche de Noël of your own for Christmas, I recommend ordering from your favorite bakery. Or, there’s always Williams Sonoma.

Readers: Is there a holiday recipe or craft you’ve always wanted to try–but been daunted by? Do you think you’ll go for it or let it go?

43 Thoughts

  1. I can’t wait to read Yule Log Murder. I have it reserved at my library. I always think it would be fun to give homemade Christmas gifts each year. I probably never will, though, because I don’t have crafting or artistic talent.

    1. Thank you for reserving the book at your library. That is so helpful to authors. I have very occasionally done homemade gifts, but now do more “customized” with the help of Etsy, not fully homemade. Which reminds me, I need to order something.

  2. While I have never made a Buche de Noel, I have made pumpkin rolls, which still are tricky. I am so excited about reading this new book. Congratulations to all three of you!

  3. Ah yes, I remember that episode (I will watch reruns of Julia Child’s Kitchen whenever I find them), but I’ve never tried making a Buche de Noel. (I’d probably eat half the frosting before it got to the cake.)

  4. Well that is ordered (along with Eggnog Murder, how I missed that one I don’t know!) – I have made a Buche de Noel before and boy was I glad when I was done!

  5. Congrats on the release, Barb!

    My grandmother made a wonderful nut roll every Christmas. But she never wrote down the recipe. My aunt tried to reverse-engineer it and I tried it one year. Never again.

      1. No. It was drier, not as moist. Part of it is cake, and that’s the part that’s off. My husband thought it tasted great, but of course he would. He never had my grandmother’s.

  6. Congrats on the release! Super excited to read the book! My most daunting dessert is my quest to find the perfect sugar cookie. Every year I try to make my mother’s sugar cookies and every year I fail to crack the code! I’m trying again this year and I’m bound and determined to get it right!

      1. I love sugar cookies and finally found a great recipe. I had a big incentive to keep trying – 2 small granddaughters who love to make cookies with grandma. Doubt that I’d ever try a buche – I’m not that ambitious, but I’ll make pies for Thanksgiving – but I do look forward to reading the book! What fun.


  7. Congrats on the new release! Read an ARC on Netgalley and thought it was wonderful!

    Other than that cherpumple thing my husband is insisting I make/buy him this year. I’ve always wanted to create a Christmas tree made of star shaped gingerbread cookies of various sizes. I have the directions in one of my Betty Crocker Christmas cookbooks. I have the graduated cookie cutters. It would take a lot of cookie dough, but I know it would be a show stopper. Unfortunately, I’d either have to transport it to a party or assemble it there since we don’t have anyone over the holidays. One of these days, though…

  8. Congratulations! Since I’ve already read your novella i know how wonderful it is. It’s the perfect Christmas treat for everyone. I’m going to try cross stitch again after years of not doing it.

  9. I found this book at the library in large print!!! and put it on my list. Happy book birthday to all.

  10. I made them when I was in high school, and did pretty well. Then I tried again two years ago, inspired by The Great British Baking Show. Epic fail. I’m going to try again this year in honor of your book. Huge congratulations!

  11. Congratulations on today’s release! I was lucky enough to read an ARC and I can tell everyone Yule Log Murder is fabulous.

    After reading it and watching that video Bûche de Noël is certainly not on my list for Christmas baking. For some reason I’ve always been daunted by the idea of making my mother’s eclairs but in comparison I’m thinking what the heck, go for it this year!

  12. Congratulations on another release, Barb!

    I love the idea of having made a Buche de Noel but am not so enthusiastic about the actual work involved. I don’t think I have the patience required for a multi-day baking project! Well, except gingerbread houses. I do love to make those and for years made several undecorated ones at a time in order to host gingerbread house parties for my kids to enjoy with their friends. It was fun, engrossing and absolutely exhausting!

    1. I can imagine! I love the idea of gingerbread houses, and my daughter-in-law has done some with my granddaughter, but since my cookie-baking is such a production, I’ve never attempted the gingerbread.

  13. What a delicious sounding book! I would love read it. The recipe I’ve considered making, but haven’t yet, is cream cheese danish with homemade croissant dough. The time required to make the dough though is daunting. Most danishes don’t have enough filling and are packed with artificial ingredients which is one reason I plan to make an attempt. I love the taste whole food ingredients give homemade treats!

  14. I’d definitely let it go. I can make simple recipes, but I haven’t even done that recently. Too much else to do.

  15. HI, Read an ARC and very much enjoyed the stories. I love the character Julia so enjoy her escapades and the way she plunges in. Achieving the Buche? Well, thank heaven she completed it once! Congratulations Barb!

  16. I made molasses cookies for the church spaghetti supper this Saturday but am buying pie and cake slices that the other church members make much better than I do. Pie dough and layer cakes seem hard to me. So far I’ve stuck to cookies, brownies, gingerbread, and Grandma’s black walnut cake in a bundt pan.

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