For Francophiles, it wouldn’t be Christmas without bûche de Noël, the festive, marzipan-decorated log of chocolate, cream, and sponge cake. At the Willard hotel’s year-old Parisian bistro, Café du Parc, the bûche pays homage not only to the holidays but also to local arts and culture. To kick off what will be an annual tradition of honoring a DC cultural leader with cake, this year’s log was inspired and created by Spanish-born Plácido Domingo, the celebrated tenor and director of the Washington National Opera.
We were skeptical as to how Domingo and pastry chef Morgan Bomboy would translate opera into dessert. Sure, there’s the opera cake—a coffee-and-almond-flavored gâteau that a French pastry shop named after the Paris Opera more than a century ago—but that dessert never claimed to “elegantly evoke operatic motifs,” as Café du Parc promises.
The foot-long bûche—designed by Domingo—is garnished with a white-chocolate ribbon of sheet music, a conductor’s baton made of fondant, and a white-chocolate plaque bearing the master’s signature. Cloaked in glossy dark-chocolate ganache, it resembles the plush curtain of an opera house, complete with tassels painted in edible gold. Inside are elements of the classic opera cake—jaconde (almond sponge cake) rolled with coffee-flavored marscarpone mousse.
Dabbling in pastry design isn’t Domingo’s only culinary interest. He’s also a partner in the Asian-meets-Nuevo-Latino spot Zengo in DC’s Penn Quarter. At Café du Parc, Domingo’s $79 confection will be available for carryout through January 1. (Order 48 hours in advance.) It’s also offered by the slice in the restaurant’s dining room—but what good is a small piece of fondant baton or half of Domingo’s signature? This dessert has always been more about looks than anything else.
Café du Parc, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-942-7000; cafeduparc.com.