Vachon log cake shortage spurs cross-border hunt for holiday treat

There are many traditional New Brunswick treats at this time of year — Chicken Bones, eggnog and meat pies, to name a few.

For many Acadians, the holidays just wouldn't be the same without a bûche de Noël, or Yule log

But the beloved cake appears to be absent from store shelves this season, and New Brunswickers are looking to Quebec grocers to get their holiday fix.

Country music singer-songwriter Laurie LeBlanc of Bouctouche ​remembered eating white Vachon-brand log cake with chocolate frosting at Christmas lunch with his grandparents and parents.

"My mother always had a Vachon Christmas log on the table for the Christmas meal," he said. "I grew up eating that. It's part of the evening."

It continues to be part of his holiday tradition. 

The cakes usually hit store shelves by late-November, said LeBlanc, but this year they are conspicuously absent from local shops.

That has some people scrambling to get their hands on them.

"Maybe people want what they can't have," said LeBlanc. "For some reason everybody wants them more than ever."

Discovered in Quebec

LeBlanc went on a bit of a mission to find the cakes during a recent performance tour of the Gaspé Peninsula​.

"Just on the other side of Campbellton, I stopped at the first grocery store and there was none there. You've got to go two two-and-a-half hours deeper into Quebec to get some."

An audience member finally tipped him off about a store that had some for sale.

"Between a couple of songs in the show, I was just talking about the big meals we eat during Christmas, the turkey and everything, and I said, 'We need sweets. And I'm looking for Christmas logs — Vachon cakes. We don't have any in New Brunswick and do you have some down here?'

"There's really been a snowball effect. The phone hasn't stopped ringing. I already have the names of 300 people who want Vachon Yule logs." - Line Cormier, grocery store manager

"One guy put up his hand. He said, 'Hey, I have some in our IGA store,' in a certain little town nearby."

LeBlanc said he was at the store at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, on his way home from the gig.

"They had stacks, so I bought seven or 10 of them and I brought them here," he said.

"I'm a pretty heavy sugar guy, so I usually stock up this time of year and freeze a few for big barbecues in the summertime and stuff like that."

LeBlanc said he paid about $7 a cake and he's since heard of other New Brunswickers paying up to $20 to get one.

Buying trip to Quebec

In Caraquet, at the Pointe-Rocheuse grocery store, manager Line Cormier has organized a buying trip to Quebec.

"I made contacts on the Quebec side to find them," she said in French.

Laurie LeBlanc/Facebook

"There's really been a snowball effect. The phone hasn't stopped ringing. I already have the names of 300 people who want Vachon Yule logs."

She's expecting delivery on Friday.

"For many people, this log seems to be a holiday tradition. ... I did not expect such a strong demand," Cormier said.

LeBlanc joked that snack cakes might start driving the same kind of interprovincial trade as cheap Quebec beer.

"This could become quite a province to province transfer. You never know. I guess there's no law against it," he said.

There's no word yet from the company about what is behind the supply issue. CBC News has contacted the Vachon bakery in Sainte-Marie, Que., and Vachon's parent company, Canada Bread.

Staff at New Brunswick grocery store chains confirm no Vachon Festive Log cakes are available.

There are, of course, other versions of the traditional Christmas treat being produced by store bakeries and other independent shops.