by Mary Jo
Yule logs have a long tradition in Northern European winter festivals, probably a fusion of winter solstice customs with Christian Christmas celebrations. Traditionally a large log would be dragged into the house and lit on Christmas Eve and it was supposed to burn for at least three days, or better yet, till the New Year.
This made a great deal of sense when household gathered around a hearth, but as times changed and hearths were replaced by wood burning stoves, what became of the Yule log?
Why, it became a cake! In 19th century France, the Yule log tradition was transformed into the magnificent Bûche de Noël, a delicious roll cake designed to look like a Yule log. The filling can be chocolate, vanilla, or perhaps chestnut cream. (I always go for chocolate. <G>) The icing is often chocolate but can a pale butter cream. In either case, the icing is scored with a knife or fork to create the appearance of bark.
The log is often decorated. There may be holiday items like little Clauses, but I like the traditional bright berries and meringue mushrooms designed to make the log look more foresty.
I'd heard of Bûche de Noël cakes, but didn't meet up with them in person until fairly recently. I was delighted when they appeared at my local gourmet market, saddened when the market no longer brought them in, and was ecstatic when a French bakery opened nearby and began to offer the real thing. They were a stunner at Christmas Eve parties and disappeared until only smear of crumbs and icing were left.
More recently, they have started to appear in multiple markets, a happy benefit of globalization of food. The one I got this year was less elaborate, but it still tasted very, very good!
Have you experience a Bûche de Noël? If so, what did you think of it? Did you imagine ancient northern forest–or was it mostly about the chocolate? <G> Tell me about it!
Mary Jo, with one large slice of log preserved in the freezer to surprise and delight later.