In France a very unique and very, very old Christmas tradition took a fascinating turn when the Yule log became a mouth-watering dessert, the Bûche de Noël. But let’s start from the beginning.
The tradition of burning a Yule Log, a log made of Cherry Wood, may go back as far as Europe’s Iron Age. Records indicate that even before the medieval era, people would gather in the end of December to welcome the Winter Solstice. This would mark the end of winter season, and people would celebrate the days getting longer. To welcome the new year and relieve the air of last year’s events, families would burn logs that were garnished in holly, pine cones, or ivy. They would then keep the ashes as a good luck charm, particularly as protection from lighting strikes.
In the first half of the 20th century the use of the Yule log faded, making room for a clever idea: a Yule log-shaped cake called the Bûche de Noël, which literally translates as “Christmas Log”.
Bûches are usually served with a portion of one end of the cake cut off and set on top of the cake or protruding from its side to resemble a chopped off branch. For further realism, a bark-like texture can be produced in the buttercream by dragging a fork through the icing. Decorated with powdered sugar to resemble snow, tree branches, fresh berries, and mushrooms made of meringue, the Bûche de Noël is simply the perfect Christmas dish.
The cake, among other food, is served at the grand feast of the season, which is called “le reveillon”. Le reveillon is a very late supper held after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The menu for the meal varies according to regional culinary tradition. In Alsace, goose is the main course, in Burgundy it is turkey with chestnuts, and the Parisians feast upon oysters and pat de foie gras. Le revellion may also consist of poultry, ham, salads, cake, fruit and wine.
Reference : Wikipedia & the-north-pole.com
Hungry? Here is the recipe.
Recipe – Bûche de Noël
Preparation time: 40 minutes with assembly
Baking time: 10 min
- 4 eggs (these have to be at room temperature)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup cake flour (sifted before measuring)
- Butter a 10 X 15 inch jelly roll pan. Line with parchment paper and butter that as well. Preheat oven to 400° F.
- In a mixer, beat the eggs until they are very thick and light. Continue beating and add the sugar in 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each spoonful to mix in before continuing with the next. Beat in the vanilla as well.
- Stop the mixer and sift 1/2 cup sifted cake flour on top of the batter. Using a spatula, gently stir the flour into the batter. Sift the final 1/2 cup flour on top and then very gently fold this into the batter. You want to stop as soon as all the flour is integrated into the batter. This will give you a light and airy cake.
- Pour and spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for just 10 minutes. Do not overbake or the cake will be too stiff to roll without breaking.
- As soon as you take it out of the oven, turn the cake out onto a clean dishtowel. Remove the parchment paper and allow the cake to cool for a couple of minutes. While it is still warm, roll the cake up from one of its short ends with the dishtowel inside. Allow the cake to cool completely.
- Unroll the cake, and spread about 1/2 of the chocolate buttercream evenly on top. Carefully roll the cake back up and neatly place on your serving dish, seam side down.
- Optional: To enhance the yule log effect, cut off the ends at an angle and use these to create stubs on the log (they’re supposed to look like cut off branches), attaching them with some buttercream.
- Frost the outside of the log and, using a fork, trace irregular lines in the frosting to give it a woody effect. Refrigerate the cake for 20 minutes to set the frosting, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow it to “age” in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
- Before serving, decorate your cake however you wish. I’m sure you have some cute little Christmas ornaments that will do the job. In France you might find Santa Claus, an ax or a saw, mushrooms (made from meringue), or elves dancing on the cake.