Across cultures and religions, holiday traditions are often anchored in food. Today, as we experience the winter solstice, the HandCut Foods team is particularly interested in the history and evolution of the bûche de Noël—a filled and rolled sponge cake decorated to look like a wooden log.
Meringue "mushrooms" atop dark chocolate "bark," dusted with cocoa and powdered sugar
A Deeper Look
Also known as a yule log, the bûche de Noël is a traditional dessert eaten around Christmas in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Quebec. However, the cake wasn’t always associated with Christmas. The story of the the bûche de Noël predates Medieval Times and Christianity. Back in Europe’s Iron Age, Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans would gather to celebrate the winter solstice, when the days would begin to grow longer. To usher in spring and rid the air of the past year’s burdens, they would burn giant logs anointed with wine and decorated with holly, ivy, and pinecones.
As society changed and hearths in homes were built smaller, log-burning traditions also had to downsize. Families now only had room for small logs, which would burn too quickly. Rather than lament the diminution of the old tradition, one creative baker decided to breathe new life into it. Although hearths could no longer burn large logs, they were the perfect size for baking delicious cakes. And so the the bûche de Noël "log" cake was born, and it has been a winter and holiday staple ever since.
Give it a try!
Download the HandCut Foods bûche de Noël recipe card and make the festive cake at home. Or, stop by a local bakery to pick up a professionally rolled and decorated yule log before the season passes. Luckily, yule logs have become so popular that you can usually find ice cream–filled versions in large grocer’s freezer cases year round. There's always something to celebrate.
HandCut Foods is committed to cultural and food education. We recently held a series of bûche de Noël demonstrations and discussions for fourth grade french language classes at one of our K–12 schools. If you are interested in hosting a cooking class at your school or business, send us an email at [email protected]