What Is a Yule Log Cake?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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A Yule log cake, also commonly known as a Bûche de Noël, is a Christmas dessert crafted to resemble a traditional Yule log. The Yule log was a large piece of wood which was burned in many European households around the time of the winter solstice, a tradition which likely originated before the spread of Christianity but later became associated with Christmas. It is believed that the Yule log cake may have been created by those who lacked fireplaces and therefore could not burn a Yule log. While there are many variations on the Yule log cake, it usually consists of a baked sponge cake which is covered with cream, rolled up, and then decoratively iced.

The Yule log cake pays tribute to the long-held but now largely extinct European tradition of the burning of a Yule log. This tradition involved cutting a very large piece of wood away from a tree and then burning it on one’s hearth. Historians have traced this tradition back to pre-Christian times, and many believe that the log was viewed as a winter solstice offering to pagan gods. After the log had burned, some households saved a portion of the ashes until the following year, believing them to provide good luck. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, the Yule log came to be associated with Christmas.


It is believed that the tradition of baking a Yule log cake may have originated among those who lacked large fireplaces and thus could not burn Yule logs. In the 20th century, modern heating methods increasingly reduced the need for fireplaces and the practice of burning a Yule log at Christmas dwindled. While the Yule log cake remains a fairly widespread Christmas tradition as of the early 21st century, many individuals familiar with the cake are unaware of the tradition it symbolizes.

There is no single “correct” Yule log cake recipe, and possible variations on this dessert are limited only by the baker’s imagination. In most cases, though, preparation of the dish begins with a chocolate or yellow sponge cake which has been baked on a jelly roll pan. The cake is layered with a flavorful filling such as buttercream and then carefully rolled up so that it resembles a log. Next, the exterior of the rolled cake is iced, usually with chocolate or another dark-hued frosting which may be randomly “combed” with a fork or icing tool to create a bark-like effect. Finally, the cake may be embellished with such decorations as powdered sugar “snow” and marshmallow “mushrooms.”


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Post 2

@Grivusangel -- That's what I did. I have a friend who is a professional cake decorator, and she said if I made the cake, filling and frosting and she would put it together and decorate it. She's not a great baker, but does beautiful decorating. I'm the opposite. I can bake, but can't decorate to save my life. I leave that to people who can do it well.

Post 1

I've always wanted to try a Yule log cake, but the thought of rolling the cake up with the filling and all absolutely intimidates the heck out of me. I can do all the separate components: the cake, filling and frosting. It's putting it all together that scares me.

I've thought about doing the separate parts, then taking it all to a friend who knows how to put it all together. I guess we could trade work. I'll do a batch for me and her, and she can put them both together. That's a fair division of trade.

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