French Yule Log and Cake Recipe

You probably know the French yule log as the classic French dessert served at Christmas time and called a Bûche de Noël. Below you will find a super easy buche de Noel recipe, perfect for kids to try as well as adults. But before we eat our cake, I thought you might like to learn a little about the yule log tradition.

The Original Yule Log

OK, you already know that long before we were chowing down on cake, most people lived much simpler lives. In those days, something like a well stocked woodpile was the difference in surviving the winter or not. So when the days grew short and the night cold, just the ability to make a fire was cause for celebration.

In France, and other countries in Europe, when winter gloom had got the upper hand, a large log (many times a tree trunk) was chosen from the woodpile. It was decorated with ribbons and brought into the house with considerable fanfare - songs were song and everyone enjoyed themselves. The log was placed ceremoniously on the hearth and blessed by the master of the house. Who lit the French yule log was of importance and many times this fell upon the youngest member of the family. This was all done on the 24th of December and the log was expected to burn until the first day of the New Year, so a sturdy, dense piece of wood was the perfect candidate.

The yule log of yore would sit slowly burning through the week, giving people hope and comfort through the dark days of winter. Of course there were superstitions about the log. Commonly, if the log made a lot of sparks, it was said that the harvest that year would be a good one. If the fire from the log cast shadows upon the wall, people would fear that a family member would die that year.

With the dawning of the 20th century, considerable changes in daily living were taking place in French people's lives. Modern means of heating homes eliminated the need for wood in many cases and the tradition of the French yule log began to die out. Fortunately the French always had food to fall back on, and a pastry chef came up with the idea of making a cake to symbolically replace the yule log.

Yule Log Cake Recipe

This is an easy recipe for kids to try and they can have fun decorating the cake. My 10 year old son made it for Christmas and decorated it with little plastic Santas - very cute!

It is made with chestnut puree, a speciality of the department of Ardeche in France. This is a rich concotion - a little slice goes a long way.

Bûche de Noël

6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces sweetened chestnut cream
  • 12 ounces dark cooking chocolate
  • 6 ounces softened butter cut in pieces
  • powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and stir in the butter piece by piece until it is all melted.
  2. Add the chestnut cream and mix well.
  3. Line a loaf pan with waxed paper and pour the mixture into pan, making sure it fills the pan to the edges. Place overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. To serve: remove from pan and place on serving plate. Using a fork trace lines to give the appearance of a log. Decorate with powdered sugar.

Note: There's nothing to stop you from using this French yule log recipe in other ways. Try molding the cake in miniature cake molds for a fabulous treat anytime of the year.

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