As it is Christmas time, we Baking Partners decide to bake a Yule log cake for this month challenge. Tanusree of Ma Niche suggested this month’s theme. First I decide to do a Chocolate Yule Log or ‘bûche de Noël’ for that I made chocolate sponge cake first, however the recipe was far from perfect, and it failed miserably. So next day I spend entire day on researching the recipe finally I selected one from French recipe site with video in it.
Burning of Yule log is a tradition which is connected to ancient winter solstice festival of ancient Celtic tradition which was started in 12th century, they used burn large Yule log in the fire place in the belief that it will protect the house from lightning as well as against evils of devil. This was also a way to celebrate the rebirth of the sun as well as give thanks for the warmth and life it would bring with it. The Celts believed that certain trees, specifically oak, beech, elm, and cherry trees, had certain mystical powers. This custom varies from various region of Europe. They used heat the log with last year burnt piece of wood. If you want read more about history of burning Yule log please read from here.
However during the Napoleon era, he stopped burning the wood thinking that air gets polluted through the chimneys and it is result of sickness happening around. This result no way of burning Yule log in home, as result a Persian baker decides to make a symbolic cake in the form of Yule log. Another explanation was that the Yule log needs to burn for 12 hours, and newer built house could not hold that much Yule log, hence they invented the cake.
Also it was in the 19th century when it became the fashion to serve similar thinly rolled sponge cakes with jam or cream filling and covered with butter cream. However the first written document of buche de noel cake was in a cookbook called Le Mèmorial Historique et Gèographique de la Pâtisserie by a Parisian pastry chef, Pierre Lacam, published in 1898. The recipe he gives is for biscuit (what they called the sponge cake) rolled with either chocolate or coffee buttercream. However, closest recipe that resemble modern version of Bûche de Noël recipes was by Joseph Fabre in 1905. It was published in the second edition of his book Dictionnaire universel de cuisine pratique.
The cake used is a Génoise sponge cake (cake made eggs and sugar heated at low flame and then beat well to add rest of the ingredients), or other moist, rich yellow cake. Then it is baked in a flat jellyroll pan and frosted with ganache or buttercream. Then whole cake with filling inside is rolled into a cylinder, covered in chocolate frosting or butter cream, and textured either with a fork, serrated knife, or piping bag to resemble tree bark. Another way to make the cake is with multiple pieces of Génoise. The layers are spread with filling and placed one on top of the other and carved into the shape of a log. Smaller pieces of cake are stuck onto the main roll and covered in icing to represent trimmed branches.
I didn’t use the recipe suggested by Tanusree, as it has leavening in it. When I read more about Yule cake I came to know that it doesn’t have any leavening. First I tried to make chocolate genoise using Alice Medrich recipe from cooking with Julia TV show. However my cake turned to thin crispy brittle. So discarded that and used this recipe from this French recipe site, where there is video also, however it French. Since food has only one language I was able to figure out what he is doing and also translated the recipe using Google translator.
I made a vanilla sponge cake with all purpose flour and corn flour/cornstarch with 3 eggs, vanilla extract and sugar. You need to beat egg yolk and white separately. Then it is brushed with simple syrup and filled with chocolate whipped cream and finally frosted the cake with rich chocolate frosting. Trust me it worth all the effort, it is delicious cake. I used three recipes to make this excellent cake. If you want something fancier in your Christmas dinner table give it try. You are going to get compliments I can assure that.