It’s the day after Christmas and all that’s left of our edible creation are crumbs. As most of you know, this traditional gateau is concocted of a sponge roulade filled and iced with buttercream in flavors such as coffee, praline, chocolate, and chestnut. Modeled after the Yule log, the bûche is typically decorated with such embellishments as meringue mushrooms, marzipan holly, stumps whorled in a wood grain pattern, and frosting that’s scored to resemble bark. Ours had a fresh sprig of spruce and candied cranberry. Here’s a little history to enlighten:
Version One: The origin of this French pastry is linked with the ancient Celtic tradition of celebrating the winter solstice. On this shortest day of the year, the Celts would search for a large trunk of oak, beech, elm or cherry, sprinkle it with oil, salt and wine and burn it as a symbol of rebirth of the sun. During the Middle Ages, the ceremony of burning logs became more detailed. The logs themselves would be decorated with ribbons and greenery. Then the youngest and the oldest member of each family would carry the log to the hearth and set it in flames that would burn all night. The ashes would be collected the next day and used throughout the year. It was thought that these logs help cure various sicknesses and protect the house from the wickedness of the evil spirit. With time, the practice changed and people started representing the practice with a log-shaped cake that was served as a dessert to holiday guests.
Version Two: Napoleon Bonaparte issued a proclamation ordering the people of Paris to close their chimneys during winter. It was thought the spread of diseases was due to cold air entering the houses. It was during this time that this yule log cake came to Paris. Since their hearths were in disuse, they needed some sort of traditional symbol that could be enjoyed with family and friends during the festive season. Thus, this cake became a symbolic substitution around which the family could gather for storytelling and other holiday activities.
So there you have it, a little slice of Christmas past. On to the festivities of New Year’s Eve…..more champagne, bring it on.