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how to make a yule log and its history

Yule Logs have become a popular part of the food we indulge in at Christmas, and they are definitely delicious; light chocolate sponge rolled into a cylinder with rich, chocolate buttercream frosting. Find out more about Yule logs and follow the recipe below to bake your own when staying at our Christmas villas in the South of France.

A Christmas yule log cake is known as a Buche de Noel in France and has a long history, stretching to Europe’s Iron Age. Back then, Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans would gather to welcome the winter solstice. People would feast to celebrate the days becoming longer, which signals the end of the winter season. They would cleanse the air of the year’s events by burning logs decorated with holly and ivy. Wine and salt were often used to anoint the logs.
With the arrival of Christianity, the Yule log tradition continued, and smaller hearths became more popular, which were perfect for baking cakes. Though we are not sure who made the first Yule log cake, ingredients for making it can be dated to the 1600s. Marzipan and meringue decorations, two popular choices for Yule logs appeared on many medieval tables. Sponge cake, which is the base of the log, is one of the oldest cakes made today, dating back to at least 1615.
Parisian bakers popularised the Yule log cake in the 19th century, and different bakers became known for their elaborate decorations. Now, you can make the cake at home, and you can tuck into your Buche de Noel thinking of the many years behind its history.
This Yule log cake recipe is light as air, a vanilla Genoise cake, with rich chocolate covering it.
Sponge Cake
4 eggs
2/3 cups or 134g sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 cup or 128g cake flour
Chocolate Buttercream
7 egg whites
1 1/3 cups or 170g granulated sugar
6 ounces of dark chocolate, melted
½ teaspoon of espresso powder (optional)
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
Method for the Sponge
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius
2. Butter a 10-inch by 15-inch baking pan with 1-inch lip and line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment or spray with cooking spray, then set the pan aside.
3. Beat the eggs for 5 minutes until they turn thick and foamy. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and salt to the eggs, and continue beating for a further 2 minutes.
4. Carefully fold the flour, a few tablespoons at a time, into the whipped egg mixture.
5. Once the flour has been mixed in gently, stop, as overmixing can give the cake a tough texture when baked.
6. Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it over. Bake the cake for 10 minutes, until it is just set.
7. Tip the cake onto a clean piece of kitchen towel and peel off the parchment paper. Wait for it to cool slightly then score across one shorter side of the cake about 2 centimetres in, not cutting right through. Fold this piece in towards the centre, then gently roll the cake, still in the towel.
8. Allow the rolled sponge to cool completely.
The Buttercream
1. In a bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric whisk on a high setting until soft peaks form.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Allow it to boil until it has reduced to a slightly thickened syrup.
3. Beat the egg whites on high speed again and pour in the hot sugar syrup, in a slow, steady stream.
4. Pour the melted chocolate, espresso powder if you are including it, and vanilla extract into the egg mixture and continue beating it until it has cooled completely. This takes around 5 minutes.
5. Add the softened butter to the meringue, two tablespoons at a time, while beating on high speed, until the butter is completely mixed into the frosting. If the buttercream becomes runny, refrigerate until it has chilled through, then continue beating it.
Assembling the Yule Log
1. Unroll the cake from the kitchen towel, and set the towel aside. Evenly spread your desired amount of chocolate buttercream on the inside of the cake and roll it up again. Cut the ends off to neaten the sponge.
2. Spread the outside of the log with the remaining chocolate buttercream frosting and use a butter knife or small spatula to create a bark texture on the frosting.
3. Add a clean sprig of holly leaves, or festive artificial decoration to complete the look.
4. Chill the cake before serving it, and refrigerate any leftovers.
If you make a chocolate Yule log this holiday season, let us know via our social media – why not share a picture of your baking too?!

Image credit: Mitantig

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