Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Yule Log Cakes

yule log cake

It’s that time of the year again. That’s right, it’s time to deck the halls, sing carols, and tell scary ghost stories by the fire. …Well, okay, no one really does those things anymore, but you know what we mean. Sometimes traditions kind of get lost or die off. And sometimes they adapt and turn into something even sweeter.

Take, for example, the ever-humble Yule log cake. It’s made its way up in holiday dessert-dom along with the likes of figgy pudding and fruitcake (we mean the good kind of fruitcake). This elaborate, decadent creation consists of sponge cake and chocolate buttercream, rolled up to look just like a Yule log (who would’ve guessed?), and decorated with cute embellishments like marzipan sprigs of holly, meringue mushrooms, berries, and more.

French in origin and name (its real name is Bûche de Nöel), the Yule log cake dates back to the 16th century. It is linked to the ancient practice of burning Yule logs in the hearth during Christmas Eve to celebrate the winter solstice. …We’ll explain.

Okay, so long ago, the Celts would celebrate the winter solstice by finding a large oak, beech, elm, or cherry tree, cutting it down, decorating it, and burning it. This act symbolized the rebirth of the sun and was thought to bring luck throughout the coming year. The longer it burned, the better the luck; they hoped to burn it for at least three days for good luck, but it was ideal if it burned until the New Year. Afterward, the ash from the log was collected and used as protection against evil through the following year. It was even used in several medicinal potions in the hopes of curing illness.

Pretty cool, right?

So how did we get a fancy little cake from an ancient tree-burning tradition? Well, as time progressed, the ginormous hearths that were once found in homes began disappearing, only to be replaced by wood-burning stoves. Since there was no place to burn massive tree logs, people began placing smaller logs as decorations on their tables.

Oh, and Napoleon Bonaparte might have been involved, too.

Hear us out. While Napoleon was around and being the emperor, he tried to quell the diseases running rampant in Paris. His solution: order everyone to close their chimneys throughout winter because the cold air was causing sickness. This put the French in a very tricky predicament – with closed chimneys, there was no way for them to burn their traditional Yule log. Fortunately, some wonderful Parisian baker decided it was a better idea for everyone to have their Yule log and eat it, too, in the form of a cake.

In short, we have the French to thank.

Now picture this: a delectable mix of light chocolate sponge cake filled with chocolate cream, all covered with a thick coating of chocolate buttercream icing. The decorative bark-like appearance is then coated lightly with powdered sugar to resemble snow and bedecked with holly, berries, and any other adorable woodsy decoration you may fancy. You have yourself a delicious holiday dessert, all ready to slice and share with your family around the fire.

Make the holidays even sweeter this year with a Yule log cake all your own with the help of McArthur’s Bakery! Stop by any of our locations and put in your order today.