“Tis the season for rich food - today, I'm dreaming of a Buche de Noel or Yule Log cake. It is a beautiful sweet creation of cream filled sponge cake, lathered with chocolate meringue icing to look like a log, embellished with meringue mushrooms and marzipan holly leaves, spun sugar cobwebs and any other delicious decoration to complete the picture of a woodland scene.
How difficult can this be to make? According to my trusty Good Housekeeping Cookbook, from which I have been cooking since the 1970s - it seems fairly straight forward quite easy!
However, others far more accomplished than I say differently….
While Julia [Child] says the buche is simple - just a sheet cake with an Italian Meringue icing - I beg to differ with her. This challenge takes between three and four hours and involves over forty steps. In working through the recipe I previously put together for her The Way to Cook, I saw that there were still areas of unclarity , and so I have tried to remedy that in this recipe. Julia changed her recipe for Buche de Noel several times over the years. In her penultimate master book, From Julia Child’s Kitchen, she gave a recipe that she said was just like the one she did on the French Chef - except for the cake, the filling and the icing… from the blog,Julia, Julie and I , The Joy of Cooking Revisited
|Julia's Buche de Noel for Christmas|
The idea of a yule log came from the practice of the medieval era when families would burn logs decorated with holly and ivy. There was a belief that the burnt log’s ashes had medicinal benefits and could even ward off evil and protect against lightning. A French story suggests that in the 1800s, Napoleon banned the lighting of household fires for fear of contributing to ill health. Denied their blazing logs in the fireplace on Christmas eve, cooks celebrated the festive season by baking buche de noel cakes instead.
Regardless of how ornate the cake might be decorated, I doubt that the buche de noel has any of the powers suggested in its history, but it is guaranteed to add centimetres to the waistline, as if by magic…. why worry - it’s Christmas!