Yule Log Cake
I am always amazed at the power, warmth and beauty of a crackling fire. It’s ability to mesmerize and draw you into a story played out in glowing embers that pop and crackle as flames lick around the logs like eerie finger tips. Sparks like wee creatures escaping and flying skyward into the night. At this time of year when the sun plays hide and seek and Old Man Winter takes hold and freezes us with his icy breath something deep within, our hidden primal spirit longs to sit beside a roaring fire and soak up it’s warmth. This is where the celebration of Yule comes in.
The history of the (Christmas) Yule Log originated in the ritual known as Yuletide, a pagan festival of fire. This festival uses the burning of a log on the eve of the Winter Solstice to usher in the power of the sun. The day traditionally falls on December 20 and is the shortest day and longest night of the year. At this point the nights grow shorter and the sun grows stronger and begins on it’s path back to the Northern Hemisphere. The name Yule is derived from the Norse words “Yul” or “Jul”.
The earliest records of burning a Yule-style log are from ancient Egypt in about 5000 BC to honour Horus, the sun god. The Sumerians also had a similar ritual to honour the sun.
To the Celtic Druids Yule was a solar festival with the log being burnt after the celebratory dinner. Oak logs symbolized life. Pine logs represented death. It was also the end to a dangerous time between Samhain (Halloween), or summer’s end, and Yule. After the Vikings invaded Britain in 1100 AD, local Celts adopted Thor, the Viking god of thunder. He then became the center of Celtic Yule Log celebrations.
Prep Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 to 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
4 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cake flour, sifted with a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
grated lemon peel
1 cup of whipping cream
2 tbsp fine sugar or powdered sugar
grated orange peel
1/2 tsp orange extract
6 tbsp. butter
1 cup powdered sugar
6 tbsp. cocoa
2 to 3 tbsp heavy cream (whipping cream)
walnuts pieces or any other nut you prefer
Grease a large shallow pan (jelly roll pan or deep cookie sheet) and line with wax paper. Set oven at 400 F . Beat egg whites until foamy, slowly add sugar and beat until stiff. Fold in flour and salt. Mix vanilla, lemon peel and beaten egg yolks. Gently and quickly fold the 2 mixtures together. Spread over pan gently and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn out onto a tea towel dredged with powdered sugar. Fold into a loose roll. When cool, gently open and spread with filling then re-roll into a tighter spiral. Wrap cake with waxed paper and place into refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
While waiting for cake to chill slightly make frosting as follows: In mixer with beater attachment cream butter at high speed for a minute or two then reduce speed to low. Mix sugar and cocoa in a separate then add slowly add to butter. Once incorporated add cream 1 tbsp at a time and continue to beat until creamy. If frosting is too stiff add a little more cream a teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. If frosting becomes to runny add a small amount of powdered sugar to bring it back. Frosting should be creamy and easy to spread.
Remove cake from refrigerator and place on serving platter. Frost cake using a spatula or frosting knife to resemble tree bark. Arrange walnuts over top of log. You can decorate with artificial holly sprigs or make meringue mushrooms to add to cake.
Yield 8 to 10 servings
FOOTNOTE: Meringue mushrooms are made by separating 2 egg whites beat until fluffy, add 1 1/8 cup powdered sugar and beat until glossy and stiff. Egg white should form peaks and not collapse. Place meringue in piping bag and pipe out mushroom stems and caps onto greased baking sheet. Place in oven at 200 F for 3 hours or until dry. Remove, cool and use a dab of buttercream frosting to attach stem to cap. If you like you may also add 1/8 cup of nuts to your filling.