No holiday feast would be complete without a delicious, decadent dessert and we have just the one for you: The Oliver’s Yule Log. This unmistakable creation has a fascinating history that dates back centuries. Let’s take a closer look at this festive dessert and how it transitioned through history from an actual burning log to a cake that resembles one.
Rewind all the way back to pre Medieval times to find the origins of the Yule Log. During that time, many Gaelic, Celtic and British Europeans would get together to celebrate the arrival of the Winter Solstice at the end of December. They would have feasts to celebrate the end of winter and the days getting longer.
Families would burn logs decorated with holly, pinecones and ivy. This was done to literally and figuratively cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and to help usher in Spring. Sometimes wine and salt were also used to anoint the logs. Once the logs had been burned, the remaining ashes were believed to hold special powers. They were believed to have medicinal benefits, offer protection from evil spirits and even protect against lightening. Lightening protection might seem a little odd, but most houses (and everything in them) were made of wood, so protection from lightening would have been a great benefit!
So, how did we make the leap from an actual burning log to a delicious dessert? The Yule Log tradition continued its march through history, but it evolved with the changing times. Large hearths in homes were replaced with smaller ones, so while families would still burn a log around Christmas, the huge ones from the past became impractical. However, what the smaller hearths were practical for was baking cakes. No one knows for sure who, or when, the first Yule Log cake was made, however sometime in the 1600’s seems like a good bet. We think this because marzipan and meringue, two of the most common decorations on the cake, were also commonly found on the Medieval table. Also, sponge cake, which is one of the most common bases for the log, can be traced all the way back to 1615.
The Yule Log cake (Buche de Noel in French) became popularized in the 19th century by Parisian bakers. Each bakery became known for their specific, elaborate decorations. We invite you to stop by one of our Bakery Departments and pick up an Oliver’s Own Yule Log cake this season! Share a delicious dessert, as well as a little history, and perhaps some extra good luck, at your holiday table.