The holidays are all about family, and nothing brings all the generations together like food! In “Homespun Holidays” we explore recipes perfect for new family traditions, shareable plates for your next holiday get-together, and small-batch desserts and sides for more intimate gatherings.
Tune in to any holiday baking show and you’re sure to see contestants frantically putting the finishing touches on what looks like the forest floor.
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. These bakers are creating a bûche de Noël, or Yule log. This traditional Christmas cake originated in France during medieval times to honor the burning of the Yule log, a giant and heavy log that was placed in the hearth and not allowed to ever burn out completely. Families would take little pieces of the remaining log to bring them luck and prosperity in the year ahead.
This French holiday dessert has been adapted — and eaten — worldwide, with professional pastry makers and home cooks alike adding their own spin on the classic rolled sponge cake, filling, and design.
The bakery team at Harry & David is no exception. Their version of the bûche de Noël is nearly two pounds of fluffy chocolate sheet cake rolled around a sweet coffee cream and then slathered in rich chocolate icing that is hand-decorated to achieve the perfect log look. Seasonal décor, such as red and green poinsettias, are then delicately placed on the bark.
While a two-pound cake may seem big, that’s a lot lighter than it used to be. One year, the bakery team decided to add an extra “stump” to the annual bûche de Noël, resulting in a dessert that weighed a whopping 12 pounds! And back in the ’90s, when the cake had a raspberry filling, patisserie leaves were added by hand.
Alena Slaughter, research and development coordinator at Harry & David, describes the cake in four simple words: “It’s so dang good!”