Holiday Favorites

12 Days of Christmas Desserts: Yule Logs

Yule Love This Cake!

The Yule Log cake or the Bûche de Noël for you French speakers, is a classic French Christmas dessert used to symbolize a tradition that goes back centuries.  The yule log cake consists of a rolled, filled sponge cake, covered with rich chocolate frosting to resemble tree bark.  They are then often decorated with powdered sugar, meant to look like snow, meringue or marzipan mushrooms, fresh berries, and any other sort of edible decoration to complete the look of a freshly chopped log.


A Yule Log from The Extra Special Touch Bakery

The yule log cake has a long and delicious history:

The custom of burning the Yule Log goes back to before medieval times during Europe’s Iron Age.  The word “yule” was the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe.  During that time, Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans would celebrate the Winter Solstice and the days finally becoming longer, signaling the end of winter.

Originally, the Yule Log was an entire tree that was carefully chosen and brought into the house.  The burning of the log symbolized the cleansing of the previous year and the ushering in of the new spring.  The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room.  Once the log was burned, the ashes were considered valuable because they contained medicinal benefits and would guard against evil. Some kept the ashes inside their houses because they believed it would protect the house from lightning, which was important during a time when houses were mostly made of wood.

The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different types of wood are used in different regions.  In England, oak is traditional; in Scotland, birch was used; while in France, cherry was the tree of choice.  Of course, soon hearths became smaller, so the logs did too. In some cases, different chemicals (like those found in wine and salt) would be sprinkled on the wood to create different colored flames when the log was burned.

While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the first yule log cake was created, but based on the ingredients, it could’ve been as early as the 17th century.  However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that Parisian bakers popularized the cake, and different bakeries became known for their more elaborate and elegant decorations.  It is believed that the cake was created to symbolize the yule log tradition in places like Paris where burning a yule log wasn’t practical because of the lack of large fireplaces in the crammed city apartments

While yule log cakes aren’t as popular today, they are still a favorite Christmas dessert in many households and a favorite for bakeries to display in their storefronts this time of year.  So, celebrate the holidays and the welcome in the New Year with this symbolic and tasty tradition!  We guarantee ‘yule’ love it!

To make your own Yule Log, check out this recipe.


Find a Festive Yule Log at one of these WBA member bakeries:

The Extra Special Touch Bakery
S29 W27308 Green Ln
Waukesha, 53188
Phone: 262-542-5801

The Pastry Pixie Bakery and Café
214 West Wisconsin Ave.
Neenah, WI 54956
Phone: 920-486-7156

Periwinkle’s Bakery on Broadway
141 W. Broadway
Waukesha, WI 53186
Phone: 262-522-9888

For a complete list of WBA Member Bakeries, click here.

Next – Second Day of Christmas: Gingerbread House