The Yule log

It starts with another feature of cultural, as opposed to religious, Christmas, the Yule log. Moves to the cover of the current New Yorker (12/19&26), Ana Juan’s “Yule Dog”. And then, briefly, to sexy word play on the log of Yule log (with a digression on a vintage postcard with a gay Yule log joke). And culminates in an orgy of cake: Bûches de Noël, edible simulacra of the Yule log.

The Yule log. From Wikipedia:

The Yule log, Yule clog, or Christmas block is a specially selected log burnt on a hearth as a Christmas tradition in a number of countries in Europe. The origin of the folk custom is unclear. Numerous scholars have observed that, like other traditions associated with Yule (such as the Yule boar), the custom may ultimately derive from Germanic paganism.

The custom of playing a video of a burning Yule log for hours and hours on television has become an evironmentally safe substitute for the soothing pleasure of an actual fire in the fireplace.

And so to Ana Juan’s pug, sitting before a fire, with the orange nimbus of fire surrounding its head, evoking Helmet Grabpussy’s mane:


From the cover story:

“Don’t assume this is only a cozy, lovely holiday scene,” the artist Ana Juan says about her painting of a pug in front of a fireplace, the cover of this week’s issue. “You don’t see the dog’s face, but I can tell you he’s tired, tired of the threats posed by the conservative and reactionary winds blowing in our old world. But, like him, during the holiday season, I’m going to look at the fire to replenish my energy and reconnect to the magic of dreams and imagination.”

The Old Log Inn joke. A joke that’s been around for a long time — since Middle English, for all I know — has a lost traveler stopping to ask his way of a couple in the midst of making love (a man and a woman in some versions, two men in another). “How far is the Old Log Inn?”, the traveler asks, and gets beaten up for his query.

The joke could of course be adapted to the name Yule Log Inn; you could re-work the story of the movie White Christmas with that name.

The Yule log cartoon. I could find only one gay Yule log cartoon, a vintage (or faux-vintage) number available from the Zazzle people in various forms, especially as a postcard:


Is that a Yule Log, or are you just happy to see me?

Yule logs to eat. Wikipedia on the dessert:

A “Yule log” (or bûche de Noël … ) is a traditional dessert served near Christmas, especially in Belgium, France, Lebanon, Quebec and several former French colonies. Made of sponge cake to resemble a miniature actual Yule log, it is a form of sweet roulade.

The original “Yule log” recipe emerged during the 19th century. It is traditionally made from a genoise, generally baked in a large, shallow Swiss roll pan, iced, rolled to form a cylinder, and iced again on the outside. The most common combination is basic yellow sponge cake and chocolate buttercream, though many variations which include chocolate cake, ganache, and icings flavored with espresso or liqueurs exist.

“Yule logs” are often served with one end cut off and set atop the cake, or protruding from its side to resemble a chopped off branch. A bark-like texture is often produced by dragging a fork through the icing, and powdered sugar sprinkled to resemble snow. Other cake decorations may include actual tree branches, fresh berries, and mushrooms made of meringue or marzipan.

Three different approaches to the bûche, from a great many available on the net:

Yule #1: chocolate cake, whipped cream filling, cocoa icing (and marzipan mushrooms):


Yule #2: yellow sponge cake, rum-chocolate filling (or jam), cocoa bark (and meringue mushrooms):


Yule #3: chocolate cake, chocolate-Nutella filling and bark:


All of these are moderately tricky to make. And then there’s the recipe that got me into this posting in the first place, on the bon appétit magazine site two days ago, from the December 2015 issue of the magazine:

Our updated version of the classic Yule Log or Bûche de Noël recipe resembles a slender birch branch, adorned with funghi-inspired meringues.


Chocolate cake, buttercream filling and bark, cocoa-meringue fungi. Well, it’s more complicated than that.

I’m not actually recommending that you attempt any of these. But they certainly are entertaining to look at, and they sound delicious.

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