There are many Christmas traditions that are shared by those in the US and in France, including tree decorating, gift giving, and the belief in Santa Claus (or Père Noël in France). Both countries also share a love for elaborate holiday feasts which most often include decadent desserts.
Although Americans tend to focus on pies and cookies during the Christmas holiday, the French prefer the traditional Yule Log, or Bûche de Noël as their pièce de résistance. Just as it sounds, the Yule Log tradition does have its literal roots in the ground. According to the Joy of Baking, the French celebrated the Winter Solstice (and later, Christmas) by cutting down a tree each year and placing a log on the fire in preparation for Christmas Eve supper. The ashes from this yule log were believed to hold magical and medicinal powers that would ward off the evil spirits in the coming year.
As years passed and more homes were built without fireplaces, the once literal tradition of the yule log was replaced by a yule log-shaped cake. The original edible Yule Log was filled and frosted with a rich chocolate buttercream textured to look like tree bark. Today, just like the Christmas cookie, there are countless variations of the Yule Log, but most recipes vary the center sponge cake and keep the outside bark coating.
Want to try your hand at making a traditional French Yule Log? Check out these recipes!
French Yule Log Recipes