Of all my years baking, I had yet to bake a Yule Log for Christmas. In fact, I’ve actually never tasted or tried a Yule Log before now.
Intimidating…precarious…harrowing…and even astounding.
I wasn’t sure if I was up for it this year.
Which is why I insisted Valerie come over to help. She’s really the baking pro.
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.
In Santa Claus, A Biography, historian Gerry Bowler notes that the yule log was one of the most widespread Christmas traditions in early modern Europe, with the first recording of its appearance dating to 1184. Bowler notes that the tradition’s roots are debated—some saying it is an “enfeebled version of the ancient Celtic human sacrifices” and others saying it’s simply related to a feudal obligation of acquiring firewood. Nevertheless, the log was a huge block, lasting for the Twelve Days of Christmas, and it was not burned completely its first year: part of it was saved to light the following year’s yule log. While the mostly burned wood waited for its duty to light a new yule log, it was kept around the house to ward off a range of misfortunes, including toothaches, mildew, lightning, housefires, hail and chilblains (an inflammation of small blood vesselsbrought on from exposure to cold). The log had other magical properties, particularly in parts of Northern Spain and Southern France. There, Bowler notes, “a remarkable feature of the log’s powers is its ability to defecate gifts.”
Umm…well I’m not so sure about the word choice of the last sentence, but I’m all about bestowing magical gifts.
I wanted something different than the traditional chocolate yule log at Christmas for my first attempt. Of course I did.
I wanted ginger…and lavender…oh, and gin.
Gingerbread Lavender Gin Yule Log
3 eggs, separated 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 tsp. dried lavender 1/2 tsp. each ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger 1/4 tsp. baking soda 1/8 tsp. sea salt 1/2 cup molasses 1 Tbs. butter, melted 1/4 cup sugar powdered sugar
Filling: 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream 8 oz. mascarpone cheese 1/2 cup powdered sugar 2 oz. lavender gin (gin infused with 2 tsp. lavender for 48 hours) 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Topping: 1/2 cup sweetened, dried cranberries fresh rosemary
Place egg whites in a bowl and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. Line bottom of a greased baking pan with parchment or waxed paper. In a small bowl, whisk flour, spices and lavender, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed until thickened, about 3 minutes. Beat in molasses and melted butter.
With clean beaters, beat egg whites on medium until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 Tbs. at a time, beating on high after each addition until sugar is dissolved. Continue beating until soft glossy peaks form. Fold into egg yolk mixture. Fold in flour mixture. Transfer to prepared pan, spreading evenly.
Bake 9-12 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool 5 minutes. Invert onto a kitchen towel dusted with powdered sugar. Gently peel off paper. Cool.
In a chilled large bowl, combine the filling ingredients. Beat until soft peaks form. Spread half of the filling over cake to within 1/2 inch of edges. Roll up cake in the towel jelly-roll style, starting with a short side. Place on a platter, seam side down. Spread remaining filling over cake. If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon and garnish with cranberries and rosemary. Refrigerate until serving.