I’ve heard of Yule logs, but never tied it a Yule log cake. In fact, I never realized that it was a food item. I thought it was a common phrase in a Christmas song with some deep meaning and tradition that was beyond my years.
Well, it does have a deep tradition that dates back to the old Winter Solstice festivals in northern Europe.
Debbie and I were watching a Hallmark movie, “Coming Home for Christmas,” starring Danica McKellar, when the term Yule Log was used.
Being the curious type, Debbie looked into the meaning of the Yule Log and I followed suit. According to History.com, people would feast to celebrate the days finally becoming longer. To cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and to usher in the spring, families would burn logs decorated with holly, pinecones or ivy. Wine and salt were also often used to anoint the logs.
From log burning, the tradition somehow evolved into a cake that is decorated like a log. It reminds me of a Little Debbie Swiss Roll. A Swiss Roll sounds quite good right now. In fact, anything with chocolate and cream filling sounds good!
Growing up, I don’t recall my mom making a Yule log cake, but she knew how to bake a apple pie. She used an apple peeler and fresh apples. Her homemade crust recipe from the well-worn Betty Crocker cookbook that was tucked away in the top kitchen drawer right next to the paint stir stick she used for a paddle, was to die for.
She made other tasty pies such as pecan, peach and cherry. None of the store-bought varieties, all of her pies were made from scratch.
And I can’t forget about her homemade biscuits. She’d make her dough, roll it out on the kitchen counter and use her well-worn biscuit cutter. They were so good fresh out of the oven with splotch of butter. Mom would also make homemade bread. She’d put the pans of bread in the bedroom window so the yeast would rise.
I can’t forget about Mom’s Broken Glass Cake with various flavors of Jell-O diced into cubes, graham cracker crumbs, heavy cream and enough white sugar to send one’s blood sugar to the moon and back. I found a recipe that referred to it as a Stained-Glass Cake.
In addition to the sweets, my mom cooked a Butterball for Thanksgiving and typically a ham for Christmas. I never cared for her dressing, but the candied yams, green beans and mushroom and of course, fresh mashed potatoes, filled my plate.
I remember once stopping to visit with the folks and my mom started cooking supper. I noticed a box of instant mashed potatoes. I put a halt to that and drove a few miles to the grocery store to pick up a sack of potatoes.
After unwrapping our gifts, it was off to see my grandparents on my mom’s side near Coweta, Okla. My grandmother raised seven kids and spent much of her life in the kitchen. For years, she worked as a school and nursing home cook. And in later years, my grandparents worked on the river boats that traveled the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers where my grandmother cooked for the crew.
Some years we visited my great-grandmother on my dad’s side. My dad’s mom on that side of the family died when she was young, so my great-grandmother was my close connection.
She wasn’t quite the cook as my mom’s mom, but there were always plenty of biscuits (the canned variety) to eat. One year I remember spending Christmas Eve at her home in Bartlesville, Okla., home of Phillips 66 Oil Company. She had my mom take her to the mall where she bought a Christmas tree, carried it in the house and set it up. The next morning, we all opened gifts and within minutes, the Christmas tree came down and was outside in the backyard. I received a Timex watch that year and I still have it and it still works.
Traditions are good and should be kept, but making new traditions is good as well. I might have to make a Yule log cake this year. Or, a box of Little Debbie Swiss Rolls might have to do.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.