9 Best Yule Log Decorations & Cake Pans

Most of us are familiar with Yule logs–the rolled sponge cakes in the shape of a log, but not many know why we have a tradition of eating a dessert made to look like firewood at Christmas. See below for a bit of history.

We’ve been celebrating midwinter with some form of Yule logs for thousands of years. Honor this longstanding tradition by bringing it into your home.

May the log burn, may the wheel turn, may the sun return.

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Why a log?

The custom of Yule logs goes back to the Iron Age of pre-Christian northern Europe, including Germany, Britain, and Scandinavia. Yule was and is the celebration marking the Winter Solstice which is the longest night of the year.

It signals that the days will now begin to grow longer and that spring is coming. For our ancestors who didn't have central heating or electricity, the turning point of the return of the sun was a huge deal.

The Yule log specifically was a large piece of wood (or in some regions, an entire small tree) that was brought into the home and burned throughout the longest night. Like most Yule traditions, it served to call back the sun and mark the rebirth of the light.

Yule logs were decorated with pine cones and blessed with wine. The current year's Yule log was always lit from a small piece of last year's Yule log that had been carefully stored in the home to protect it from fire and lightning. It was unlucky for the Yule log to be re-lit or for the fire to go out before the allotted time, so it had to be carefully tended.

Like other Yule traditions, when our ancestors converted to Christianity, they brought their folk customs with them. As time and technology progressed, it became impractical to burn huge logs on Christmas Eve.

Sometime in the 1600's, someone was clever enough to come up with the idea of a Yule log cake, because if their fancy new wood stove ovens were too small to fit a traditional Yule log, they could at least bake a cake in the shape of a log. Yule log cakes are often frosted with chocolate ganache, and decorated with edible fake holly leaves, mushrooms, pine cones, and anything else to make it look like real log.

The tradition of the Yule log can be found today in our customs of Yule log cakes, Christmas candles, and in modern Yule logs that are generally either a decorated piece of firewood or a log that has been turned into a candle holder which is what I have in my home right now.

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