What's a yule log?

Fred Thrower's Yule Log and France's Buche de Noel

In France, the B
In France, the B
Martin Jacobs/Getty Images

While a proper yule log isn't a common sight in 21st-century fireplaces, it can be found in holiday kitchens -- in the form of a dessert. Bûche de Nöel is of French origin and is a sponge cake replica of a yule log. It comes in flavors like chocolate and gingerbread and is frosted in a wood-grain pattern.

It's believed that the dessert was created in response to French families who didn't have a fireplace for a real yule log in their homes but wanted to share in the holiday tradition [source: Jaworski]. Yule log cakes are readily available in French bakeries, but many residents in the United States must make their own version of the delicacy from scratch.

But France isn't the only place that has adapted the concept of the yule log. Urban areas like New York City have high-density populations, and, as a result, space is at a minimum. Therefore, fireplaces are a rare commodity in apartments and condominiums. In 1966, New York City television programming director Fred Thrower had an idea for log-deprived New Yorkers. Thrower had his local station, WPIX-TV, broadcast a looping video of a blazing fireplace -- with Christmas music playing in the background -- beginning on Christmas Eve. The broadcast, designed to provide city-dwellers with holiday ambience they might otherwise lack, was an instant success and became a Christmas morning mainstay on the New York station. It began airing on national cable networks, and in high-definition, in 2004 [source: The Yule Log].

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  • Jaworski, Stephanie. "Yule Log "Buche de Noel" Recipe." Joyofbaking.com. (11/15/07).http://www.joyofbaking.com/YuleLog.html.
  • Morton, Carol. "Christmas Tradition of the Yule Log." Master Gardeners, 2001. (11/15/07). http://www.emmitsburg.net/gardens/articles/adams/2001/yule_log.htm.
  • "Just What Exactly is the Yule Log?" TheYuleLog.com. (11/15/07). http://www.theyulelog.com/htmls/what.html.
  • "Yule Log." United Methodist Church. 5/4/07. (11/15/07). http://apmethodist.org/advent-trad.htm.
  • "Yule Log." Christmas-day.org. (11/15/07). http://www.christmas-day.org/yule-log.html.