I started off planning this post around the French cake called Bûche de Noël (Christmas Log) but instead I have ended up with some snippets on something called a Yule Doll. It seems that this particular piece of Christmas pastry was already almost a thing of the past in 1777, when Observations on Popular Antiquities by John Brand and Henry Bourne, was published.
‘… the Yule-Dough, (or Doll) a Kind of Baby or little Image of Paste, which our Bakers used formerly to bake at this Season, and present to their Customers, in the same Manner as the Chandlers gave Christmas Candles. They are called Yule-Cakes in the county of Durham. I find in the antient Calendar of the Romish Church, that at Rome, on the Vigil of the Nativity, Sweetmeats were presented to the Fathers in the Vatican, and that all Kinds of little Images (no doubt of Paste) were to be found at the Confectioners' Shops.
There is the greatest Probability that we have had from hence both our Yule-Doughs -\ and Mince Pies, the latter of which are still in common Use at this Season. The Yule-Dough has perhaps been intended for an Image of the Child Jesus. It is now, if I mistake not, pretty generally laid aside, or at most retained only by Children.’
And here is a slightly later definition:
‘Yule-dough, a Christmas cake, or rather a little image of paste studded with currants, and baked for children at this season of the year; intended, originally perhaps, for a figure of the child Jesus, with the Virgin Mary.’
A Glossary of North Country Words (1823) by John Trotter Brockett.
The ‘recipe’ for Yule-dough or Yule-doll is in the definition, so instead, I return to Plan A, and give you a recipe for a Yule Log Cake – not from a French source, it is true, but from an Australian one, which adds extra interest, I think.
Yule Log Cake.
3 ounces flour, 4 oz. sugar, 3 tablespoons jam, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking powder, few drops essence vanilla, crystallised cherries, and angelica to decorate; Icing: ½ lb. sifted icing sugar, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa or chocolate, 3 oz. butter, 2 or 3 drops milk, if needed. Beat egg yolks and sugar together till quite smooth, add essence, then lightly mix in stiffly beaten egg white, sift in flour and baking powder. Line a Swiss roll tin with buttered paper, spread mixture evenly in and bake in fairly hot oven for seven minutes. Heat jam in saucepan, sprinkle a towel with sugar, turn cake quickly onto towel, remove paper, snip of edges of cake, spread with hot jam, and roll; all this must be done quickly while cake is hot. Place on rack to cool. Spread roll with a thin coating of icing, and leave to set. Force trails of icing along top and sides, decorate with small pieces of cherry to represent berries, and angelica as leaves.
Advocate (Burnie, Tasmania) December 6, 1941.
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