Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holiday Cakes

So far we've talked about cookies and breads for the holidays. It's time to turn our attention to cake. Just like cookies and breads, cake has a long history in so many cultures. Where ever there is flour and sugar, you will find one sort of cake or another. Cakes are great for all kinds of holidays and all kinds of celebrations. What's a birthday without birthday cake; am I right? From the simplest cupcake to the most elaborate wedding cake, we love to give cheer while eating our cake.

As in the past few posts, I will give a short run down of just a few cakes from around the world. And then I will embark on trying to make one of my own. Wish me luck because I've never made this particular cake before. We'll get to that shortly.

For now, though, here are a few cakes that look intriguing (keep in mind, this is by no means an exhaustive list):
Pan de Pascua

Pan de Pascua is a cake believed to evolve from the German stollen and the Italian panttone. The name actually means "Easter Bread." But somehow it is a traditional Christmas cake, much like a fruit cake, that is served in Chile. It was brought to the country by German immigrants and made its way into the countries traditions.

Galette des Rois

Galette des Rois is a flaky caked filled with almond filling and served on the 12th day of Christmas. This cake is enjoyed all over Europe and Latin America. The tradition is that a tiny baby doll is placed in the cake and the recipient is honored for the year with good fortune.

Lekach is a honey-sweetened cake. It is significant in the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and represents the hopes of a sweet New Year.

Jamaican Rom Cake

Rum Cake is a tradition in Jamaica. It is rich with rum, cinnamon, nutmeg and lime.

Makowiec is a traditional Polish cake made from a sweet dough and filled with poppy seed paste.

Bolo Rei
Bolo Rei is from Portugal. It is made in the shape of a crown with candied fruit as the jewels which represents the three kings.

Rosco de Reyes

Rosca de Reyes, similar to Bolo Rei, originated in France and is meant to be eaten from Christmas to until the Day of the Kings.

Christmas Cake
Christmas Cake from the United Kingdom, is a type of fruit cake. It is made two months before Christmas so it can soak in all the brandy called for in the recipe.

Having given you a short list of possible cakes to make for you holiday festivities, I come to the cake that I will make.  This particular cake has a history that goes back, way back to the Iron Age of Europe.  It was the original celebration of the Winter Solstice at the end of December.  Before this cake became a cake it was a log from a tree that was decorated with holly and pine cones.  Wine was used to anoint the log.  The celebration was all about the end of the dark and the welcoming of the light as the daylight hours began to increase.  The ashes of the "yule log" were considered valuable, containing medicinal powers to guard against evil.  

Eventually, the Yule log tradition continued, but on a small scale.  What with smaller hearths, large logs could not be used.  No one knows who made the first yule log into a cake, but it is believed that the 1600's ushered in this holiday cake tradition.  French bakers made the yule log popular in the 19th century, calling it buche de Noel.  Today, the yule log is recognized throughout the world as a Christmas dessert.

So today I make a Yule Log in celebration of the coming Winter Solstice and the holiday season.  Let the adventure begin!

Yule Log

What you need:
For the cake:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped in small pieces
5 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water

Cream Cheese filling
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whipped cream.

What you need to do:

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Prepare an 11" x 17" jelly roll pan by spraying it or generously greasing and flour.  Set aside.

Melt butter and chocolate chips and stir until smooth.

In stand mixer, beat eggs on high for 5 minutes, until frothy.  Add sugar gradually until all combines.  Turn mixer to low and mix in chocolate mixture until blended.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Alternately add flour and water, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Mix only until incorporated.  DO NOT OVER MIX.

Spread batter evenly in pan.  Bake for 13-14 minutes or just until done.  Do not over bake.

Spread out a clean dish towel.  Using a small strainer, cover the towel with powdered sugar. Cover the towel completely.

Remove cake from oven and turn it onto the towel.  Very carefully roll the short end of the cake up in the towel.  Let cool completely.

In medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.  Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Fold in whip cream.

Gently unwrap cake.  Spread filling to cover the cake.  Gently roll the cake up again, placing it seam side down on serving plate.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Before serving, sprinkle cake with powdered sugar and decorate as you like.

With so many options for a lovely and deliciously dessert for your holiday table, I'm sure you can find one that is especially right for you.

Now, go out and make something good.

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