The yule log has been around for much longer than Christmas.

Our pagan ancestors burned a log at the winter solstice to signify the return of the sun. The ceremony became more elaborate once the Christians adopted it. The log was decorated with ribbons and evergreens, and sometimes sprinkled with wine or cider before being set alight. Even the ashes were saved and used throughout the year to cure sickness and ward off evil spirits.

When the tradition was threatened by Napoleon Bonaparte, who issued a proclamation that Parisians must keep their chimneys closed in winter, Parisian bakers came up with a typical French solution: Let’s make a pastry! The buche de Noel was born. It’s traditionally a rolled sponge cake, frosted and decorated to look like a cut log, and decorated with frosted bark, meringue mushrooms, powered sugar snow, and fresh berries.

Of course when Americans were faced with fireplace-free homes in the 1970s, our yule log solution was a looped video of a fire burning that aired on the TV networks for several hours each Christmas Eve. But you can’t eat that.

Check out our slideshow featuring glamour shots of some of the most beautiful buches about town, plus all the information on how to order one up in time for your own holiday feast.

All photos by Anne Dixon. Food styling by Anna Enger.

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