Like all good tales this begins with a conversation and a cup of tea.
It’s a weekday morning and I am just back from an exploration trip, excitedly sharing my discovery with Praveen the owner of Imperial Bakery. Also the spot in town for perfect chai and Samosa’s.
“During my school days we would explore a lot more but the real treat was going over to King’s Star Bakery. They would have fresh Honey Cake, Ribbon
Cake, Japanese Cake and Log Cake”, Praveen mused
“Log Cake, what’s that?”, having sampled the first three this was new to me.
“Yeah, unfortunately its not available now. Folks of this generation only want Black Forest Cake”, he added with a shrug, “but you could try your luck at
their shop across the street, you never know”.
With the hot chai having revitalized my soul I headed across in all earnestness to King’s Star. Unfortunately the shutters were down.
But hey right next door was Virtues Bakery, a place rated highly by my friends Kris & Resa. What better time than now to make my first visit?
So in I walked and declared my request. The staff said no we don’t make it anymore. But the owner behind the counter turned his head.
He had that forlorn look before he added, “people nowadays just want Black Forest”.
Strangely Black Forest was now sounding like a Black Plague.
I came back and shared my discovery and new mission at home with Sim & Ayaan. Which turned out to be a mistake.
Next day post breakfast Ayaan asked, ” Dad will you find the Log Cake?”. I wondered if this is how Vasco da Gama, Shackleton, Christy Columbus, Magellan et all felt the same at some point.
Meanwhile a fierce storm was brewing in horizon and life’s priorities changed. Critical matters like Log Cake fell off while mundane matters like power supply – visit to Electricity Office, a charged computer for Ayaan’s mid-term assessment, heating Hot Water for Bath etc took over.
After three days the Storm finally passed. The Sun was back and on cue Ayaan inquired, “Will you find the Log Cake?”
It was time to source fresh leads. My friend Harshad who runs a flourishing textile business suggested I visit Jai’s Kings Star. An off shoot of the original King’s Star.
It was Friday evening. “Ayaan do you want to come for an adventure?”, I quizzed. I’m guessing he said Yes because in a flash he was out to open the gate.
We drove into Town and surprisingly got parking right opposite Jai’s King Star. The Town was clearly coming back to life but to my dismay the shop was shuttered.
So off we went to Willy’s to nibble into sandwiches, cookies with coffee. Strolling back we saw Jai’s King Star had opened. What luck!
In we walked and declared our request.
“Yes, right over there”, pointed the young owner.
“Wow, I thought it’s not made anymore. I had almost given up hope”, I shared.
” Well, since the tourist had disappeared the locals kept nudging me to make it” he responded.
“I’m glad, I’ll keep coming back for more”, I beamed in anticipation.
“Oh, but the tourists are coming so I won’t be making it anymore”, he shrugged, “it will be the usual stuff… Black Forest, …”
History of the Log Cake:
Before I headed out I did a google search and came across a delightful blog – My Parisian Kitchen. Sharing the story of the Log Yule Cake.
“The tradition comes from a very long time ago, even before one started to eat log shaped cake for Christmas. Long ago, a huge log was placed in the fireplace after being blessed to protect the house and its inhabitants (and sometimes sprinkled with oil or wine as an offering) and then burned for the occasion of Christmas Eve. The log had to be big enough to smolder overnight (and even up to Epiphany day, 12 days later in some regions!). Choosing the type of wood, the log itself, and who will place it in the fireplace or light it was of greatest importance. It is even said that ashes or the firebrand who had served were supposed to protect (from thunder, devil …). Traditions varied from one region to another (and even from one family to another).
Fire places became smaller and smaller, and cities bigger and bigger, making this tradition quite unease to respect. Logs burned in fireplaces were replaced by even smaller, sometimes decorated, placed as a table centerpiece. It is then that started to appear cakes with the shape of a wood log, even imitating bark.
As for many dishes, several stories last. Was it an invention from the Parisian pastry chef Antoine Caradot located rue de Bucy in 1879? Or from another based in the city of Lyon earlier in the 1860s? Or from Prince Charles III of Monaco’s ice cream and pastry chef, Pierre Lacam in 1898?
Nevertheless, the symbolic cake substituting wood log was quickly a success and tradition changed from a real log to a fake log, our now classic Yule log. Since the beginning, Christmas yule logs were made with Genovese sponge cake (baked in a particular mold before the cake started to be rolled up) and buttercream, already with decorations (holly, leaves, mushrooms ….). The first flavors were probably chocolate or mocha.”