I think a lot of the dishes associated with northern christmas celebrations are actually derived from winter solstice stuff. Lucia Rolls are wonderful and quite pagan in origin, celebrating the light coming back after the long winter nights. (They're yellow saffron-colored and flavored sweet rolls that are rolled out and twirled into characteristic shapes with clear fertility and light symbols.
I would guess that fruitcake is similar.
Buche de noel is a yule log, and yule logs are fire and fire is associated with solstice.
A properly executed buche de noel is said to be the epitomy of the cake-makers art, Koukouvagia. Let us know how it comes out.
Meanwhile, keep in mind that solstice celebrations are basically religeous events (as Christmas used to be). In fact, as Siduri points out, many Christmas traditions actually were taken from pagen worship---including the Christmas tree.
To find out more, google under parameters such as Celtic Worship, Druids, Pagen Religeons, etc.
Seeds are important, as they represent new birth. So maybe make some multigrain bread, or poppy seed cake. spiced toasted nuts would be good too. i'm doing them for christmas day.
The solstice seems to get more pagan the further into the highlands and islands you go in Scotland. In the cities, we seem to have lost the traditions and run h*el for leather towards Hogmany (new years eve) Pinging past Christmas. Which is simply a stop off to pick up prezzies and put in a bit of practice for the boozing to come on the 31st.
(call me cynical)
You could always make a yule log~ I mean a real one and start a tradition. Not sure how to do it if you dont have one from last year. Anyway. you have a log, and decorate it with holly, ivy n ribbons. Theres a ceremony where you then burn the log from last year and you begin a new cycle. We dont do it, but i know folk who do. I'm sure theres info somewhere.
Ps. General feasting is the order of the day. Along with copious amounts of alcohol.You could make a traditional solstice brew (Punch)i dont have a recipe...Google is your friend though.
Actually, all of our major western seasonal holidays can be traced back to celebrations of the solistice. So you can include Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years Eve and Kwanzaa (a made up holiday, but a holiday none the less) to your list. With a little research you can probably find scores more -- including whatever form of pandemonium the pre-Christian Hellenes got up to -- I think it was Dyonisian actually. And, IIRC, the Romans did something Apollonian; but I don't know what.
Anyway, you get the idea.
Your idea of a buche de noel (forgive the lack of dots above -- where's Suzanne when you need her?) is a lot of fun. From hwat I can tell, scholarly food history has the buche de noel cake hitting France sometime in the nineteenth century when similar genoise roulades became popular.
By the way, shed some anxiety. They're not that difficult to make, not even to make well. What is difficult is doing some of the wonderful decoration you see in pictures. My advice is to not overstress and "stay within yourself." You don't have to do perfect marzipan racoons to make a roulade look like a log. A cocoa dusting is more than sufficient.
Am I being a buzzkill? Not what I meant at all, which was no more than keep it fun for yourself. "Anyway," as a wise man once said, "you get the idea."
If you're going full tilt, it's only buttercream over a cake you made intentionally sloppy with bumps and lumps. You can do it. I've got confidence in you.
Say Hi to Hanukkah Harry,
PS. Use a fork to groove the frosting, to simulate bark. Don't be too neat, trees never are.
I agree with BoarDLaze, buche is not at all that hard to do.
You make a sponge in a large flat pan (i think 10 X 15) that's been greased, lined with parchment paper and greased again. Remove from oven, sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar, put a dishcloth on top and then a cookie sheet and turn the whole thing over. Peel off the parchment paper, then roll up with the cloth inside. Keep on a rack till completely cool. That makes it not crack later when you try to roll it. You can use a plain sponge, a genoise or a sponge made with ground nuts as part or all of the flour or you can use cocoa for part of the flour and make a chocolate one, particularly nice with white buttercream inside. Spongecake, though boring, is EASY to make, and when they see the cake, they will not know it;s a boring base.
Make either a buttercream (traditional) or you can use a ganache inside.
It should be a contrasting color to the cake - chocolate for yellow sponge, white for chocolate sponge.
Unroll the cake, spread with the cream, and roll up, using the cloth to help yuou but of course leave the cloth out this time (!)
Let it cool.
cut off the ends very sharply with a good knife so the circles of cake and filling show (like the rings of a tree). Eat the cut off ends. (Important!)
On top for the frosting I melt bitter-sweet chocolate and butter, almost 1:1 proportion, or you can use a dark ganache, unwhipped. Spread very thickly onto the roll. DON'T FROST OVER THE CUT ENDS - supposed to look like a log with its rings. With a small POINTY knife, press the point (The blade should be flat against the cake, that is not the edge but the flat so the triangle of the point is pressing into it, and the knife itself at a 45 or less degree angle to the cake surface) into the chocolate covering always pointing in the same direction lenghthwise to the cake, but not regularly like shown here, sort of haphazardly, and sort of draw it back (away from the point) giving slightly less pressure.
It will look much more like real bark than any decorating tube or fork-tine scrapings. The frosting will have to be somewhat set to do this, but not completely, the knife has to make its indentation smoothly and the indentation has to stay sharply defined
Then take some small twigs of bay leaf and stick them in randomly in a couple of places.
If you want to go the whole hog, (should I say the whole log? )which i do, make a smaller roll too. Fill it but don;t frost. Before you frost either, you cut DIAGONALLY almost halfway (so one half is longer, the other shorter -making it more realistic) and stick the diagonal, cut side against the cake, so both "branches" are pointing in the same direction:
Then frost the whole thing together. and do the bark thing.
some do mushrooms out of meringue, but i don;t think it's necessary.
It's really a very easy cake to do. Nothing is easier than spongecake and ok, you can do genoise but i think it's wasted anyway. The buttercream takes some time, i like the ones with italian meringue as a base, they;re lighter, but any kind is ok, and the ganache couldn;t be easier.
The whole cake roll with the buttercream or ganache inside it can be frozen (it actually makes it easier to do a sharp cut on the ends, and through the smaller roll that makes the branches) and has the added bonuses of 1. making it possible to do the major part of the work in advance, and 2. that the frozen cake is easier to frost and the ganache or butter/chocolate frosting will harden faster and be easier to handle (not dripping so much because the cake is cold). I often impress my guests (because fundamentally i'm an exhibitionist in the kitchen) by frosting it while they're there.
Then let's see what Woden and the others have to say about it!