Desserts are simple-but-extraordinarily-sumptuous pleasures of the holiday tradition. The holiday menu feels incomplete without traditional treats – think gingerbread men and yule log cakes!
Have you ever wondered when or how these desserts made it onto our tables? What’s their origin exactly?

Ok, so it’s clearly not a question that will keep you up for nights, but it’s interesting to learn about the history of some popular desserts out there that have become a staple in our holiday baking!

The Tale Of The Gingerbread Men

Gingerbread is the ultimate dessert that we see everywhere during the holidays. It comes in an interesting variety of shapes, from pretty little gingerbread houses to candy-laden gingerbread men. Although gingerbread has existed as a popular foodstuff for a long time now, its history is not known to many! A general consensus points out the obvious that creativity gave gingerbread men its human-like shape, but some of the anecdotes that revolve around this dessert are as intriguing as they are murky!
In Medieval England, gingerbread referred to preserved ginger. It was not until the 15th century that gingerbread was applied to what it is known as today – a type of delicious bread concocted with ginger, honey, and treacle or molasses. Ginger originated in Asia, where it was used for its medicinal benefits. From there, ginger traveled to Europe via the Silk Road! Since the middle ages, ginger has become an essential spice, initially for the fact that it can camouflage the taste of preserved meats.
Among its many forms, gingerbread men took shape during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, in one of the elaborate royal dinners served to foreign dignitaries and her own people in the court. However, gingerbread men weren’t a privilege only enjoyed by the Queen and the people of noble birth. Folk wisdom has it that gingerbread men were famous among common folk too! They used to be spellbound by folk medicine practitioners (better described as witches or tricksters) and dished out to young women as love tokens. It was believed that if a woman could have the man of her choice eat this enchanted gingerbread man, she could make him fall in love with her. Although gingerbread men used to be prepared at any time of the year, what made them a preferred winter dessert is the belief that the spices they contained helped keep the body warm and withstand the frigid winter weather!

The Sweet History Of Yule Log Cakes

Among the collection of luscious desserts, Yule log cakes are not only tempting but also thought-provoking. But why would this creamy treat be prepared like an ordinary wooden log out of all the tantalizing shapes? However, the history behind Yule log cakes is quite interesting.
The tradition began with the classic way of observing solstice festivals, which were called Yule in Scandinavia and other regions of northern Europe. Burning the Yule log was an integral part of the celebration. Long back in the medieval times when homes had stately fireplaces, the fire was crackled for the occasion of Christmas Eve by putting an entire log in it. The log was placed after a small ritual of making prayer wherein the log was blessed for acting as an invincible shield, protecting the home and its inhabitants. Sometimes, humble offerings were also made by sprinkling oil and wine over the log.
The Yule log had to be big enough so that it smolders and provides warmth all night, and even possibly till Epiphany day. The selection of the log, as well as the person who would place it in the fireplace and start the fire, was of great importance. It was also believed that the ashes that remained after the fire had the power to protect against the dangers of both nature and the devil. However, such beliefs and traditions varied from one region, or even family, to another!
As modern architectural designs took over, fireplaces became quite small to capacitate this enormous burning tradition. Gradually, logs that were burnt in the fireplaces became a décor item, usually placed as a centerpiece on the mantle or any table. Eventually, the tradition blended into our deserts with cakes appearing in the shape of a log, which we call a Yule log cake today!

Looking to relish some of the tastiest traditional holiday desserts? Visit Everybuddy’s Casual Dining for a cozy family meal or hire our catering service to bring the food for your holiday get-together. Call 802-626-8685 for more information or quotes!