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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jingle Bell Blog Fest: Ericka Scott


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History of the Yule Log

The earliest known burning of a Yule-style log was in ancient Egypt in about 5000 BC to honor Horus, the sun god. The Sumerians had a similar ritual. To the Celtic Druids, this was Fionn’s Day, a solar festival, and the log was burnt after dinner. Oak logs symbolized life; pine logs represented death. It signified the end to a dangerous time between Samhain and Yule.

Celtic Britain and Gaelic Europe used a large tree or log to fit into their hearths. They anointed it with salt, holly, wine and evergreens. After it burned, the remnants were kept to light the next year's log. The ashes were highly prized - apparent protection against evil and lightning. Birch, oak, willow and holly woods were most often used. 

In 68 BC, the Romans adopted Mithras, Persia's sun god, into their Saturnalia Festival. For 10 nights they burnt a Yule-style log to usher in Mithras' strength. The Saxons and Visigoths also celebrated the Winter Solstice Festival with fortune telling by the fire. Charred log remnants were kept because of their so-called magic powers. The log itself symbolized good against evil.

The Yule Log is also integrally associated with the Wild Hunt. The hunt has historically been associated with such figures as Woden, Herne, Satan, Odin, Hecate, and Diana, all of whom bear either horns or horned helmets. The nature of the hunt depends largely on location. In Britain, the Wild Hunt consisted mostly of wolfs or hounds chasing evil beings from the land and warning mortals of invaders. Among Germanic peoples, the hunt was far more sinister. It was a force of evil populated by ghosts and witches. Travelers who heard the horns of the hunt would throw themselves to the ground in the hopes of remaining undiscovered, for mortals crossing paths with the hunters were generally killed and their souls forced to accompany the Hunt forever.

The Wild Hunt takes place during the winter when the wind blows the strongest and storms begin to brew. It begins on October 31st and ends on the eve of May (April 30th). The height of the hunt takes place on Yule, December 21st, the shortest day of the year. On that day, Yule fires were lit to keep the hunters at bay.

Christians soon integrated this tradition into their Feast of Lights (which later became Christmas) by burning a log to symbolize the end of the world's darkness and the rebirth of Christ as the light of the world.

With the absence of fireplaces in many modern homes, the tradition is not as widespread as others. However, if you want to keep the Yule log fires burning (sorry for the pun), you might consider baking a Yule log cake.

Here’s my favorite recipe.

Chocolate Decadent Yule Log
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • confectioners' sugar for dusting
  •  
  • 4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet baking chocolate
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon coffee flavored liqueur
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly spray a 10x15 inch jellyroll pan and line with parchment paper. Sift flour with baking powder and salt and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs on high for several minutes until they are very pale and fluffy. Gradually add in the sugar, beating 1 to 2 minutes more or until very thick. Gently, but thoroughly, fold in the flour mixture.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. In a small bowl, combine the 2 tablespoons of water with the 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and the baking soda, then gradually stir into the melted chocolate until smooth. Quickly, but thoroughly, fold chocolate mixture into batter.
  4. Pour batter into prepared 10x15 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Lightly sift an even layer of confectioners sugar over a cloth napkin or tea towel (do not use Terry-cloth). Flip the cake out of its pan onto the prepared cloth as soon as it comes from the oven. Carefully peel away the parchment paper. Lightly dust top of cake with confectioners sugar, then trim away any crisp edges. Starting with one of the short sides of the cake, immediately roll the cake up in the cloth, jellyroll style, and cool thoroughly on a rack.
  5. For the Filling and Frosting: In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with the confectioners sugar until smooth, then blend in the vanilla extract and coffee liqueur. Blend in the melted chocolate. Unroll the cake and spread about 1/3 of the filling evenly over the surface. Roll the cake back up.
  6. Arrange cake roll on serving tray, then frost generously, swiping with an icing spatula to form the long 'bark line' design. Swipe ends of cake in a circular motion to simulate the tree-rings of a cut log. Decorate log as desired with holly leaves and berries, evergreens, and snow.

Ericka Scott is a multi-published, bestselling author of seductive suspense. She's written stories for as long as she can remember and reads anything under the sun (including the back of cereal boxes in a pinch). She got hooked on romantic suspense in her college days, when reading anything but a textbook was a guilty pleasure. Now, when she’s not chauffeuring children around, wishing she had a maid, or lurking at the library, she’s spinning her own web of fantasy and penning tales of seduction and suspense. She currently lives in Southern California with her husband and three children.

She also loves friends, so come friend her at http://myspace.com/erickascott
She's also on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ericka.scott and Twitter @ErickaScott
You can find out more about her books at http://www.erickascott.com/

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