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Whisking in the holiday season with Yule logs

Ella Smith, 9, in the striped shirt, and her mother, Kristi Smith, roll their yule log after filling it with frosting Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015 during a class at Southern Season.
Ella Smith, 9, in the striped shirt, and her mother, Kristi Smith, roll their yule log after filling it with frosting Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015 during a class at Southern Season. vbridges@newsoberver.com

When it came time to roll the square of chocolate sponge cake into a Yule log, 10-year-old Ryan Barber asked her mom to step back and let her handle the crucial task.

“Hands off, Mom,” Ryan told Keisha Barber. “I got this.”

The Barbers were one of eight youth-and-adult pairs whisking, stirring, rolling – and occasionally licking chocolate buttercream frosting off fingers – to build the holiday cake sometimes called a Yule log, at other times known as a bûche de Noël.

The class was led by Gwen Cummings Maller, 40, of Chapel Hill and offered Sunday at Southern Season in Chapel Hill. The participants signed up for a variety of reasons.

Ryan, whose mother gave her the class as a birthday present, said she likes to bake intricate goodies, in part, because of the final wow factor.

Becca Pearson, 19, of Cary, signed up herself and Ryan Bauroth, 8, so she could spend some time with her brother while she is visiting home from the University of Virginia.

When Charlie Peters’ mom, Jennie Bowen, asked him to take the class, he said “OK.”

“Because, I don’t know, it sounded like it would taste good,” said Charlie, 12, of Durham.

The history of the elaborate creation traces back centuries ago to Europe’s pre-Christian Iron Age, according to History.com.

People used to celebrate the winter solstice and cleanse the air of the previous year’s event by burning decorated logs.

With the arrival of Christianity, the tradition continued and linked to the holiday season. Hearths used to burn the logs were also ideal for baking cakes.

The first cake could have been made as early as the 1600s.

On Sunday, the intricate process was on display as little and large hands worked their way through a process, which included mixing the frosting, unrolling a prepared square of cake, covering the inside with chocolate butter cream and rolling it back up. Next steps included frosting the outside, cutting off a cake and adding some stumps and then decorating with meringue mushrooms and sugar-coated rosemary and cranberries.

And then, of course, sprinkling some cocoa and powdered sugar on top.

Ella Smith, 9, and her mom, Kristi Smith, have been wanting to try taking a class, but when they found out chocolate was involved, they were totally in.

“We love chocolate,” said Kristi Smith of Chapel Hill.

The Smiths said they plan to take the cake home and eat half of it and save the rest for grandparents who are coming in Tuesday.

Ella’s three younger siblings are eagerly awaiting the opportunity for a taste test, Kristi Smith said.

While Nora Boyer, 4, put on the final touches, she said what most were thinking.

“Can we eat it now?” she said.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

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