Let Them Eat: Chocolate and Salted Caramel Bûche de Nöel

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Bûche de Nöel

The traditional Christmas cake gets one of the hottest flavor combinations of the year: salted caramel. It's as delicious as it is visually stunning.

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[Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]

At dark, every day, I cut across Lincoln Center on my way home. I stop and gaze at the explosion of crystal and light that are the dandelion-like Viennese chandeliers of the Met. Every day I let the glitter and sparkle prick my vision; I drift off and think, feel, taste. Often, I ponder very deeply about cake.

Hansel and Gretel is one of the operas at the Met this season, and it is advertised with an enormous illustration of two children clad in shabby, drab clothing, a black-robed witch looming tall and ominous before them. In this season of intense baking, gluttony impels me to imagine that wicked old hag's edible house, hidden deep in a thick forest.

Morbid and twisted as the story is, with a selfish stepmother abandoning the children in the woods, only to have the unfortunate things wander into the clutches of a cannibalistic witch with a taste for young flesh, I like to focus on the little cottage that appealed to their rumbling bellies and starved lives.

The horror house takes shape in delicious fashion as I wander past the theatre-going crowd: Thick walls of dark chocolate cake with crown molding of pale green and pomegranate red French macaroons. Doors constructed out of etched chocolate, made rustic with bumps of toasted hazelnuts and flakes of corn cereal. A raspberry truffle doorknob and a gold foil-wrapped chocolate coin buzzer.

Windowpanes of lacy spun sugar, plush carpets woven with cherry and blueberry cotton candy, a table whose legs are made of stacks of sugar-crusted butter cookies. The floors are Spanish nougat, pebbled like marble with emerald green pistachios. Marshmallow beds, of course, and a roof of sliced almonds.

Bathtubs frothy with warm milk, honey, and lavender. Cozy chairs made perfect for napping with angel food cake cushions.

And in the fireplace, this chocolate log from the witch's garden, crusted with cocoa meringue twigs and pebbles. Wicked good.