Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Daring Bakers Challenge and how I keep screwing up the date...

Opera Cake

It was a wonderful relaxing long weekend. Monday night after I had gotten the girls into bed I decided to check the computer see what some of my fellow bloggers had been up to. I also needed to check on the recipe for my Daring Baker challenge which I needed to do during the week. Now I knew this was a pretty complex recipe. 5 separate elements to it. I knew I needed to give myself time during the week to work on it nice and leisurely. I had already planned the presentation and bought the almond flour that was called for. All I really needed to do was to pick up some odds and ends at the grocery store and I would start in on it.

HOLY CRAP!!! THEY WANT ME TO POST THIS ON WEDNESDAY?????? How the H*** am I going to pull this off. Printed out the recipe. Raced to the fridge...I have one egg. It is already 10:00. There is no way I can do this tonight. So off to bed I went with visions of Opera Cakes dancing in my head!

This months challenge was a great one and it is being hosted by the Daring Bakers co-founders, Lis (La Mia Cucina) and Ivonne ( Creampuffs in Venice), and co-hosted by Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful.

Faced with the challenge of only having one day to do this and I really mean about 5 1/2 hrs before I need to pick the girls up from school and get them to their skating lessons I thought I was screwed. But I am a very determined person though so I shut my eyes and dove right in feet first after all isn't that what a Daring Baker should do???

This cake was wonderful and really not complex or hard just time consuming...unfortunately that was the only thing I didn't have for this challenge! I decided throw presentation right out the window. I would be very happy if I could get a slice out of this cake to take a picture and have a taste. My whole cake was great. The elements all came together perfectly: the joconde, the syrup, the buttercream and the glaze. I had decided to skip the mousse, there just wasn't the time. I altered mine to be more lemony. Due to the fact the I have only one person on my house who likes white chocolate I even did a lemon glaze on the top. The sourness of that I think is what really made the cake. Otherwise it may have been too sweet for me.

See the perfect glaze?

Would I make this again? I am not sure. I don;t think anyone in the house was crazy about it. They loved the Party Cake. Maybe this one is just a bit too formal for the kids? Who knows. I am really glad I did it though!

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

For the joconde

(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

What you’ll need:

•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)


6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.) I bought almond flour
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. p.s. I love making merigue in Florida???!!!

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup

(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan


½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.) I used 2 Tbsp lemon extract

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream

(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula


1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!) I used vanilla extract-time issue remember
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.) I used 1 Tbsp lemon extract

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse (this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below) I did not do this step

(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer


7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan or double boiler


14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

I used a lemon glaze
1/2 fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch

cook over medium heat whisking constantly until clear.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!



Anonymous said...

Your opera cake looks delicious! I love how glossy the top of it is. I agree the party cake was a hit- I don't know if I can muster the energy to make this on a regular basis!

toontz said...

Good for you for marching on! (That’s what moms do).
I wish I had put more lemon in was too sweet for me, but the family ate it up anyway. Your glaze on top came out fantastic.

Núria said...

You made me laugh and I saw myself in your words... running around and wanting to have everything done before picking up (in my case, the girl) :D

Your cake looks MARAVILLOSO, darling!

Anonymous said...

This looks gorgeous! I love how thick the joconde looks. Excellent job!

Anonymous said...

It looks awesome! I'll be borrowing the recipe for the lemon glaze at some point in the future, I'm sure!

Well done on getting it done in a rush!

Thistlemoon said...

You totally ROCK Judy! I did not know if you were gonna make it, but you did, AND you had time to write the article, take pics and bake the cake! I am beyond impressed!

taste memory said...

that looks incredible ~ I can already taste the frosting....thanks for sharing this recipe; love your take on it!

thanks for visiting my blog and look forward to your posts!

Andrea Meyers said...

Your cake turned out great! I like your idea of using a lemon glaze for the top, wish I had done that. The white chocolate was too sweet for me.

glamah16 said...

You live up to the name No Fear! You did it and its looks like a perfect example of all the elements.

Gina Ruiz said...

oooh your glaze is so perfect and beautiful. I'm jealous since the glaze and I had a little run in. Beautiful cake.

Tricia said...

great job! if we didn't have crises, we wouldn't have good posts, would we? your cake turned out beautifully. if you didn't say it, i would never guess you were rushed at all.

Anonymous said...

Your cake looks great - I bet it was delicious! GREAT idea to do a lemon glaze - perfect for cutting the sweetness! :)

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I chose lemon for my taste combo too Judy:D I made half the recipe and still gave many many slices to my daughter to share the LOVE:D Great job and it came together so quickly. I had the luxury of making this over 2 days which I took full advantage of:D

test it comm said...

Nice looking opera cake. Wow, making this in under six hours is pretty good!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

Your cake looks nice, especially the joconde. Shoratge of time seems to have brought out the best in your cake.:)

The Irreverent Cook said...

Hi! You are right about the glaze, it does look perfect! Very pretty =D

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

Thanks Maddy - The Perfect Party cake was wonderful but your right...this was way too much work!

Thanks Toontz - I put on my Mama pants and went right in!

Thanks Nuria - I make myself laugh too!

Thanks Lara - I had to use 10 X 15 pans so it did make the joconde thicker!

Thanks Angela - The lemon glaze was incredible on this cake. Taste it though when you use it on something not so sweet. It may be too tart.

Hey Jenn-Crazy huh? Can you just imagine how my kitchen looked???

Thanks Taste Memory - This cake turned out really well.

Thanks Andrea - Lemon went well.

Thanks so much was quite intense and I just ran out of time!

Thanks Glamah - I was very brave wasn't I???

Thanks Gina

Oh Tricia I could so deal with some boredom every once in a while!!!

Thanks madcapcupcake - Them lemon I think made this cake!

Thanks Val - It had to come together quickly. I wish I had of had someone to give my cake to. As it is I am eating it all and riding my bike when I am not eating!!!

Thanks Kevin - Crazy huh? But you should have seen my kitchen!!!

Aparna - The joconde was delicious!

The irreverent cook - Thanks so much!

Rosie said...

This looks gorgeous! A most wonderful bake and a last minute one, I take my hat off to you - well done :)

Rosie x

Mike of Mike's Table said...

It looks wonderful and I'm impressed that you could bang this out last minute under a time crunch. Very nicely done!

Christine said...

Your cake looks delish!

Susan @ SGCC said...

Brava, Judy! You pulled it off and it looks great! I totally agree with you that it wasn't hard to make - just time consuming. I spent all of Saturday and Sunday on it.

Anonymous said...

Ooo looks fantastic. how did you get your glaze to looks so shiny and smooth?

Dharm said...

It looks fabulous Judy!! I kept dropping by looking for your cake and i'm glad it was there! Great, great job!

Lunch Buckets said...

nice job! I may steal that lemon glaze recipe - I do love me some lemon!

Lis said...

You crack me up!!! That was great.. and believe me, I've been there.. numerous times. I'm the kind of person who can STARE at a date and still not realize that it's TODAY or TOMORROW OHMYGOD. hehe

You sure pulled it off though - it looks and sounds wonderful.. and I'm with lunch buckets ahead of me up there.. I'm stealing that lemon glaze recipe. :D

Well done, sweets!

Dolores said...

Welcome to my world... leaving these things until the last possible minute has turned into my specialty. Great job getting it done under the wire.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful glaze!

Anonymous said...

You made it! Congratulations and whew.