Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers: Opera Cake



My second challenge for the Daring Bakers is gateau l'opera or opera cake. A multi-layered cake involving jaconde, a nut-based biscuit, buttercream, mousse, and a ganache glaze. I've never made this before, but I've certainly had it at some point in my life.

The recipe is quite long, so I won't reprint it here. It was based on the opera cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan's
Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle/Timothy Moriarty's Chocolate Passion. May's challenge involved "light" colors and flavors. While opera cake is traditionally chocolate, the challenge required the DBs to look to non-chocolate flavorings. I decided to stick to the path of least resistance. The challenge recipe already used almonds, vanilla, and white chocolate, so I stuck to those flavors and added fresh strawberries. When I baked this, strawberries were running for $0.77 to $1.35 a quart. That's local Carlsbad strawberries, so the season was clearly in full-swing.

My favorite part of this challenge was the
jaconde. I had tons of almonds on hand, which was a convenient coincidence. The cake is nutty and rich, although it came out too thin for me. I used two half-sheet cookie sheets, which is slightly larger than the jelly roll pans required in the recipe.

Next time, I will put all of the batter into one sheet pan, cut it into three pieces, and end up with a smaller cake. The almond meal is combined with whole eggs and sugar, then folded into whipped egg whites.

The beginning of folding... turned out a lot better than it looks!

The buttercream required a boiled sugar syrup that is cooked to 225 degrees F. I let mine go to 240 degrees F while I took this picture:

Turned out fine. The hot syrup is poured into eggs and egg yolks while they're being whipped in a mixer. There was a whole vanilla bean's worth of seeds in the syrup and I amped up the vanilla flavor by adding extract on top of the bean. Butter is added to the egg/syrup mixture to complete the buttercream. The end result is something like a pastry cream, with the extra vanilla being a nice touch.

I didn't find this recipe difficult, just time-consuming. The great thing about it was that all of the individual components could be made one at a time, then assembled later. So, I spaced it over a week in preparation for a belated Mother's Day in LA (Mom wanted to celebrate a week after Mom's Day proper, to avoid crowds).

Assembly was fairly easy. The jaconde was brushed with a simple syrup, which was flavored with limoncello, then covered with buttercream and strawberry slices (see first photo). This step was repeated once more, then topped with the last layer of jaconde. After that came the white chocolate mousse, which consisted of white chocolate melted with some heavy cream, then folded into whipped cream. After that, a white chocolate glaze was poured on top.

White chocolate overkill.

I would have thinned out the ganache glaze a little more, because it hardened quite a bit, making it like a white chocolate bar on top of a cake. Too much and too sweet. I would have also changed the mousse to a light lemon to bring out more of the strawberries.

The edges were trimmed off with a sharp knife to produce the final product. The too-thin jaconde led to sagging corners where the cake was thinnest. Hence, the slope of the cake.

Closer look at the layers.

Another DB challenge done! I can't wait for June's challenge. A big thank you to Ivonne, Lisa, Fran, and Shea for hosting!

And of course, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, Mom! I love you!

20 bites:

chrismacd1 said...

Kudos to you on making your own almond meal! Love the strawberries and the cake looks beautiful!

Jennywenny said...

Very pretty! I love the way you presented the strawberries like that. Congratulations on a challenge well done!

Rebecca said...

Those strawberries peeking out of your buttercream look so cute!

Jade Is Green! said...

The strawberries make your cake look so brilliant. Great work!

maybelles parents said...

Love the local strawberries.

Lisa Thibault said...

This cake looks so lovely - I love the little strawberries peaking out from the layers. Delicious!

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a wonderful job on your cake. I can't wait to see what we make in June either.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

RecipeGirl said...

It looks like it turned out wonderful! I wasn't able to get to it this month. I knew it was time consuming and I just couldn't carve out enough time!!

It does look like a giant white chocolate bar on top of your cake :)

Garrett said...

Ditto with the sloped corners after using the half-sheet pan. But if those corners weren't there to start, there probably wouldn't have been much to bring into work ;-)

rainbowbrown said...

Haha, the same thing happened to me when I took pictures of the syrup rather than actually watching the temperature, it went up a little high. Your layers look perfect and with the strawberries, it looks most appetizing.

Barbara said...

The timing for this cake was perfect for using strawberries. Your cake looks so good I could just lick the screen.

Gabi said...

So lovely! The end side view makes my mouth water even though this recipe was too sweet for me to want more.
Brava!
xoxo

Claire said...

Lovely cake! I like the strawberries peaking out from between the layers.

HoneyB said...

I love that last photo - great job!

Shari said...

I didn't attempt making my own almond meal. The strawberries look cute peeking out.
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Debyi said...

Your cake looks so good. Lemon and strawberries so really good, great idea. I may have to try that flavor the next time I make a mousse.

Rebecca said...

This looks delicious. I love the pic of the white chocolate glaze pouring over the top. YUM.

linda said...

Your cake looks wonderful. Love the addition of strawberries, gives a more spring-y feel to the cake.

creampuff said...

Nice job and the strawberries in the filling are a nice touch!

paulawy said...

You cake looked so delicious - I wanted a bite! Btw - I had a sloping cake too. Oh well - maybe next time my layers will be even!

20 bites