Well this was my first Daring Bakers challenge. And this was my first opera cake. Definitely an experience. The recipe itself is so long and has so many parts. It took quite a while to put together. A lot longer than most of me more typical weekend baked goods. Though in looking at the recipe, I had almost all the ingredients already. The only things I had to get was more eggs (I only had 8) and raspberries (I bought frozen since they are so much cheaper and I am mashing them anyway)
It came out OK. But definitely could have been better. I've been on a lemon kick lately so I went with lemon, raspberry and vanilla flavorings for this cake. I probably should have ground the almonds finer. In the cake, you can still feel the pieces of almond. Maybe I could have looked for almond meal but I wouldn't even know where to look.
The recipe called for 2 15xsomething jelly roll pans, and then you cut the cakes so you end up with 3 squares. Well I don't have that size pan and even if I did, it wouldn't fit in my oven. So this is what I decided to do. I have an 8x8 and a 7x9 pan. I baked 3 cakes in each. For assembly I put the 3 cakes of each size together so effectively I ended up with a 3 layer 8x8 and a 3 layer 7x9. It worked. Though I overcooked one layer because on the last set I took 1 pan out and started working on other stuff when I went oh crap, the other one is still in there.
The syrup is just a simple syrup. They say to do it on the stove but that seems like a waste of a pan. I had a 1 cup little prep bowl that I did it in. I just poured boiling water over the sugar and let it dissolve the sugar and stirred in the vanilla paste. I did all the chocolate melting in the microwave even though the original recipe calls for stovetop. Just remember to stir it every 30 seconds or so so that the chocolate doesn't burn.
I've never made a French buttercream before but this was easier than I expected and came out really creamy and smooth. Definitely will try it again next time I need icing for a cake, and try incorporating other flavors. Though next time I won't stick it in the fridge overnight, I'll ice the cake right away. Perhaps by then I'll get a candy thermometer that works too. Though mine seemed to work out OK even though my thermometer didn't work so I pretty much just watched it come to a boil for a few mins and called that close enough.
Is it sad that my shoulders and back are sore from making this cake? My counter is too high and this cake took quite a while so my shoulders hurt from being all hunched up while making it. Oh well. The cost of making sugary goodness I guess.
When I put the glaze on, I thought, wow, this cake is ugly. The 'glaze' ended up way too thick, maybe I should have measured the cream, rather than just pouring some in until the consistency looked OK. I measured everything else but for some reason decided I didn't need to measure at that point. I think because I didn't have a scale so I was just guessing on how much chocolate I had anyway and the amount of cream is just relative to the chocolate.
When I cut it into pieces it looked a bit better but the mousse was too soft for that much chocolate on top so the mousse ended up oozing out of a lot of the pieces when I was cutting into it. Maybe having some gelatin in the mousse would have helped. Or less raspberry. Everyone else's pics that I have seen so far look so much prettier but oh well. I'm not big on pretty anyway.
The whole endeavor took me about 4 hours to do all the prep on day 1 and then another hour or 2 on day 2 when I realized it would have worked better if I had assembled the cake up to putting the mousse on the cake. Ah well. Not my best cake but not too bad. And I still have a little bit of that vanilla simple syrup and a bunch of the lemon buttercream. I will have to find something to use those up on.
A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake
For the joconde
What you’ll need:
•2 8x8 pans
•butter flavored cooking spray
•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
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
1⁄2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (11⁄2 ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
zest of 1 lemon
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 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. Grind almonds in a food processor with about 1-2 tbsp flour to keep it from clumping while grinding. 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 fluffy, about 3 minutes on med-high speed.
6.Add the flour and fold in with a rubber spatula just until the flour is just combined.
7.Fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter and lemon zest. 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 if necessary. 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
1⁄2 cup (125 grams) boiling water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla paste
1.Mix water and sugar until sugar dissolves.
2.Let cool to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla paste.
For the buttercream
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
2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup (60 grams) water
1 tbsp vanilla paste
1 large egg yolk
13⁄4 cups (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 lemon, zest and juice
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 (124◦C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat. Or if you don't have a thermometer or you find out while making it that apparently your thermometer doesn't work, bring to a boil and let it boil for a couple minutes.
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 the lemon juice and zest and beat for an additional minute or so.
9.Refrigerate the buttercream. Make sure to let teh buttercream come to room temperature and mix it up a bit before icing the cake.
For the white chocolate ganache/mousse
What you’ll need:
•a mixer or handheld mixer
7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1/4 raspberries, mashed and strained
1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in the microwave. Stir occasionally while heating to make sure it doesn't burn
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. 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. Fold in the raspberry pulp.
5.Refrigerate it overnight.
For the glaze
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 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.
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.
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.