Wednesday, May 28, 2008

L'Opera Cake Daring Bakers challenge

I came thisclose to sitting out the challenge this month. I had the best of intentions at the beginning of the month but as May slipped away I wasn't sure I'd have time to complete the challenge. Thank goodness I decided (very last minute) to dive in and make the L'Opera Cake. It's a fantastic cake.
I've had Opera cake in the past but they've always been chocolate and coffee flavored. Our hostesses, Lis, Ivonne,Fran and Shea forbid the use of these flavors or anything dark in color. They challenged us to make a lighter more summery Opera cake.
I opted to make a key lime syrup with a caramel rum butter cream. I made half into cupcakes and the rest I cut out into mini cakes. I filled the cupcakes with banana on the middle layer.

It's wasn't really difficult so mach as very time consuming. There were five components to the cake with one, a white chocolate mousse layer, being optional.
I opted not to make the mousse layer.

The Elements of an Opéra Cake:

Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).

Syrup: The joconde is flavoured with a sugar syrup that can be flavoured to suit your tastes.

Buttercream: The first two layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream. This particular buttercream is made with a syrup, eggs and butter.

Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. While not hard to make, this makes the recipe quite involved. We are giving Daring Bakers the option of either using the buttercream to cover the final layer or, if they’re feeling up to it, to go ahead and make the ganache/mousse.

Glaze: The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished and elegant appearance
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.)
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.

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 add 2 Tbl of Key Lime juice

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.)

(Update Note: The recipe for the buttercream that is listed below was originally based on the original but we had some typos. It's all very confusing (we're good at confusing ourselves) but here is the short of it: When testing the buttercream, we tested a modified version (we're crazy like that!!!) that had 2 cups sugar, ½ cup water and 1¾ cups butter. Yes. That's right. 1¾ cups of butter. The eggs remained the same. We ended up with a very creamy buttercream. VERY. CREAMY. But we don’t want anyone to be afraid of our modified version so you have the option of using the original version listed below or the quantities we’ve listed here in this note. If you are still confused and want to cry, then please e-mail us and we will comfort you!!! We promise!!!)

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!)
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 mixed in 1/2 cup of caramel sauce that I made and had on hand.
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 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.

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.

Thanks Liz, Ivvone, Fran and Shea for really challenging us with this one!! Be sure to check out all the other DB'rs cakes here


glamah16 said...

I can see these at a wedding. Exqusite. Love your flavorings.

Speedbump Kitchen said...

I love the flavor choices and the zest on top. Well done!

Unknown said...

They are so cute! Love it! I am glad you did not sit this one out:)

jenniferhoiyin said...

They're beautiful! Great job :)

Anonymous said...

gorgeous little cakes! and i really like the lime/banana combination of flavours!

Anonymous said...

What a great combination of flavors - I love it! So glad that you whipped something together - last minute at that! Amazing.

xoxox Amy

Anonymous said...

ooohhhh, I really like your flavors and Opera Cake. Cute touch your music note standing up, well done!

Christine said...

Gorgeous cakes! Seeing so many wonderful flavorings. Love the banana lime good job!

Rosie said...

This is SO beautiful!!! I just adore the flavours - well done :)

Rosie x

Pamela said...

Those just scream summer! I am sure they tasted just as great as they look. Love the hydrangeas are those yours?

Mcwhisky said...

Awhh, such a cute opera cake. Though it may remind me of some petit fours, it is so cool to have a mini opera cake! Good job! ;)

Shelby said...

Nice job! Very elegant looking!

Kristen said...

What beautiful cakes! They look so light and springy and delicious.

Kristen said...

Great job on the cakes, they are so beautiful! They look so light and springy. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Cute little cakes!

Deborah said...

Your little cakes are gorgeous, and the flavors you chose sound delicious!

Sarah said...

your flavors sound delicous. Nice job.

Gabi said...

Key Lime..mmm..caramel rum...oh stop - no don't stop my mouth is getting so happy at the thought of those flavours!!!
Plus your finished cake is just so beautiful-really lovely :)

toontz said...

Very pretty and Spring-like...Great job!

una donna dolce said...

Key lime and rum...yummy...did it go well with banana? I thought about using rum and tropical flavors, but finally decided I use those flavors too much....they're just so darn good!

PheMom said...

I love seeing what everyone came up with for flavor combos - this one sounds fantastic with the lime, banana, rum variation! Beautiful cakes too!

Molly Loves Paris said...

Those little cakes are adorable. What a clever idea.

Dolores said...

Caramel, rum and bananas... I'm certainly glad you found the time to fit this in, because you've inspired me to try your version. Great job!

Natalie, aka "Sheltie Girl" said...

You did a fabulous job on your cake. I love your flavors...sounds scrumptious.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Ruth Strong said...

What cute pretty little cakes!!!! They look fabulous!

RecipeGirl said...

I opted out of the challenge this month but I think little cakes and cupcakes would have been the way to go. I haven't seen anyone else do banana... sounds really good to me! Pretty pics!

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

I love the hydrangea in the background. Very elegant!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Megan said...

Carmel rum buttercream sounds like heaven! Perfect little cakes!

giz said...

Well...I gotta tell ya - there's absolutely nothing half baked about these little beauties. You did a great job.

Nora B. said...

Your cake turned out so elegant and I can just imagine the aroma of the key lime zest - heavenly!

Have a great weekend,

Miss Ifi said...

your cake is LOVELY!!! it just looks so beautiful!! and the flavours wow yummy!!
Congratulations on a very well done challenge!

Anitha said...

Such interesting & delicious combination of flavors. Excellent pictures.

I like the touch of white hydrangeas on the background with the cake.


Chibog in Chief said...

i agree with with glamah your little opera cakes are perfect for wedding!! well done!!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Your Opera Cakes are so elegant. So gflad you decided to do the challenge at the last minute:D

Morven said...

Adorable yet elegant. what a pretty little cake.

marae said...

SO SO absolutely cute..!! i love your interpretation on the opera!

Barbara said...

You cake is so pretty! Great job!

Anonymous said...

Caramel rum buttercream sounds amazing. What a lovely little cake!

Anonymous said...

Your cake looks great!

Anonymous said...

This is so lovely! Your flavor pairings sound perfect. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

These look fantastic!

Thistlemoon said...

Wow, that is really a gorgeous looking cupcake! It is beautiful!

Cynthia said...

I like how your flowers match the cake perfectly.