I wasn’t singing when I found out that the Daring Bakers’ May challenge is L'Opéra cake! From what I know that L'Opéra is a classic French dessert that is super rich, super chocolaty and extremely elegant and polished. Usually made with a classic combination of coffee flavored butter cream and ganache sandwiched with syrup moistened almond sponge (joconde), topped with a bittersweet chocolate glaze. As quoted from the hosts – Lis, Fran, Shea and Ivonne - of this month’s challenge, they wanted to create something lighter in flavor and color in honor of spring so they attempted to create this classic dessert with a twist. To others it may screams delicious but it presents a huge challenge to me since this is my very first time making the Opéra cake >.<
What is Allowed:
- No limits on the shape of the cake (square, round, cupcake or etc.)
- Joconde, syrup, butter cream, ganache/mousse and glaze has to be “light” in flavor and color (vanilla, coconut, honey, banana, almond etc.).
- You can use only the butter cream to fill and top your cake (prior to the glaze) and omit the step of making the ganache/mousse.
- If you do not like the white chocolate glaze, you are free to either leave the glaze out (although a traditional Opéra Cake has a glaze) or you can use another glaze as long as it remains light in color or flavor (vanilla glaze, lemon glaze, etc.).
- You may decorate the outside of your cake in whatever manner you wish (piping, fresh fruit, icing sugar, flowers, etc.).
- Whatever dietary changes are required to meet needs based on allergies, dietary requirements, etc. (But this applies to you only if you have allergies or special dietary needs.)
What is Not Allowed:
- ABSOLUTELY NO DARK COLOURS OR FLAVOURS: no chocolate, coffee, cocoa, etc.
I must say that the cake was not as difficult as I thought it would be. However, it certainly takes time to make. I think the most difficult step is making the butter cream. I had to make it twice because the syrup was too hot (though it reads the right temperature that the recipe called for) that it crystallized when I poured it into the egg mixture! The butter cream tastes devine! I love the texture! Just like the ladies promised – sooooooo creamy! Also, one of the key aspects of getting this dessert to taste better is making all the layers as thin as possible. I think they taste better that way because all these layers of butter cream, joconde and the white chocolate glaze are all rich and you may not want too much of any of these!
Lastly but most important, this month’s challenge is dedicated to Barbara for her support for the LiveSTRONG event by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Barbara is the force behind A Taste of Yellow, which is an event that unites food bloggers everywhere in the fight against cancer. Here to you, Barbara!
Recipe Sources: Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle’s and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.
(Note: this can be made a day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperature.)
6 Lrg. egg whites, at room temperature
2tbsp granulated sugar
2cups ground blanched almonds or ground blanched hazelnuts
2cups icing sugar, sifted
6Lgr. whole eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
3tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425◦F /220◦C. Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter. Set aside.
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.
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. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to over mix here!!!).
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.
Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven. 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.
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. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.
½ cup water
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp Amaretto
Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Lemon Flavor butter cream
(Note: The butter cream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the butter cream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the butter cream simply brings it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1Lgr. egg yolk
7oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
2tbsp lemon zest
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: It was too high for me so I lowered it to 200◦F.] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
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.
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!
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).
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. 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 butter cream is thick and shiny. Add the lemon zest and beat for an additional minute or so.
Refrigerate the butter cream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).
~Assembling the Opéra Cake~
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.
Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavored syrup. Spread about one-third of the butter cream 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 flavored syrup. Spread another third of the butter cream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining butter cream 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.