I do not like a rainy day.
The road is wet, the sky is gray.
They dress me up, from head to toes,
In lots and lots of rubber clothes.
I wish the sun would come and stay.
I do not like a rainy day.
~ William Wise ~
This time around, Lis of the blog "La Mia Cucina", Ivonne of "Cream Puffs In Venice", Fran of "Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie" and Shea of "Whiskful" have chosen to test our ability in the kitchen by asking us to make a classic French pastry called the "Opéra Cake" (not the traditional dark version, but the light one).
All four have dedicated this challenge to the courageous Barbara of "Winosandfoodies". While Barbara is no longer an active member of the "Daring Bakers", but who will always be an honourary Daring Baker for her bravery and character in the face of a challenge. As many of you may know Barbara is the force behind the food blog event called A Taste of Yellow that supports the LiveSTRONG foundation started by Lance Armstrong. This year's LiveStrong Day is in May so they decided that we could show our support by dedicating our respective challenge posts to Barbara...
Needless to say that, as usual, I was very stressed by the nature of this challenge and intimidated by the sheer length of the recipe. I thought to myself, "My Oh my, how on earth am I going to be able to bake that in my small kitchen when I drastically lack pans or meterial (I had only one jelly-roll pan and had to bake one joconde after another) and without cursing a whole load, getting too irritated, impatient and acting like a mad fury because of all the above-mentioned points?". At this stage, I felt totally demoralized and slightly panicky. I was ready to throw the towel...
Thankfully, I finally bucked up, decided to not be a chicken and not to get impressed by the task that lay in front of me. It was going to be tough, but I was going to fight and not let anything get into my way. I was determined to bake that cake no matter what it took. After all, aren't I a Daring Baker?!
Surprisingly, I came across no major problem while making that "Opéra Cake". It was a very time-consuming and finicky challenge, but, ultimately, it wasn't difficult at all. In fact, one just has to be very organized, to be in possession of the convenient material/ustensils/kitchen or to be inventive when the material/ustensils/kitchen aren't very appropriate, and to have a zen attitude during the creation of that cake. That's all!
I was (and still am) very pleased with my creation as it tasted perfect and it looked quite pretty. As a mater of fact, I'm really proud of myself for being able to go through such a fastidious process and for being capable of baking such an elaborate cake! Before joining the "Daring Bakers", I never trusted myself to have the capacity to take such audacious and enterprising challenges. Now, I know that I am a good and courageous enough baker who has the ability to face the difficulties. It is my 8th month as a Daring Baker and my skills never stop getting better as, every time, I gain more confidence in myself and get more experienced!
I made my cake by scrupulously following the rules, but, as we had the possibility to use another recipe for the buttercream, I decided to make it Dorie Greenspan's way (see her "Perfect Party Cake" recipe). Otherwise, I chose to give my "Opéra Cake" a subtle, orangy, exotic and spicy/tangy smack that would be reminiscent of the flavors of North Africa. I wanted my cake to be in the Moroccan spirit. So, I added some orange zest to the joconde batter, mixed some ground Indonesian long pepper and chopped Australian candied ginger into the buttercream, aromatised the syrup with some orange blossom water and honey, and aromatized the white chocolate mousse with whisky which I thought would pair well with the other ingredients.
My "Opéra Cake" was a real success. The combination of all those delicate, refined, fresh and spring-like flavors was perfect and interesting. This cake wasn't too sweet nor too sickly or heavy, although it was a deadly calorie bomb, the perfect artery-clogging ally . It was unexpectedly "light" texture- as well as taste-wise and didn't make you squeamish you after a slice or two... Absolutely gorgeous!Thanks to Lis, Ivonne, Fran and Shea for having chosen that killer recipe!!!
~ Opéra Cake ~
This recipe is based on an Opéra Cake recipe found in Dorie Greenspan’s "Paris Sweets", and Tish Boyle & Timothy Moriarty’s "Chocolate Passion".
Makes 1 cake. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.
For the "Joconde".
6 Large egg whites, at room temperature
2 Tbs (30g) Granulated sugar
2 Cups (225g) Ground blanched almonds
2 Cups Icing sugar, sifted
6 Large eggs (~53g)
1/2 Cup (70g) All-purpose flour
3 Tbs (1 1/2 ounces or 45g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Method for the "Joconde":
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 220◦C (425° F).
3. Line two 31x39cm (12 1/2 x15 1/2 inch) 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.
What you’ll need:
A small saucepan
1/2 Cup (125g) Water
1/3 Cup (65g) Granulated sugar
1 to 2 Tbs of the Flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.../see remarks)
Method for the "Syrup":
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.
The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.
I added 2 tablespoons orange blossom water and 2 tablespoons light runny honey to my syrup.
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
A rubber spatula
Ingredients for the "Buttercream":
2 Cup (100g) Granulated sugar
1/2 Cup (60g) Water
Seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 tbs pure vanilla extract (optional/see remarks)
1 Large egg (~53g)
1 Large egg yolk
1 3/4 Cups (7 ounces or 200g) Unsalted butter, at room temperature
Flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.../see remarks)
Method for the "Buttercream":
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.
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).
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 made Dorie Greenspan's buttercream (see her "Perfect Party Cake" recipe) and flavored it with 1/4 orange juice, 2 1/2 tablespoons ground (mortar & pestle) long pepper and 5 tablespoons chopped candied ginger.
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.
For the "White chocolate ganache/mousse" (this step is optional).
What you’ll need:
A small saucepan
A mixer or handheld mixer
Ingredients for the "White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse:
7 Ounces (210g) White chocolate
1 Cup + 3 Tbs Heavy cream (35% fat)
1 Tbs Liquor of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc...)
Method for the "White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse:
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.
I added 1 1/2 tablespoons whisky to my mousse.
The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.
For the "Glaze".
What you’ll need:
A small saucepan or double boiler
Ingredients for the "Glaze":
14 Ounces (420g) White chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 Cup Heavy cream (35% fat)
Method for the "Glaze":
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.
It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.
Assembling the Opéra Cake.
I. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
II. 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 25x12 1/2 cm (10x5 inch) rectangle.
III. Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):
IV. Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. V. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
V. Serve the cake slightly chilled.
III. Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):
IV. 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.
V. 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.
VI. Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.
The finished cake should be served slightly chilled.
It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 day, but is better eaten within 1-2 days.