May 28, 2008

Opera Cake

May's Daring Baker's challenge is as complex as an opera for which it is named. The cake consists of 5 layers of flavor starting with a jaconde (a cake with mostly ground blanched almonds and a small amount of flour and a dozen eggs). After the jaconde a layer of flavored simple syrup then the buttercream, the mousse and finally a glaze encasing the whole thing. The traditional Opera cake is made with chocolate ganache but we were restricted to light colors and flavors. I struggled with the flavor combination since I am not a big fan of white chocolate. I made my son's birthday cake somewhat unsuccessfully using the Party Cake with Bavarian cream and jam. I have never been that adventurous with new combinations, partly because it is hard to imagine them together and I approach every baking situation as I do painting a room - it is hard for me to go back and change once it is done.

I finally decided on orange as the base flavor. I made the jaconde as the recipe stated. I ground my own almonds and the there is a nice texture in the cake. I accidentally added the flour to the egg mixture but I don't notice any toughness in the cake. I flavored the simple syrup with Grand Manier and made orange mousse. I flavored the buttercream with vanilla, almond extract and orange juice - it has a heavenly flavor. I decided to add two extra layers not anticipating the weight of the cake smashing down the bottom layers!

Thanks to founders Lis, Ivonne and Fran of the blog Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of the blog Whiskful for a great challenge. It certainly forced me out of my box.

The recipe follows:
A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

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)

Ingredients:6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar2 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 over mix 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
Ingredients: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.)
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 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
Ingredients: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
1 large egg1 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.)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).

Orange Mousse
3 1/2 cups skim milk
3 large eggs
3 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup orange juice (fresh is best)
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 tablespoon butter
4 teaspoons vanilla extract (use pure if possible)
2 cups whipped cream
In a large saucepan heat milk over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge of the pan (do not boil).
Meanwhile in a bowl using an electric mixer at high speed beat eggs, egg whites, sugar & cornstarch until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in orange juice and orange peel.
Beat in 1 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture.
Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk.
Bring mousse to a boil whisking the entire time until the mixture is thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour mousse into a bowl, cover and put in fridge until cold, about 2 hours.
Fold in whipped topping, place in serving dishes (a large wine glass looks great) garnish with an orange and serve or you may cover and put in fridge until you are ready to serve, garnish just before serving.

6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
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. Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):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.


Dharm said...

Wendy, your cake looks lovely! I think Orange is a lovely flavour. Well done!

Barbara said...

Great minds think alike, orange and almond is a very delicious combination. Your cake looks beautiful.

breadchick said...

Wendy, your challenges are always so lovely and this one is no exception!

Jenny said...

Lovely choice. You just can't go wrong with orange, yum!

Meeta said...

Lovely - orange always is a perfect flavor for a cake. I find it elegant and your cake looks great!

Christine said...

Yum orange! Your cake is beautiful!

Andreia Sousa said...

Your cake is great. Congrats! Mine was not that good because of the buttercream.

Shari said...

Orange sounds delicious! Great job!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Sprueills said...

It looks wonderful. Beautiful presentation.

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a wonderful job on your cake. It's beautiful.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Jaime said...

lovely cake! i too went w/orange but also threw in strawberries

marye said...

It is beautiful! I like the orange on top....

Dolores said...

Your orange almond combination sounds wonderful. And kudos to you for stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying/learning something new!

Rebecca said...

Looks delicious!

Tina said...

I sure wish I had your baking talent. It looks so pretty too!