In the land of the Daring Bakers, more than 1000 in population, calories don't count. Generous in our cream, our butter, our sugar, we bake up beautiful creations each month and then share them throughout the world.
This month we returned to our roots, to our founders, Ivonne and Lis, who chose this months recipe, but also share co-hosting duties with two of our newer members, Fran and Shea. I wonder if Fran and Shea were questioning what they had gotten themselves into when they saw the recipe for this month.
Seeing as we have Daring Baker's on the far side of the world, or upside down, I'm sure by now you know what the recipe is... the Opera Cake!
But what is an Opera Cake you say? In the words of Ivonne, "For those of you that don't know about this cake, it's an extremely elegant and polished French dessert that is believed to have been created around the beginning of the 1900s. Many people credit a gentleman by the name of Louis Clichy with inventing the cake and that's why it's sometimes referred to as Clichy Cake. So what exactly is an Opéra Cake? Well it's a cake that is made up (usually) of five components: a joconde (a cake layer), a syrup (to wet the joconde), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer) and a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse)."
The recipe chosen for the Daring Baker's version was a compilation of Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets, Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.
I chose to make mine for my sister-in-law's baby shower, sharing the cream, the eggs, the sugar and the chocolate.
While a traditional Opera cake is dark in color, one of this months rules was that we stay with light colors in honor of Barbara of Winos and Foodies and her LiveSTRONG event, an event dedicated to raising awareness of cancer. I've been able to participate in both of Barbara's LiveSTRONG events so was not unaware of it.
For my flavoring, I chose to use a strawberry liquor to both flavor my buttercream and for my syrup. I left the cake, the mousse and the glaze as is, not wanting an overwhelming strawberry flavor, but a mild, subtle hint. There was nothing dramatic about my choice of the flavoring. I've been slowly adding bottles of liquor to my pantry and simply chose the one that appealed to me most at the time. Something that I felt would go well with the white chocolate. Strawberry beat out orange, a choice I do not regret at all.
I had only one problem with this cake, and that is the cake itself. The recipe called for placing my oven racks at the bottom and top thirds of my oven, something I missread, as I placed mine in the middle and top third. My pans lined and filled, I placed them into the oven, and then realized my mistake, but let the cakes go anyways.
My middle layer cake burnt on the bottom. I wonder now what would have happened if I had actually placed the rack at the bottom third? Billowing smoke and the fire department?
I tried to salvage that one cake but the burn on the bottom was too strong, while the top did not quite cook through. With only one layer of cake edible, I moved on.
My initial plan had involved making little round Opera cakelettes, which I started to do, even to assembly, when I realized I had miscounted my rounds and would be short 5 circles. How does one miscount that badly?
By this time it was after 10pm and I had run out of almond meal. I had plenty of while almonds and knew I could make my own meal, but I also had two sleeping children. Food processors making meal of whole almonds is not exactly a quiet activity. So I waited until the next morning and then made half the recipe for the jaconde, baking it in the top third of my oven.
This cake came out just fine in 8 minutes.
With all the rest of the components already made, my buttercream with a hint of strawberry thick and creamy, my white chocolate mousse light and fluffy, and my white chocolate glaze standing by, I cut out my last 5 circles, but was not happy with the results. I wanted elegant, not cute.
Eventually I ended up with something classy and elegant.
And those little rounds that I started with?
Worth the trouble? Five different components, none difficult, but time consuming? No, not really. It was good, the strawberry matched well with the plainness of the cake and the white chocolate, but it didn't really grab me and shake me up. My husband ate two of these (and they weren't exactly small), while neither of my children finished one.
It was fun though, and that buttercream I used in my grandparents cake? Well it was based on the buttercream used in the Opera. I liked it, it tasted good, and it came together nicely.
Now, get yourself comfy and go off and read about lots of other Opera Cakes. I need to do the same, once I've managed to read a few TWD posts first (I'm way behind!) Don't forget to leave some comments please!
P.S Did I mention I need another bowl for Bob? Two would be even better. :-)