The Daring Bakers: Elegance in Baking


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?

Tasty.

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. :-)

49 comments:

Bumblebutton said...

Elegant AND cute. Beautiful cakes, and a classic flavor that I'm sure was most delicious!

Mary said...

Your cakes look so delicious! I like how you drizzled on the glaze and the bumpy mousse (or is it buttercream?) Well done!

Engineer Baker said...

Beautiful little cakes! Strawberry sounds nice and springy too.

rainbowbrown said...

Oh I just adore how you piped the fillings and the top layer. I bet this was a great cake for a baby shower, pregnant ladies love their cream and sugar, no?

Heather said...

Love the strawberry! Your cakes look delicious!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Adorable little cakes! And the large one...are those marshmallows? meringues? What a fun cake!

Peabody said...

I love all the little mounds of frosting on top!

Garrett said...

I sometimes take for granted that, since I live with college-aged roommates, if I want to make some almond meal at 1 in the morning it won't wake anyone up. I love the circular cake cuts...I was really considering this, but decided to just stick with the one whole cake.

Claire said...

So pretty! I didn't even pay attention to the oven rack placement! Ooops! I bet the strawberry was delicious.

moowiesqrd said...

Great design with the bumpy top!

Tartelette said...

Great job on the challenge! What a great idea for a shower! Strawberry...yum!

creampuff said...

Nicely done! I love how you presented it and decorated it ... great job!

Megan said...

Aww, you're killing me here! Your cakes look amazing - mine was such a disaster!! And you went back and made ANOTHER cake? *bows down* You are incredible!!

Megan said...

Your cake is quite stunning. I like the idea of sutle strawberry flavor.

breadchick said...

Jenny,

You always inspire me when I visit your DB challenges. All those opera cakes!! You must have been channeling Verdi in the kitchen.

YES, get Bob another bowl!!

Christine said...

My bottom layer burnt to. Your cake looks elegant and beautiful. I love how you did the mousse

Dolores said...

Classy and elegant indeed. Great job! I love the little round ones.

BC said...

It looks gorgeous! I choose orange and that flavour worked well too.

Randi said...

i like the rounds, they're cute. but you certainly managed elegance on the full cake. beautiful job.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Jenny you are amazing! Those are fantastic cakes! Love the strawberry!
Wonderful cakes.

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

Your opera cake looks gorgeous! I love the idea of using strawberry syrup!

jasmine said...

Really like the piping work--v. elegant.

j

landa said...

How gorgeous and cute and wonderful! Great job.

Jaime said...

wow, both the rounds and the larger cake look great. i really like how you decorated the larger one though! great job!

Half Baked said...

Beautiful! I love the piped top. Lovely

Lisa Thibault said...

Lovely cakes - the piped top is so pretty. Nice flavours as well.

ostwestwind said...

Great presention! That look delicious!

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

Andrea said...

I started laughing when you said processing almond meal is not a quiet activity. I took my food processor out on the deck and plugged it in so I could make it while my toddler was napping! Oh the lengths we go to so our kiddoes will sleep!

I think all your cakes turned out great! I love how you piped the mousse.

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a beautiful job on your cake. Lovely pictures too.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Jenny said...

I'm slowly building up my own pantry of various liquors and other flavorings. I want one of those pantries that other people salivate over or learn something from. That said, I love what you did with the buttercream between the layers, it really adds to the elegance in the final presentation.

Meeta said...

you are an artist. I think the flavors are great and the cake looks totally elegant!

Canadian Baker said...

I like how you decorated your cake - very imaginative!

Lis said...

OHMYGOD Jenny - GORGEOUS! Simply fakkin gorgeous, my love!! You've completely outdone yourself.. My lil Jenny has grown into such an accomplished and even more beautiful Daring Baker gal!

Hugs! Love you!
xoxoxoxox

PheMom said...

Your cake looks beautiful! I love how you decorated it!

myriam said...

i love how you put it all together. fabulous!

Dianne said...

Oh wow! Your cake looks amazing!

Chris said...

Beautiful! I love, love, love the first pic. Ideas ideas! :)

Kelly-Jane said...

Elegant ans so pretty! You have done really well with the Opera :)

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Beautiful job! Befitting of a shower!

Deborah said...

Strawberry sounds like the perfect springtime flavor. Great job on this challenge - it's beautiful!

kellypea said...

I LOVE the little poofs of cream in your cake. Very nice idea! I liked my little rounds, too. Very cute, huh? But I took a peek at your grandparents' cake and WOW. You are really talented! The brown sugar buttercream sounds amazing...

Anonymous Eater said...

Very pretty! I did cakettes, too, and I think they are cute and elegant as well.

Hannah said...

Wow, your cake is so gorgeous! I really like the way you chose to decorate the top.

Morven said...

Gorgeous! I love your decorating.

KJ said...

Well done for sticking with it. It's a great result.

Barbara said...

That is beautiful. It look so pretty.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

What a clever presentation! I love it!

Andrea said...

Love both of your efforts. The piping work makes them look quite special.
Well done!

Maryann said...

Your presentation is so pretty :)