Daring Bakers/May – L’Opera Cake

by Jessica on May 28, 2008

This Sunday, I’ll see my very first opera… Turandot, in fact (which I’m super-excited about!!). My very good friend, Amy, just happens to be in said opera and I’ll get to see her perform her very first solo!! So, I found it very fitting that this month’s recipe is Opéra Cake. 🙂

In honor of Amy, I present…

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.

Opera Cake

For the joconde:
(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperature.)

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 granulated sugar
2 c ground blanched almonds
2 c icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
1/2 c all-purpose flour
3 tbsp 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 degrees. Line two 12½” x 15½” jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter. 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 overmix 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.

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:
1/2 c water
1/3 c granulated sugar
1-2 tbsp flavoring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey, etc… I chose Godiva Cappuccino Liqueur)

Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the Buttercream:

Ingredients:
1 c sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly. (My buttercream would not thicken up, so I placed it in the freezer overnight, then re-whipped it with the hand-mixer the next afternoon and it came out perfect!)

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse:
(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it; however, it is optional for this cake)

What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer

Ingredients:
7 oz white chocolate
1 c plus 3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp liqueur of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc… I chose Amaretto)

Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp of heavy cream in a small saucepan. 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. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse. If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable. If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

White Chocolate

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

Ingredients:
14 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 c heavy cream

Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer. 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″ square and one 10″ x 5″ 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.

Opera Cake Bite

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 pixie o May 28, 2008 at 12:28 am

that is one striking cake and amy is very fortunate to have such a tribute to her!

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2 Um Ibrahim May 28, 2008 at 1:06 am

Wow… like a cake for the caesar 😉
love your cake plate 🙂

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3 Joelen May 28, 2008 at 1:06 am

That looks amazing! Have a wonderful time at the opera and please extend my applause to Amy! 🙂

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4 rainbowbrown May 28, 2008 at 1:28 am

Wow, what a wonderful tower of…wonder. Yum!

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5 Katie May 28, 2008 at 2:04 am

Like the tower shape, it makes it look so tall.

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6 Gretchen Noelle May 28, 2008 at 7:15 am

Looks like you did a great job! Have fun at the opera!

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7 Jeanine May 28, 2008 at 7:22 am

Looks absolutely delicious! 🙂 Great job! Have a great time at the opera!

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8 Caitlin May 28, 2008 at 7:54 am

That looks amazingly tall! Enjoy the opera!

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9 Bumblebutton May 28, 2008 at 8:13 am

Lovely photos of a beautiful cake! Have a great time at the opera…maybe you saved some cake for Amy?

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10 Heather May 28, 2008 at 8:30 am

Great job! It looks so pretty! Have fun at the Opera!

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11 Amber May 28, 2008 at 10:11 am

What a beautiful cake!! Wonderful job. Have fun at your first Opera and good luck to Amy.

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12 Amy May 28, 2008 at 10:13 am

WOO HOO!! It looks fantastic!! Thank you so much for dedicating this delicious looking cake to me!! I’m so honored!! I can’t WAIT to see you Sunday at Turandot!!

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13 Christine May 29, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Wow, your cake is beautiful!

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14 Dolores May 30, 2008 at 12:53 am

What a wonderful tribute to you own personal opera star.

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15 Ulrike aka ostwestwind May 30, 2008 at 7:32 am

Your cake looks beautiful, great job!
Ulrike from Küchenlatein

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16 mari May 30, 2008 at 9:51 am

Bravo!

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17 Amy J. May 30, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Dude. Your cake looks like 15 feet of Y-U-M.

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18 Shari June 3, 2008 at 7:43 pm

I love the shape of your cake, and the close-up shot of the white chocolate is super!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

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19 andreainthekitchen June 3, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Your cake is so visually amazing! I hope it was a feast for the taste buds as well as the eyes.
So beautiful.

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20 Debyi July 12, 2008 at 12:30 am

Wow, how beautiful and how fitting! Great job.

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