I made it! I posted! Finished! That, my friends, is quite the accomplishment.
We’re currently working on our new house. Lots of little updates and painting and such, every evening as well as weekends have been spent sprucing up the new space so we can move in. When back at the apartment, I’ve been trying desperately to pack up all our things. That doesn’t leave much downtime, unless you count sleeping.
Still, my stubborn self still refused to miss a challenge. So between quick dinners scarfed down over the sink and scrubbing paint off before falling into bed, I found the time to eek out the components to my Opera cake bit by bit. One night the syrup, another night the mousse, then the buttercream...
Then I had problems with the darn buttercream – I usually don’t have trouble with Italian buttercream, but this version refused to set up. It was the consistency of a melted milkshake. It set up a bit when I put it in the freezer (!!), so I just went with it.
It took me almost a week to finish the components, but I got there and assembled just in time for Memorial Day weekend. And all weekend, it was dark and rainy and there was absolutely no light to photograph the finished product. I tried a few shots with my flash but um: they were really bad. I was bummed. I stuck the leftovers in the fridge: they should still be photograph-worthy for at least another day or so.
Monday afternoon, the sun peeked out for a good hour, so threw down my paint brush and hustled back to the tiny apartment to photograph the darn thing. All of 10 shots taken – and my camera battery died. No joke. My goodness, what luck I have.
Luckily there were a few good pictures out of the 10 shots, so here I am! Even though all the madness, I’m glad I made this. Opera cake is such a pretty pretty cake: all those layers of jaconde soaked in syrup and sandwiched with buttercream and mousse, then topped with a ganache. We were allowed to make it any flavor we liked, as long as we kept it light. I went with mango, using some mango puree I found at our local grocery store. I’m not a huge fan of mango but the Hubs loves it, so I thought I’d be nice this time around and give him something he enjoys.
There was another reason I worked to get this sucker finished and posted – this month, our Daring Baker efforts are dedicated to a fellow (retired, but still fellow) Daring Baker: Barbara of winosandfoodies.com. The same Barbara from the LiveSTRONG challenge post. I don’t know her personally, but through her blog she comes across as such a strong and upbeat person. So Barbara: we all dedicate our Opera Cake to you. Enjoy dearie :)
A big thanks to Lis and Ivonne for the awesome challenge recipe! And as always - don't forget to check out the other Daring Bakers versions of this cake. I would imagine all if not most will have better images than moi.
For the joconde:
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 c. ground blanched almonds
2 c. icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ 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◦F. (220◦C). Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) 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.
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.
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:
½ c. water
⅓ c. granulated sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice
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:
1 c. granulated sugar
¼ c. water
Seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
Favouring of your choice
Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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).
For the white chocolate ganache/mousse:
7 oz. white chocolate
1 c. + 3 Tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 Tbsp. liquer of your choice
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.
For the glaze:
14 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ c. heavy cream (35% 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:
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.
Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup. pread 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.