Daring Bakers and the Opera Cake

by Holly on May 28, 2008

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It’s time again for another Daring Baker’s post and this time the Daring Bakers have gone to the Opera to boot – Opera Cake that is. This month the theme came to us from none other than the Daring Baker’s fearless creators, Lisa and Ivonne, with co-hosts Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful . It was also our lovely hostesses idea to give us all the opportunity to dedicate our post to Barbara of Winos and Foodies. As they pointed out, though Barbara she is no longer an active member of the Daring Bakers, as Lisa “so eloquently put it,” Barbara will “always be an honourary Daring Baker for her bravery and character in the face of a challenge.” So, as a tribute to the incredible, “un-sinkable” Barbara, who as you may know is the mastermind behind the Taste of Yellow food blogging worldwide cancer awareness event for Lance Armstrong’s LiveSTRONG Foundation.

Barbara is incredible for so many reasons and has been one of my favorite bloggers to read and be inspired by, and not just because of the wonderful food she makes, but because of what a beautiful and incredible person she is. She is a wonderful inspiration and support to so many – myself included.

So, for this May Daring Bakers Challenge we were also given the task to choose our flavor combinations from an array of choices as long as they were “light” to call this “A Taste of Light” in honor of Barbara. I chose to repeat the flavors of the Lemon and Raspberry Whoopie Pies I made last month for Barbara’s event.

Thanks to the Daring Bakers for another great challenge – make sure to check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see everyone’s creations!

A few notes about what you see in the pictures and what you see in the recipe. I cut the original recipe – which is shown below – in half and baked one half-sheet baking pan and cut it into three equal rectangles for a long rectangular cake that made about 10 servings. Also, in the layers in the picture you can see that I tried to do a layer of preserves and then the buttercream on top – this really didn’t work very well – so I have left the directions for that out since I don’t recommend doing it. I think that the top layer, when I just mixed the preserves into the buttercream was my favorite. This cake seems to be too absorbant to have the jam layer without turning your cake layers into mush.

Also, it should be noted that I chose to use the buttercream recipe from a previous DB Challenge – Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake. There was some confusion with the two versions of the buttercream recipe given for this challenge, and since I knew I wanted to make the lemon version anyway, I decided to make Dorie’s version again.

Either way, this cake was fun to make and was very, very yummy. Though there are four different steps (or five) in the recipes to make, none of the recipes is especially difficult to make. My real mistake in the assembly, as mentioned above, was not taking into account how absorbant the cake was going to be with the jam layer I attemped.

I will be excited to try this again with some other, more traditional Opera Cake flavors. Thanks again to our four lovely hostesses for a great recipe and super fun challenge!

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Raspberry Lemon Opera Cake

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 sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (grind blanched almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake – 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 overmix 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 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

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).

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 sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable (puree in food processor to make it smooth if necessary)

To Make the Buttercream:
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. When you are ready to assemble the cake, stir in the raspberry preserves for in between the layers.

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 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 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.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Bumblebutton May 28, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Excellent flavor and what a most delicious shade of pink! Nice job!

Reply

Lou @ The Higher Nest May 28, 2008 at 1:59 pm

I wish I had thought of jam within the layers…I think that would definitely have lessened the strong almond/white chocolate tastes. Yours just looks so cool and delicious!

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Shari May 28, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Raspberry and lemon sound delicious with this almond cake.
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

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rainbowbrown May 28, 2008 at 2:13 pm

I really dig the pink cream and white colors. Very nice!

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Allergy Mom May 28, 2008 at 2:32 pm

That looks so lovely and light…and sturdy. 🙂 Libby

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Heather May 28, 2008 at 2:40 pm

yummm! Raspberry and lemon! Great flavors and a lovely cake!

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Andrea May 28, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Oh, I love the raspberies! That looks so good.

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Gabi May 28, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Beautiful Opera cake Holly and it looks so appetizing with the raspberries! Brava!
xoxo
Gabi

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Deborah May 28, 2008 at 3:22 pm

You can’t go wrong with raspberry and lemon! Gorgeous cake!

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jamiegates May 28, 2008 at 3:37 pm

I love the color you get from the preserves.Another beautiful combination of raspberries and lemon.

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Kristen May 28, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Love the flavors and the raspberries on top, Yummm!

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Renee May 28, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Yummy! Your cake looks delectable!

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Tartelette May 28, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Raspberries and lemon are so perfect together! The Opera cake turned absolutely gorgeous!

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Dana McCauley May 28, 2008 at 10:18 pm

Great colors! Your photo background with the blue makes the cake look so cool and fresh!

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Tammy May 28, 2008 at 11:16 pm

Your cake looks beautiful! I love the raspberries

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Garrett May 29, 2008 at 4:44 am

The raspberry and lemon worked out so well with each other in this recipe. Great job!

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Judy May 29, 2008 at 6:46 am

Beautiful cake! I’d love to scoop out that raspberry mousse!

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Half Baked May 29, 2008 at 12:29 pm

I love the raspberry lemon combo. That’s one of my personal favorites:) Great job on this challenge!

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Sheltie Girl May 29, 2008 at 4:17 pm

You did a beautiful job on your cake. This was a lot fun wasn’t it.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

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Madam Chow May 29, 2008 at 6:21 pm

I’m a sucker for anything with berries, and this looks great!

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Jenny May 29, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Your cake looks beautiful! Nice job on this month’s challenge!

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Jenny May 29, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Raspberry and lemon is a nice flavor combination, I can see why you wanted to repeat it. The layers look great.

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Christine May 29, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Your cake looks beautiful! I am glad I am not the only one with a rectangle!

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Steph May 30, 2008 at 1:57 am

Great job as usual Holly! Your cake looks beautiful!

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Mary Ann May 30, 2008 at 4:43 am

looks delicious! the flavors sound great!

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ostwestwind May 30, 2008 at 12:29 pm

I was to frightened to use jam between the layers. Great idea!

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

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PAT A BAKE May 30, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Wow, great looking cake. My 9 year old son was,,Mom why did you not make those cute flowers. Wonderful job. Bravo !!!!

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Mevrouw Cupcake May 30, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Your L’Opéra looks delicious and the raspberries really complete the whole picture! Bravo!

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Di June 1, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Nice job on the cake! I did raspberry too, but I wish I’d had fresh berries for the top like you did. It adds a really nice touch. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who was really confused by the buttercream recipe. I opted to use Dorie’s instead as well.

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creampuff June 3, 2008 at 1:48 am

That looks yummy indeed! Love your variations!

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